Save Historic Trylon Theater/Ohr Natan, Tower Diner & Small Businesses from Demolition!

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RJ Capital Holdings under Trylon LLC (via Rudolf Abramov) filed a land use application to erect a 16-story out-of-context condo at 98-81 Queens Blvd & 98-85 Queens Blvd and rezone and demolish Ohr Natan synagogue housed in the historic Art Deco 1939 World’s Fair-inspired Trylon Theater (a most significant part of American history), the classic Tower Diner housed in the Colonial bank building with its impressive clock tower, & several other small business along Queens Blvd & 99th St. in the Forest Hills/Rego Park area of Queens. This proposal must NOT be permitted, as it would also do immeasurable harm to the surrounding community by destroying historic buildings, removing small businesses with no guarantee of ever reopening, blocking light and air, & increasing traffic and congestion.

The redevelopment plan would not only demolish historic buildings, but uproot a synagogue providing religious & humanitarian services, and likely pose an economic hardship on all the small businesses in the area, all of which offer much character & build community. This is one of the most cultural, social, significant, historical, and architectural sites of the community and is on a list of other local sites that are currently endangered or have already been demolished. These sites are unofficial landmarks, which are about to be lost forever. Additionally, the tenants have become close friends & even an extended family to congregants of the synagogue and community center, along with the patrons of the diner and the other local businesses in the area. A new development would also increase congestion, kill trees, block sunlight, and would lead to a domino effect of demolition & over development in nearby communities.    

We strongly call on the developer RJ Capital Holdings under Trylon LLC (via Rudolf Abramov) and all city agencies and elected officials to be team players and listen to the concerns of the public and community at large, with respect to preserving these historic buildings and not approving or endorsing zoning applications, variances, or permits that would result in their demolition, alteration or displacement. A healthy future is built on the strong roots of our past. Our classic architecture, history, and our beneficial community services can never be replaced, so let’s protect our “landmarks,” our values, our sense of place, and who we are as a community in this great city that we love and call home. 

Additional history

   The Art Deco style theater was named after the 1939 World’s Fair’s symbolic spire-like monument, the Trylon, which stood alongside the globular Perisphere monument. Analogous to the Fair’s theme, “The World of Tomorrow,” where exhibits featured technological innovations, the theater was known as “The Theater of Tomorrow.” From a streamlined stone façade with a glass brick projection tower illuminating Queens Boulevard, an elliptical marquee once boasted classics such as “The Wizard of Oz” starring Judy Garland, “Gone with the Wind” starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, and “The Ghost Breakers” starring Bob Hope, as well as many more recent memorable films including “Pretty Woman” and “Evita.” Deemed a novelty, the theater was designed by New York architect Joseph Unger (1896 – 1996), a Cooper Union alumnus. Neighboring mom & pop shops were Mildred’s Luncheonette, Trylon Soda & Ice Cream, Trylon Realty, Trylon Tailors, and Trylon Liquors (remains in operation).  With multiplexes on the rise, the Trylon shuttered after its 60th anniversary celebration in 1999, and was presumably one of the last single screen theaters citywide. Since 2006, the theater operates as the Ohr Natan synagogue, a center of Judaism and community life.

Tower Diner’s façade, which features a distinctive and recognizable clock tower, also remains mostly intact. This popular diner, owned by Spiro and John Gatanas and their parents, is a great representation of Americana. This family who immigrated from Greece, fulfilled the “American Dream,” and creatively adapted the Colonial-style bank building in 1993 while preserving authentic features. It is considered a must-stop by patrons who enjoy its extensive menu of American and cultural foods, including chicken souvlaki, spinach pies, turkey burgers, & pasta primavera. Prior to 1993, it was the home of longtime tenant Emigrant Savings Bank and formerly City Savings Bank. Besides the clock tower are columns, a cornice, a pitched roof, and Colonial interior features.