Jan. 28, 2021 By Michael Dorgan
A historic Jewish funeral home in Rego Park is likely to be demolished to make way for a housing complex.
The owners of Parkside Memorial Chapels, located at 98-60 Queens Blvd., plan to develop the site and build affordable housing dedicated for seniors, according to Council Member Karen Koslowitz.
“As a 58-year resident of Rego Park/Forest Hills, it would be with a very heavy heart to witness the demolition of Parkside Chapels,” Koslowitz said. “At the same time, the sadness would be tempered by the fact that the new structure would create desperately needed housing for seniors.”
The owners, listed as PMC Owners Corp., have yet to file plans to demolish the funeral home with the Department of Buildings. However, a filing was made on Nov. 9 for a partial demolition that involves tearing down the “decorative masonry walls” on the first two floors, as well as the removal of structural steel supports and canopies.
Parkside vacated the building in spring, according to Michael Perlman, who is chair of the Rego Park-Forest Hills Preservation Council. The company merged with Schwartz Brothers funeral home last year and it has moved its entire operation to 114-03 Queens Blvd.
The Queens Post contacted Parkside about the future of its Queens Boulevard building but has yet to receive a response.
Perlman said that the building is of “historical significance” and should be preserved.
“This is a rare example of mid-century Modernism and is one of the most significant examples of architecture of its kind locally,” Perlman said.
Parkside Memorial Chapels was constructed in 1961 and is known for its exterior star-patterned walls – shaped like the Star of David – which represent the sand of the Sinai Desert, according to Perlman.
There are also concrete screens between the walls with Star of David-shaped holes.
The building features a bronze sculptural fountain of floating leaves near the entrance that spans nearly two stories. There is also a mature weeping beech tree at the front of the building that is considered the only one of its kind in the area, according to Perlman.
Perlman said the building is listed in the well-respected American Institute of Architects Guide To New York City.
“There is no reason why the building cannot be adaptively and creatively reused,” he said.
Koslowitz said that she aims to work with the developer to incorporate as much of the existing structure in the new development but noted she was pleased that the site would be used for affordable housing.
The councilwoman said that there is an affordable housing crisis that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“The fact that there is a moratorium on non-payment evictions has masked the severity and expansion of the crisis,” she said.
Koslowitz said that the site is zoned for large-scale development and the owners have the right to demolish the current structure.
However, restrictions can be placed on the property if the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission designates the building a landmark.
“The Commission has taken no such action on Parkside,” Koslowitz said.