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March 4, 2004

Neon ‘Nightmare’—Elmhurst Residents Protest Queens Place Signage

Queen's Chronicle, via UrbanPlanet.org

QueensCentreMall.jpg

“It’s an abomination,” said Tony Moreno, a member of Community Board 4 and the Borough President’s Queens Boulevard Retail Task Force, who lives two blocks from the site. “This is an architectural beauty that has been converted to a horrendous sight.”

The community has been working for the last three years to find a compromise on the mall’s signage with its developer, Forest City Ratner"

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Neon ‘Nightmare’—Elmhurst Residents Protest Queens Place Signage
by Keach Hagey, Chronicle Reporter - March 04, 2004

[Photo caption: The new neon signs at Queens Place Mall in Elmhurst have angered local residents, who think they are “tacky” and “overbearing.” Photo by Michael O’Kane]

Piccadilly Circus. Coney Island. Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens. Elmhurst?

According to residents living across Queens Boulevard from the new neon signs of Queens Place Mall, their community now belongs on this list of light-filled locales, and they’re not celebrating.

“It’s an abomination,” said Tony Moreno, a member of Community Board 4 and the Borough President’s Queens Boulevard Retail Task Force, who lives two blocks from the site. “This is an architectural beauty that has been converted to a horrendous sight.”

The community has been working for the last three years to find a compromise on the mall’s signage with its developer, Forest City Ratner, best known as the developer of the proposed stadium for the Brooklyn Nets.

The original design had the signs for Starbucks, Outback Steakhouse and the 18 other mall tenants scattered all over the building. When the community protested the excess of neon shining into the windows of the one- and two-family homes on the south side of Queens Boulevard, Borough President Helen Marshall requested a redesign.

According to Nick Pennachio, also a member of the community board and task force, the redesigned signage was received with disappointment at Borough Hall four months ago.

“Helen Marshall was shocked when she saw the presentation of what they proposed. She said it wasn’t any better,” Pennachio said. Calls to Marshall’s office were not returned.

But Ratner’s representatives argued that it was too late to do anything more about the signs, and it was the tenants’ right to display them as part of their rental agreement with the mall, according to Pennachio.

“The new design of the store signs are larger, brighter and more overwhelming than the initial design,” he said. “The attitude of the ‘public be damned’ prevailed.”

He was also angry that the developer’s other promises to the community-including a community room for civic meetings, seating areas and landscaping-were ignored as well.

Forest City Ratner spokeswoman Joyce Baumgarten would not confirm that the developer had made any of these promises, but said they had discussed the community’s concerns about the new signs and offered a compromise.

“They made the offer to turn off the new red bar that goes around the signage, if that will help. We are still waiting for a response,” she said.

Pennachio said the red border is “one percent” of the candlepower, which “lights up the sky” and is “a nightmare.”

He has requested that the City Planning Department investigate whether the signs are legal, since they are displayed along an arterial highway and might distract drivers.

In general, Elmhurst residents view the neon signs as merely the latest battle in the greater war over development in the five-block area containing the Queens Place Mall, Queens Center Mall and soon a new multiplex movie theater.

“The impact on traffic and concentration in this very small area is disastrous,” Pennachio said. “It’s as if there has been no city planning at all.”

From The Queens Chronicle

Posted by lumi at March 4, 2004 8:44 AM