Friday, October 2, 2009

Norwood Gardens History

A Brief History of Norwood Gardens

Norwood Gardens, one of many planned communities built in Astoria, Queens in the late 1920's, was underwritten by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company during a period of expansion in New York CIty which provided access to Astoria via the Queensboro Bridge (then called Blackwell's Bridge) and a fast growing rapid transit system.

Norwood Gardens offered city dwellers a better quality of life than that which the city's apartment dwellers found in the small, crowded, dark apartments of Manhattan. Astoria had cleaner air, less congestion, more green space and offered middle and working class families what was described in the Norwood Gardens sales brochure from 1929 as "country living in the city". Homes in Astoria's planned communities had front (and sometimes back) gardens, often 25' deep. Interior space was well designed providing circulating, fresh air and sunlight.

Astoria's early population was comprised of teachers, craftsmen, merchants, laborers, doctors, lawyers and recent immigrants from Europe; the backbone of working-class, middle-class and professional New York City.

Rickert-Brown Realty Company built the homes, bathroom fixtures furnished by J. L. Mott Iron Works of Manhattan (J.L Mott for whom Mott Street in Chinatown was named after).

In 1929, Norwood Gardens homes sold for $15,000 (corner homes for $16,000) mortgages underwritten by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. A copy of the original sales brochure will be online here soon.

Norwood GardensToday

Largely unspoiled by development, the planned community of Norwood Gardens, designed in the late 1920's, is a low rise residential neighborhood. The green city trees and front gardens of 35th, 36th and 37th Streets create a special district in Astoria. Neighborhoods such as Norwood Gardens have been rapidly disappearing in the recent development boom which hit Queens hard in the form of tear downs and block busting the 1980's.

A set of row houses; thirty attached terrace homes on 36th Street, 5 blocks East from the 30th Avenue stop on the N train in Astoria, were designed by Walter Hopkins of Warren & Wetmore, the prominent New York architectural firm responsible for Grand Central Station, The Biltmore Hotel, The Ritz Carlton Hotel and other important commissions. Residents of 36th Street have spent countless man hours in effort to save this unique block from the wrecking ball and out of character development.

Since 2002 Norwood Neighborhood Association has been working with core Queens civic organizations, preservationists, land use experts, City Planners, and Council Member Vallone on new zoning initiatives. A recently proposed Residential Streetscape Preservation Text Amendment is another important proposal aimed to protect and preserve not only Norwood Gardens but the other special low rise, residential neighborhoods in Queens, cherished by those who live in them and highly valued by Astoria residents and merchants who enjoy and benefit from the unique character of these communities that draw people from all over New York City.