The Kennedy House At 50
by Michael Perlman
Dec 15, 2015 | 13153 views | 5 5 comments | 111 111 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Kennedy House's mid-century modern facade, Photo by Michael Perlman.
The Kennedy House's mid-century modern facade, Photo by Michael Perlman.
The Kennedy House lobby & notable crystal chandelier, Photo by Michael Perlman.
The Kennedy House lobby & notable crystal chandelier, Photo by Michael Perlman.
Towering 34 stories is the Kennedy House at 110-11 Queens Boulevard, which has been a prestigious address since its 1966 opening. On the occasion of its upcoming 50th anniversary, past and current residents and descendants of its architect and builder shared their memories of the distinctive accommodations.

The Kennedy House was developed while the 1964–1965 World’s Fair was underway and not long after the November 22, 1963, assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It was designed by award-winning architect Philip Birnbaum (1907–1996) and developed by another award winner, Alfred L. Kaskel (1901–1968), president of Carol Management Corporation. The pair frequently partnered to introduce projects to the growing Forest Hills community.

In April of 1965, The New York Times featured highly stylized ads featured renderings of the tower and referenced a “new dimension of urban living.” Accommodations would include a landscaped park and gardens, banded terraces with turquoise lights, and central air with individual room controls.

Rents for a studio to a three-bedroom apartment began at $162, and included the use of two rooftop swimming pools, a sauna, sun deck, recreation room, 24-hour doorman, and attended garage. The owner called the Kennedy House “the tallest swimming pool foundation in the world.”

“Alfred is credited for constructing the first elevated pool on the rooftop of an apartment building,” said Florida resident and great-grandson Daniel Kaskel. “He experienced engineering issues, but resolved them by combining concrete and steel framing to support the heavy loads.”

To this day, residents enter through a colonnade marquee and across marble floors in a two-story lobby designed by Tom Lee.

“My father grew up in poverty on the Lower East Side, and it meant the world to him to be able to provide the rising middle class, post-WWII, with a sense of status, achievement and refinement,” said Manhattan resident and daughter Dara Birnbaum. “He paid utmost attention to the layouts of the apartments, yielding more open floor plans with less square footage dedicated to hallways, and instead added expansive living rooms and bedrooms.”

Her family lived on the 29th floor of what was then the tallest building in Queens.

“My birthday and my mom’s birthday are on October 29 and September 29, so that held meaning for us,” Birnbaum said. “My brother and I were a little intimidated by the height of the terrace, and we would tease about how people walking on the street looked like ants.”

Her favorite accommodation was the rooftop pool, which she took advantage of in the summer while pursuing her own degree in architecture.

“I could return home from college and swim as the sun set over Manhattan, which was magical,” she said.

Birnbaum said the entryways and lobbies were designed to be prominent, and her father and Kaskel would often fly to Europe seeking antiques and chandeliers, one of which hangs in the Kennedy House's lobby.

“It typified my father's desire that the rising middle class could identify with items of luxury, and while it can be seen as a status symbol, it is also a wondrous sparkling light to welcome one home,” she said.

Las Vegas resident Judith Becker’s grandparents, Jack and Pauline Schwartz, were among the first tenants and remained until the mid-1980s.

“I visited them weekly and when I became a parent, my son and I visited together,” she said.

Also among the first tenants were Forest Hills resident David Schwartz’s grandparents, and his most cherished memories included playing in the property’s small park with his grandfather.

“I loved being greeted by John the doorman who was there years later when I dropped off my daughter to visit her friend,” he said.

Since 1995, the Kennedy House has been part of resident Regina Judith Faighes’ harmonious experience. It faces Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church, where she sings in the choir.

“It is set back from Queens Boulevard, and its grounds include spacious lawns and beautiful trees, including a majestic linden tree,” she said. “This year, they planted evergreen trees on which lights are hung, so they are living Christmas trees.”

James Griffin and his wife have called the building home for 15 years.

“It is superbly maintained and skillfully managed, and the location is a contender for the best in Queens,” he said.

A six-faced bronze sculpture by Bert Schwartz once captured the various moods of JFK set against a meteorite, but it was rejected for its small size. Its whereabouts today are unknown.

“I remember a bust of JFK facing fountains, which was removed soon after its installation,” said Forest Hills native Robert Rosner.

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George P
December 07, 2016

I inherited a co-op at Kennedy House 110-11 Queens Blvd.. In 2014. Did careful research and listed at fair market value based on recent sales, comparable conditions

The Board rejected two well qualified buyers, both had legitimate jobs, cash sale, ample resources and over 500K liquid assets even after they would have paid for the Co-op. My RE agent and I were baffled. I wrote two sets of diplomatic letters to the Board saying I understand they had an obligation to screen potential tenants, support prices etc.... can they please give me some guidance and indication of why the rejections or at least "what they were looking for in the next buyer".

(Each offer/ application/ rejection is a two-three month process, offers and counter offers, filing out apps, attorney fee's .... all to wait for a final rejection at the whim of The Board)

I got nil, no response what so ever ! All the while I was paying over $1700 a month in maintenance fee's on an empty apt. The building does not allow rentals, so I was forced to continue to cover maintenance form my own funds.

Finally, after paying out over 40k in maintenance third buyer was accepted early 2016. The kicker is we had to artificially INFLATE THE PRICE write in an $80K concession back to sellers (on an apprx $560K sale) . In effect this inflates the recorded selling price of recent sale units in the building (since the recorded sales price does not deduct the $80K concession). Happy board, mislead future potential buyers trying to consider comps/recent sales when making offers on upcoming "for sale" units.

I speculate the (entrenched) Board simply had no regard for an outgoing, out of state share holder . Absolutely no guidance , feedback , assistance to help neither me or my RE agent facilitate a sale.

It was a frustrating, long, drawn out ordeal. Never have I been "held hostage" for such a large sum of money that was rightfully mine (the Co Op was the bulk of the family estate) . My parents were residents of the building for over 20 years before they passed away, always paid fee's on time, never caused a problem in the building

What a disgrace and sad legacy the KH board left me & the other heirs with !

Not all Boards will be so callous, but KH was. Stay away, better yet "go condo"

Niki Wickenhiser
December 21, 2015
Spent all of my childhood visiting my grandparents in that building and even got to bring my own children there before my grandparents passed away. So many warm memories! Loved the view and the atmosphere. :)
December 20, 2015
The Kennedy House is no longer a rental property. When did it turn condo? Too bad we have yet another incomplete article by Mr Perlman, it could have been a lovely story of such an iconic building.
Janet Silver Ghent
December 19, 2015
My parents lived there from its opening until they died, in a lovely apartment with a great view.Sadly, the front entrance to the building is a dangerous wind tunnel. The technology to avoid that was probably available in Roman times, but nobody has ever done anything to fix it. It badly needs a wind deflector.
Len Kahn ('55)
December 19, 2015
I wish I could afford to live there now. I would move from New Jersey tomorrow.