2005-02-25 / Community

Washington Hotel Scheduled To Be Demolished Next Month

By Howard Schwach


Breaking ground for the new Washington Hotel on December 15, 1966. Pictured are, from left, Stanley Mittman, Sylvia Levine and Bernie Schneider.Breaking ground for the new Washington Hotel on December 15, 1966. Pictured are, from left, Stanley Mittman, Sylvia Levine and Bernie Schneider. The Washington Hotel has been a Rockaway landmark since before World War II.

The Kosher catering hall, which hosted thousands of weddings, bar mitzvahs, family parties, religious and civic dinners and political events of all kinds, will soon disappear forever from its familiar spot on Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach 125 Street.

Eleanor Roosevelt was there for a dinner, Governor Mario Cuomo dropped in, New York City Mayors such as William O’Dwyer, Abe Beame, Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani were regulars for galas and dinners.

On February 28, however, construction experts will begin to demolish the building.

“Please take note that an application is being submitted to the New York City Department of Buildings for demolition of the above captioned [196 Beach 125 Street] building. Demolition of the existing structure will begin on or about February 28, 2005.”

The letter came from an expediter called JMV Associates, LCC in Bayside. Richard Velez, the general manager for JMV Associates told The Wave, however, that the demolition is off schedule.

“I don’t think that the work will start on time,” Velez said, pointing out that the owner had not yet picked a demolition contractor for the job.

“The owner has to chose a contractor and then we have to file an application with the city to approve that contractor,” he added, pointing out that it might take a few weeks to get everything in line.

There is no doubt that the building will soon come down either next month or in April.

What will replace it on the site, however, remains a mystery.

While the building, which closed in December of 2003, was to be replaced by condominiums and town houses, it is widely believed that the deal fell through sometime last year and the land reverted to the original owners – now called The Washington Hotel Caterers Corporation.

The Department of Buildings says the land is zoned H-9 for a hotel. It is unclear what types of housing could be built on the site without a zoning exception.

The New York City Department of Buildings has had no permits filed for new constriction on the property.

The owners have continually declined comment on the future of the land.

In 1937, Barney and Sylvia Levine came to Rockaway. They first stayed at the Washington Hotel, then on the corner of Beach 124 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard in 1947.

In 1958, the Levine’s bought the adjacent property and refurbished it for the hotel that stands today.

The Levine’s children, Vivian and Bernie Schneider and Elaine and Stanley Mittman, all of Rockaway, later joined their parents in the family business. Still later, grandchildren Joyce and Les Ness came aboard.

The family always made a point of hiring Rockaway residents as wait staff and bartenders.

On November 12, after the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 into beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue, the hotel was turned into a command post of the police and the emergency medical service workers.

Velez says that it may take a week or two to demolish the building once all the city permits are lined up.

It will take much longer to erase the memories of those who partied there.

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