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Queens Chronicle

South Queens’ own Big Ben won’t strike noon

Atlantic Avenue’s famous clock tower has not told time in years

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Posted: Thursday, April 4, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:33 am, Thu Apr 11, 2013.

If you’re running late and driving through Woodhaven and Ozone Park, don’t bother looking up to find out the time, you won’t get it.

Southern Queens’ famous clock tower rises over the former site of the Grosjean kitchenware factory on Atlantic Avenue just west of Woodhaven Boulevard. Today, the site is occupied by the Pathmark shopping center and all that remains of the former factory is the extensive building that acts almost like a brick wall between the shopping center’s parking lot and Atlantic Avenue. On the eastern end of the expansive building is the clock tower.

Technically in Ozone Park, the clock tower sits on the neighborhood’s border with Woodhaven and is a well-known landmark in both communities.

The tower has such prominence locally that Columbia Savings Bank opened up a branch in the building below the tower and referred to it as the “Clock Tower” branch. Though the bank has since moved out of the building, its branch — now operated by Queens County Savings Bank — relocated to within Pathmark and still refers to itself by the old name.

The tower is currently occupied by a medical office managed by MediSys, the parent company of Jamaica Hospital Medical Center. The first floor, which used to be the bank, is now a senior medical center. Like the bank, MediSys refers to the facility as “Clock Tower.” The building also hosts a buffet and a piano store. During the holidays, a Christmas store operates there and Christmas trees are sold on the street near the tower.

Michael Hinck, director of public affairs for MediSys, said the group actually repaired the clock when they moved into the building in the late 1990s and it worked for a few years before it stopped again.

“The assessment was that all the parts were no longer available and the infrastructure and mechanisms would need to be replaced,” he explained, “It was something that was very costly for us at the time.”

The clock was at that time nearly 140 years old.

Hinck was living in Howard Beach at the time and said he recognized how important it is to the surrounding neighborhoods.

“It’s certainly an important piece of the community’s history,” he said.

Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association and Woodhaven Historical Society, said construction crews were working on the tower recently, but he was told the work was only on the tower’s external structure.

“It would be great if that clock was working again,” he said. “But I imagine it would cost a ton of money.”

Wendell, who remembers when the clock still told time, said he has spoken to the building’s manager about it and was told the timepiece is beyond repair.

Hinck said MediSys would be interested in joining in on an effort to raise funds to repair the clock.

“We would love to be involved in any efforts to fix the clock,” he said.

Wendell also expressed interest in that possibility.

“If I had an estimate on the cost, perhaps we could raise money to restore it,” he added. “If there is anything that really serves as a landmark for the community, it’s that clock.”

Welcome to the discussion.