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Queens Chronicle

Astoria Homecoming For Steinway Street Clock

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Posted: Thursday, January 10, 2008 12:00 am

The Astoria community welcomed its beloved Steinway Street Clock — which spent the summer and much of the fall undergoing repairs in Massachussetts — back home with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony last Thursday.

One of the several clocks throughout New York City designed by Howard Post, the Steinway Clock was iron-cast 100 years ago and installed at 30-78 Steinway St. in 1922.

Although landmarked in 1981, the clock fell into disrepair in the ensuing decades and it took several years to secure the funding necessary to fix it.

The clock’s interior mechanics needed to be repaired, and its exterior required repainting, according to Marie Torniali, executive director of the Central Astoria Local Development Coalition. The clock’s top post piece also needed to be restored.

The entire process —which according to most accounts took the better part of a decade — included obtaining special permission to conduct maintenance work on the landmarked clock, securing the funding necessary and finally, disassembling and sending the parts away for repairs.

Torniali said the project was made possible with $40,000 in funding from the city’s Department of Small Business Services, which Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. helped secure.

“It’s been my honor to help keep a little part of Astoria that we remember here,” Vallone said at the ribbon-cutting, adding that he remembered seeing the clock as he was growing up.

Technology has improved the clock’s operation so that it no longer needs to be wound. It now includes a satellite-linked system that allows it to automatically sync to time changes.

Many in attendance at Thursday’s ribbon-cutting — including state Sen. George Onorato, Assemblywoman Margaret Markey and Assemblyman Michael Gianaris —noted the clock’s importance as a symbol of Steinway Street and its development.

“I look at a working clock as a symbol of the revitalization of our community,” added Tom Bernardin, founder and president of the non-profit group Save America’s Clocks. He helped link the Astoria community with the repair company Electric Time.

“It’s the best of what happens in a community,” Bernardin said, noting the group effort involved in maintaining the clock.

Torniali said members of the community took notice when the clock was missing.

Anne Holloway, who has lived in Astoria for 65 years, remembered when the clock stood in front of a jewelry store. A shoe store has since taken its place.

“It’s bringing back part of Astoria from my childhood growing up,” Holloway said of the clock. “I’m happy it’s back.”

The Steinway Street Clock is one of seven Post clocks landmarked citywide, including two in Queens, according to Bernardin. The borough’s other historic clock stands at 161-11 Jamaica Ave. in Jamaica.

When asked to elaborate on the historical significance of the clocks, Bernardin provided a quote from the Landmarks Preservation Commission Designation Report from August, 1981: “These clocks enhance and maintain the intimacy and scale of neighborhood blocks … they represent a small extant sample of a clock type that once proliferated in New York and other American cities at the turn of the century … as important and increasingly rare street amenities they make a very special and significant contribution to New York’s streetscape.”

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