Two Forest Hills visionaries remembered

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Philip Birnbaum and Alfred Kaskel hold an award from the Queens Chamber of Commerce for one of their many buildings

The population of Queens continues to grow, but how often do we take a moment to appreciate the novelty and distinctive characteristics that contributed to its diversity and appeal?

Meet the award-winning duo of architect Philip Birnbaum (1907-1996) and builder Alfred Kaskel (1901-1968) of Carol Management, a pair of noteworthy community visionaries. They sensed opportunity in Forest Hills in 1939, when they realized its accessibility and growing population, resulting from the development of the IND subway line in 1936 and the 1939 World’s Fair.

Their numerous apartment houses within the confines of Yellowstone Boulevard and 108th Street uniquely merge Colonial and Art Moderne styles. From 1939 to 1942, they built the Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Andrew Jackson and Benjamin Franklin.

Their buildings were marked by detailed large lobbies with picture windows overlooking a central courtyard with sunken fountains. They are also noted for curved brick corner terraces and exposures that maximize sunlight and fresh air. Some of their lobbies were furnished with antiques collected in Europe.

“My father worked with Alfred Kaskel for perhaps more than 30 years,” said Dara Birnbaum, a video artist and professor. “They were amazingly close with much mutual respect.”

Read the full story at the Forest Hills/Rego Park Times.

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