SENDEK HOUSE, Queens Boulevard

by Kevin Walsh

During the ForgottenTour on September 21, 2013, I discussed the Mary Sendek House at Queens Boulevard, which forced Macy’s to build a “notch” in their Moderne circular building. I was sent a photo of the house at it was in the 1930s and the 1960s before its demolition.

The circular R.H. Macy branch on the Boulevard was the site of an epic struggle between The World’s Biggest Store and a local homeowner, Mary Sendek (some accounts spell it Sondek). Mary and husband Joseph had purchased property at Queens Blvd.  in 1922 and built a modest home there, raising a family; when Macy’s arrived after Joseph Sendek’s death and offered to buy the property, Mary refused to budge, even after Macy’s offered her five times what the Sendeks spent when they purchased the property. Macy’s eventually cut a notch in the circular structure to evade the property line.

In 1935, 55th Avenue was yet to be built and the Sendek house, second from right, was midblock. It was under assault from both traffic engineers, who just missed it when building 55th Avenue, and the burghers of Macy’s who could have made Mary a wealthy woman…if she would have moved.

 

Photos courtesy Todd Berkun

10/1/13

19 comments

Dan Bostaph October 1, 2013 - 6:59 am

So?
What was the address, so we can check Google Street View, today?

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FivePoint October 5, 2013 - 11:26 am

Come on, you can easily figure it out by reading the post.

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John Sterbenz October 1, 2013 - 7:47 am

My Forest Hills-raised parents would always talk about this notch as we’d drive down Queens Boulevard towards FH at the very, very end of our annual summer pilgrimage from Michigan. It’s nice to have this extra piece of knowledge about it.

historicaerials.com shows both the house and the outstructure (I can’t imagine it being anything other than a garage) still standing in 1966. Very similar-shaped buildings to the original house can be seen in the 1980 shot, too–the size and roofline of the main structure being so similar to what the photo above and the previous aerials show that it appears as though the house was still standing in that, too–though this contradicts our Webmaster’s statement of demolition in the 1960s.

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Marjorie Melikian November 1, 2018 - 11:50 pm

I knew Mrs. Sendek slightly. My youngest daughter was about a year old, born 1971. So it would have been about 1972 or 3 the house was demolished. I talked with Mrs. Sendek several times, m o at My about her garden which she kept up well. She had flowers & I think some vegetables. She would always be working in it when I saw her. She loved kids & had little figurines on her lawn my kids were enchanted by. Her husband was becoming ill then although I saw him a couple rimes outside before he got housebound. They worked a lot in the vegetable garden. Also had flowers. And a dog. It was the figurines that intrigued my kids- & others. A PS 13 class she told me once visited (prearranged) & she explained a little to the kids about growing plants… She had a dog also. She really loved her place & fought against selling it. But with her husband at the end very ill things became difficult. He died & She sold finally – but too late. Macy’s was beginning to be built around her. A sad story really. If they had come to her after her husband’s death instead of when he first became Ill, things. might have turned out differently.

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Anonymous April 7, 2019 - 10:31 am

It’s funny how time plays with our memories. Mrs. Sendek never sold the property; she lived in it until she died.

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Laurence E Sachs April 7, 2019 - 10:57 am

Your time line is off .The house was still there in 1981..

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John S. October 23, 2019 - 4:59 pm

Yes, it was still there in 1981…but perhaps not much after. A July 19, 1981 New York Times article (“Plans for site near Macy’s”, Section 8, Page 6) discusses the property and its sale and says, in part:

“The new owner of the house is Paul Testa, a builder of houses and small apartment buildings in Queens, and a principal in Diplomat Enterprises. He plans to tear it down, possibly as soon as September, and put up a two-story mixed-use building of offices and stores.”

Testa bought the property for $280,000–all cash–and a far cry from the approximately $4,000 the Sendeks paid in 1922.

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Greg October 1, 2013 - 10:13 am

Interesting. it doesn’t look like they cut a notch though from the photo. It looks like the house is a hundred yards away.

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Kevin Walsh October 1, 2013 - 11:18 pm

I think it’s because of the property line

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queensbee October 1, 2013 - 12:17 pm

there is a banner ad for …Macy’s… on this page with this story. irony?

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Edward October 1, 2013 - 1:08 pm

So, instead of taking the money and buying a nice home in any other quiet NYC neighborhood, she ended up living on a very busy street corner with cars and dept stores all around her.

You go girl!

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candy October 1, 2013 - 5:08 pm

im very glad she chose to remain. i hate the businesses and builders who think residents should move for their big production or plan.

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LB October 2, 2013 - 6:56 am

This is the property today: http://goo.gl/maps/K8n8J

You can see the notch on the western side of the building. It’s also visible in the above picture. THe notch was to accommodate the property line.

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steve October 2, 2013 - 10:43 am

The house survived at least into the 1980s and probably the ’90s before it made room for a row of shops. The lot was well maintained, had a nice garden, and room for Sendak’s dog.

The notch, visible in the 1964 photo above the black car, was for the property line and merely elminated a few spaces from the parking decks that encircled all sales levels of the store.

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Sergey Kadinsky October 4, 2013 - 6:47 am

The house was sold in 1981 by Sendek’s children. It was demolished shortly thereafter.

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Tal Barzilai October 2, 2013 - 5:12 pm

I just looked at that location on Google Maps, and that house isn’t there anymore, and this is now the site where that long brick low-rise building sits, which probably took out the rest of that block as well, though HSBC is the actual location of that house.

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Marjorie Melikian October 4, 2013 - 1:42 pm

From 1970 through 1976 I used to walk by the house on my way to church. The house probably lasted at least another couple years. Mrs. Sendek had flowers and animal figurines in her backyard; my children loved to look at the animals. My youngest had to have been 2 or 3 at least, which would be 1973-4. I saw Mrs. Sendek out there gardening a few times, and spoke to her. She was so proud of her yard, and said others had commented on the animals also. She was a pleasant lady whose home meant everything to her.
I don’t remember the structure mentioned in the yard; it probably was either a garage (I don’t remember a car) or a storage shed for gardening supplies.

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TommyR September 18, 2018 - 1:44 pm

Just commenting to express my satisfaction with this quiet nod of acknowledgement to a small but interesting piece of Middleburgh’s long history. I now have a picture of the home in mind to put to thought whenever I should pass by that corner, at whose terminal southern end I live. Georgia’s is gone now, too – it’s “merged” with Nevada (same ownership) down by the Elk lodge.

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JohnG November 2, 2019 - 1:33 pm

We used to drive by this spot all the time in the 1970’s as kids. We always watched out for that house. It seemed like a real “David and Goliath” story to us, and we rooted for the owner. Much later I learned of another “hold out house” at the corner of Macy’s Herald Sq. property. So I guess they had some experience with hold-out property owners. Here’s a link to that other one: https://ephemeralnewyork.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/the-tiny-holdout-building-in-the-middle-of-macys/ I was sad when they knocked this Sendek house down and put a bank there. Chemical Bank I think?

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