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LIC Clock Tower Owner Backs Landmarking and Promises Restoration

 The Landmarks Preservation Commission will vote on designation of the building on May 12.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission will vote on designation of the building on May 12.
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DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

LONG ISLAND CITY — The owner of the historic Clock Tower in Queens Plaza is supporting a bid to landmark the building, while planning to build Queens' tallest tower right next door.

The Hakim Organization and Property Markets Group — which owns both the Clock Tower and the lot next door where they plan to build a 70-story apartment building — expressed full support for designating the Clock Tower as a landmark during a LPC hearing on Tuesday.

"We respect the building's place in Queens and Long Island City's history, and we appreciate its aesthetic beauty," said Brad Zackson of The Hakim Organization.

Last December, when locals started petitioning to landmark the Clock Tower, the owners said that they were willing to work with the LPC, but this is their strongest statement of support so far. 

During the meeting, the owners said they also plan to renovate the tower at 29-27 Queens Plaza North and repair its iconic four-sided clock, Zackson told members of the commission.

"We plan on maintaining it in a first class way in the future so our children and future generations will get to know it as their beacon in Long Island City," he said.

The owners also agreed to preserve views of the Clock Tower by limiting the height of any developments east and west of it, according to a member of the Landmarks Commission.

A parking lot for the Clock Tower sits to the building's east, while another L-shaped plot of land wraps around it to the north and west. The same developers own this lot and are planning a 70-story apartment tower there, the height of which will face the rear, or north side, of the Clock Tower.

Rapid development in the neighborhood is what pushed locals and preservationists to fight for the landmarking in the first place.

Michael Hall, a Queens Plaza resident who started a petition last year to landmark the Clock Tower, hailed the building for its historic significance as the tallest building in Queens before the Citigroup building went up in 1990. 

"This beloved building occupies a unique place in the architectural history of the borough," Hall said in a testimony on Tuesday.

Although the commission will not vote on the status until May 12, several commissioners spoke in favor of the cause, noting that its location next to the 7 train line made it highly visible.

When it was built in 1927, the Queens Chamber of Commerce deemed it the "best business building," according to a presentation by an LPC researcher who called it "one of Long Island City’s most recognizable structures." The tower was designed by architect Morrell Smith.

Local advocates, including Christian Emanuel, one of the initial supporters for the landmarking, were grateful for support from the owners.

"We're very thankful," Emanuel said in his testimony to the LPC, calling the Clock Tower a "symbol of preservation-conscious real estate development."