Day 407

The notch!

February 9th, 2013

The time has come to retell one of the best stories I've learned so far on this walk. Let's start with an aerial photo of the Queens Place mall. A nice big circle, right? Not quite.

The mall was originally an enormous Macy's department store that opened in 1965. Two years earlier, Macy's began buying up all the land on the irregularly shaped five-acre block where the mall now sits. Everyone sold out except for one little old lady, a widow by the name of Mary Sendek (or Sondek, depending on your source), who lived at the corner of Queens Boulevard and 55th Avenue. The proposed layout of the arena-like store called for only a slight intrusion into her backyard, but rather than shrink the circle by a few feet, Macy's decided to start building the original design, assuming she was just holding out for more money and could be bought off before the construction reached her property.

Macy's offered as much as $200,000, but Ms. Sendek refused to budge. She apparently had a dog she was very fond of, and didn't want to deprive him of the spacious backyard he so enjoyed. Or maybe, as one of her neighbors said: "She was young when she came and started life here, and she figured she wanted to leave life here. Their money didn't mean anything." Whatever her reasons, Macy's was forced to cut a little notch out of their otherwise perfect circle (take a closer look at that aerial photo) to skirt the edge of her backyard. Here's a great photo of her house standing alone against the immense, indented facade of the store.

Ms. Sendek died some years later; her house was knocked down and a strip mall built in its place. (As you can see here and in the photo above, it takes up the full extent of the lot, all the way into the notch in the wall.) Macy's hung around a while longer, but eventually departed for the greener pastures of the nearby Queens Center mall. The giant, flawed cylinder they erected endures, however, as a monumental geometric record of one woman's immovable personality.


  1. bill willsie says:

    Okay. So what is the smaller circular building to the left of the much larger Macy’s building?

  2. tom says:

    i remember that house!

  3. NoseKnows says:

    Is the “flawed cylinder” being used for anything now?

  4. Jason Eppink says:

    Marginally related, this has been making the rounds on the internet: giant test patterns built for calibrating satellite cameras.

  5. kathy says:

    I love this story! Now-a-days the city would sweep in and claim imminent domain, paid barely what it is worth and allow the building to continue as planned.

  6. Kier from Oregon says:

    Great research and story Matt. Love to hear about the underdog winning against the big dog! Thanks

Leave a Reply