May 6, 2011 By Christian Murray
Brown street signs started going up in Sunnyside Gardens on Saturday, April 30, that mark the district’s landmark status.
For now, the signs adorn only 39th Avenue, but after tomorrow (weather permitting), they will mark the whole district, which includes the Phipps apartment buildings, Sunnyside Gardens Park, 12 courtyards and 16 blocks of Sunnyside and Woodside north of Queens Boulevard. Noted for its tree-lined streets and small, brick attached houses, the area was designed and built in the twenties to bring affordable houses and green space to lower income residents.
The complex was designed by Henry Wright and Clarence Stein, and the landscape architecture by Marjorie Sewell Cautley. The use of open space lends charm and singularity to the mainly connected, tiny brick single, multi-family and apartment buildings.
The designation by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2007 came after a hotly contested community debate. Herbert Reynolds, a landmarking advocate for the Gardens, when asked about the new signs, said, “Jimmy Van Bramer and his staff deserve the credit.”
Van Bramer got the signs funded, and at one point stopped the process until original street names were included on each sign. “I am pleased we found a way to get this important part of our history up for all to see.”
Van Bramer has tapped Ethel Plimack, a strong advocate for landmarking who is now 100, to do the unveiling honors at the northwest corner of 46th/Bliss Street and Skillman at 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 14.
When Ethel was 97, Van Bramer said, she “came down by herself to Manhattan to testify before the NYC Landmark Preservation Commission and could do it again today.”
But with the unveiling, Van Bramer is making it easier. “It will be a half block from her house!”
Van Bramer’s office will announce further details of the celebration soon.