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Proposed Development in Sunnyside Gardens Concerns Preservationist

June 17

Herb Reynolds, the leader of the Sunnyside Gardens Preservation Alliance, is circulating the following e-mail after learning of a proposed development in Sunnyside Gardens.

Dear Residents of Sunnyside, Woodside & beyond,

There is an alarming proposal in the works that seeks to turn the historic corner lot at 39th Avenue and 50th Street into an out-of-place, post-modern housing development. This corner lot falls within the Sunnyside Gardens historic district and therefore all development proposals must be approved by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). As a smokescreen, the developers are also proposing to move a 1931 aluminum house onto the lot.

We are a group of concerned residents opposing this development. The manner in which this proposal is being rushed through without sufficient public notice is indicative of the developers’ not having our community’s best interest at heart. This development proposal runs contrary to the community’s aim of preserving the corner lot from succumbing to over-development.

Our group has other ideas for this historic open space — namely the transformation of it into a truly public community garden and green common, while preserving its existing structures and trees. Most of the parks in Sunnyside now are either concrete playgrounds serving primarily school children, exclusive gardens or private parks charging membership dues. We want to change this.

The development proposal is completely wrong for the historic district, and it’s completely wrong for our community. But the Landmarks Law gives every one of us the right to voice our choice for our future, and we need everyone to exercise that right.

Right now there are 3 things you can do to help:

1. Please hit “Reply” (hlr3@columbia.edu) to this e-mail to say you oppose this development.

2. There will be an unveiling of this development proposal this week at Community Board 2’s Land Use committee meeting. If a lot of us show up and demonstrate our disapproval of the proposal, the harder it will be for the development to win the support it needs. This is not a public hearing and we may not get to speak, but a lot of disappointed faces in the audience will help convey our message.

The meeting is Wednesday, June 19 at 7 pm at the address below:

Community Board 2 office

43-22 50th St. off Roosevelt Ave., 2nd floor.

(Note- this is NOT at Sunnyside Community Services)

Worse still the LPC public hearing, may be scheduled for July 9. This gives us little time to organize our opposition so we want the hearing delayed.

3. Call and e-mail Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s staff to ask them to do everything in their power to delay the LPC’s public hearing. Please leave a voicemail if there is no pick up.

Nick Gulotta, staff preservationist:

NGulotta@council.nyc.gov

718-383-9566, ext.5

Yours,

Cautley Garden

cautleygarden@gmail.com

https://sites.google.com/site/cautleygarden/

This is the site today (photo care of Queenscrap)

This is the site (photo care of Queenscrap)

email the author: news@queenspost.com

140 Comments

Click for Comments 
Kate

I’ve just found this board as I have been wondering about the lot for a while. I am against this project, because it does not fit the area at all, but leaving it as is does not make it a useful or usable park. Walking by a locked up space does not allow me to enjoy it. Something useful that respects the community should be done with it!

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Mike Novak

“I’ve changed my mind. I’ve decided to support this wonderful project!

THIS IS NOT MY POST.

SOME COWARD IS USING MY NAME.

CHRISTIAN!!!! THIS IS NOT MY POST!!!

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7TrainDelays

I rarely agree with Mike Novak, but he does ask the most relevant question:

“WHO is benefitting from this?”

As the cliché goes: follow the $$$.

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7TrainDelays

Why can’t people leave a nice open space be? Why does every natural setting have to have concrete and metal imposed on it? I know the answer. Money. If enough money is involved and finds its way into the right backpockets…..

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Mary Caulfield

@Angary If you opened the gate on the playground anyone could go in there and easily enjoy themselves. They could sit in the sun or shade, bounce a ball, play backgammon, etc. That is the sense in which I mean it was a park and still is a park.

Worth noting–the gate on the playground has a unique opening mechanism. Only someone with adult height, strength and knowledge can open it. As long as an adult closed it, no little child could accidentally or intentionally get out. That alone is worth preserving. It is low-tech clever. No electronics needed. I’ve never seen another gate like it.

By the way, the place next to the Queens Center Mall is the “new” St John’s. The original one stood where Citicorp stands in LIC.

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Dorothy Morehead

When a building or district is landmarked, property owners are not required to return their properties to their original appearance. However, if subsequent changes are wanted, e.g., new windows, they must substantially conform to the historic windows. That raises the question of whether or not the site can be converted to a community garden or must remain a playground. The pavilion appears to be in good condition and would be a wonderful place for people, especially seniors, to socialize. I don’t know the conditions of the bathrooms in the little shed but I believe there is running water there as I’ve seen hoses on the grounds.

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Rook

I bring it up because if the land was gated up prior to being landmarked; I don’t think Landmarks is in any position to mandate it be changed backed. It is similar to work that may have been done to a home before landmark status.

As far as other sources, city planning created a zoning text amendment that outlines the landmarked status. That is online.

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Mary Caulfield

Just a minor addition to the previous post, the indoor nursery had indoor rooms, only one of which was in W building basement. That was “the Big Side” for older children. The other room, the Little Side,” was in the basement of A building. I guess we called them “sides” because they were on opposite sides of the main entrance. If you look, the outdoor nursery is also divided into sides. Younger children were in the first section you enter through the gate. The older children played in the back section. You had to be big enough to climb the ladder for the slide by yourself before you could go in there. Take a look, it is pretty high.

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Dorothy Morehead

It was the playground for Phipps Nursery School. The school was in the building to the right of the main entrance and is now used as a community room where the park holds its holiday party and winter meeting. It is my understanding that the playground was closed around 1986 some time after the nursery operations were discontinued, almost fifty years after it opened. The school and its playground were an integral part of growing up in Phipps and I would assume that was recognized by the Landmarks Commission in the historic. If the site had not been considered significant, it could easily have been excluded.

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Angray

Caulfield – Does putting a lock on something and walking away make it anything less than what it was? This is the common sense of things.

In what sense are you speaking?

Try seeking medical help at St. John’s Hospital in Elmhurst. Get it? Once it is abandoned and not currently operating as such, I don’t think you can consider it the same. I get what you you mean though and I also see Rook’s point. Regardless, I don’t care which way this situation goes, but makes for entertaining comments here.

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Mary Caulfield

Locking something up does not change its nature as far as I can tell. Lock a library, it is a locked library, lock a house it is a locked house, lock a park it is a locked park. That’s my way of seeing it. It was designed as a park, which an online dictionary defined as an open place, often with greenery, for recreation. I don’t see how locking it up made any difference. It was a locked park no one was allowed to play in. But, if there is a legal definition or some other kind, please, let me know. I could be wrong.

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Rook

Mary- is the site currently used as a park? It is a closed lot and it was that prior to being landmarked, no?

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Mary Caulfield

Perhaps it would illuminate things for you to provide the text and source that made you come to the conclusion that it is not a park.

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Mary Caulfield

@Rook If it was a park in the past and nothing has changed, how has it become anything else? Is an unused locked neglected park not still a park? Does putting a lock on something and walking away make it anything less than what it was? This is the common sense of things.

In what sense are you speaking?

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Rook

Mike- but it is not a park now, right? I checked landmarks and city planning; I have my facts, I’m not sure where you are getting yours.

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Mike Novak

Great turnout by the community tonight to protest this ill-conceived plan!

Hopefully the owners of the Alluminaire House will find a receptive and more appropriate footing for their white elephant.

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Mike Novak

@Rook: Really?
Call Campani and Schwarting – Architects
150-3 East Main Street
Port Jefferson NY 11777
631 642 0228
Ask them.
BTW…its not a height issue, its a land use and landmark issue.

The Aluminaire House was designed as a case study by architects A. Lawrence Kocher and Albert Frey in 1931 for the New York Architectural League Show at the Museum of Modern Art.

Its needs an appropriate home.

Sunnyside Gardens is not the appropriate place for an aluminum tinker toy.

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Mary Caulfield

@ Dorothy Morehead Thanks for your excellent illumination of all the rules. I’m relieved to hear they should not be allowed to demolish what is there and have no basis from which to argue for more structures. Passiing by this morning I spotted for the thousandth time the enormous slide that is featured in a popular early photo, the one with about twenty little ones sitting on it from top to bottom. I can’t identify anyone, but my maternal uncles could easily be among them. It would be fun to restore it for special uses, such as a water slide into a cool pool of water during the summer. I remember it was quite a good long ride down!

Also, regarding FofSP, where would I go to call for volunteers to form a committee to take this over? I’d be happy to run for some office, particularly secretary. Where there is a will there is a way.

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Dorothy Morehead

Hi, Mike. Before Sunnyside Gardens was designated a NYC landmark, it was on the National Register of Historic Places and it was a NYS landmark but those are honorifics and do not carry the force of law. In 1974, at the request of Sunnyside Gardens residents, the district was designated a Planned Community Preservation District under the Dept of City Planning. That designation protected the district from demolition of existing houses and construction of oversized additions as well as other changes but proved inadequate to prevent things like the cinder block front porch on 45th Street or painting a house red, also seen on 45th Street.

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Mike Novak

The question still remains….WHY HERE IN SUNNYSIDE?

WHO in Sunnyside Gardens has the connection to the current architects who own of the Alluminaire House?

WHY do they want to bring this thing here when it is 100% opposite of the aesthetic that makes Sunnyside Gardens special?

Surely there are other places and plots of land that are 110% appropriate for the structure.

WHO is benefitting from this?

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Dorothy Morehead

@Rook. The Landmarks Commission does permit new construction in landmark districts; however I believe this is allowed to replace buildings which have been demolished as in the Bed-Stuy district. The new buildings have to replicate the missing ones. The property in Sunnyside was part of the Phipps Garden apartment complex and has never been built upon except for the pavilion, the bathrooms and the playground equipment. There is no context for new houses there.

@Mary Caulfield. At the meeting on Monday, Cieran Staunton, in response to a question, reported on the status of Friends of Sunnyside Park. He said that that non-profit was established to receive funds for long-delayed capital improvements in the park and would be going out of business. I personally think it would be a good idea to keep it open but since I’m not ready, willing and able to manage it, I hesitate to suggest that task for someone else.

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Mike Novak

@Sunnyside Native: I was against landmarking. The gardens was already deemed an “historic district”. There were laws on the books against making garish and inappropriate changes to the buildings in the gardens.

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Mary Caulfield

From what I know, the SGCA is able to accept donations through a funding arm called the Friends of Sunnyside Park. The SGCA did not have any money to undertake the work that went on over the past few years, but there was a will and it found a way.

I am not opposed to anything anyone is currently doing and I certainly favor keeping the land open and for public use if possible. That said, the SGCA’s founding documents charged a 24-member board with running the park and, and here I paraphrase because the documents are not in front of me, other matters of concern to members of the entire Sunnyside Gardens community.

The comments here prove there are many people who love the community, some of whom work very hard with little support to protect it. If neighbors joined forces, and worked together as fully empowered, community-appointed SGCA board members working almost wholly on “communitywide concerns,” it might be an efficient way to accomplish common goals. A group of appointed board members who do not enter into day-to-day functions of the park but would be on hand to overlook and advise the tides of young parents sweeping into and out of the park every few years. would also help stabilize the property, which is an asset to everyone.

That’s all I am saying. I throw the topic out there for discussion. The more light on it, the better.

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Rook

The commission makes clear on its website that new construction can occur in any designated area. Correct me if I’m wrong but this is currently a closed empty lot? It is not green or open to the public now and yet it is compliant, no?

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Dorothy Morehead

Any letters can be addressed to Joe Conley, Chairman of CB2, rather than to individual committee members.

If it is a ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) application as I think it is, there are a number of steps in the process, the first being the community board. The application then goes to the borough president, the NYC Planning Commission and the City Council. (I’m not sure where the Landmarks Commission comes in–I have testified at all venues for two ULURP application proceedings but the one in Sunnyside was before landmarking.) It’s important to express your opinion at every venue, if not in person, then by mail.

I don’t presume to speak for the SGCA (Sunnyside Park), but I do know from this week’s meeting that there are no funds to acquire additional property. The board has a full plate managing the park as it is.

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sm

Is it possible to obtain addresses and names of people on the Land Use Committee so that even if we’re unable to attend – we (Sunnyside) could begin a writing campaign and flood there offices with letters that may, at least, to promote a public hearing in Sunnyside before any development or permission is granted?

I’m not opposed to building and construction per se, but if this runs counter to landmark status and restrictions (created for a purpose), and those restrictions preserve the green space, then the buyer ought to have checked those restrictions before purchasing the property.

But that said, should the community succeed in preserving the space, it should be transformed into something that can be used, e.g. a reading or gardening park. Because while currently “green space” now, its empty for the public use.

Perhaps SGP (Sunnyside Gardens Park) could intervene, generate funds to purchase it and make it an “adult” park with volunteer hour requirements and a small fee (e.g. $20 a year- simply for insurance/liability purposes and basic, basic upkeep). I don’t know if SGP has that sort of funds accessible though to purchase it??

I appreciate that people prefer public to private parks, but I don’t think the state/city is going to intervene and buy this from the current landowner (especially since they just spent money on the dog park park for Sunnyside).

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Dorothy Morehead

The meeting tonight is a Land Use Committee meeting and will be held, as are all committee meetings, in a conference room that seats fewer than 20 people. First seated are committee members and applicants and their representatives. If past history serves, the property owner will be represented by at least one architect and perhaps someone representing the non-profit set up to acquire (has acquired?) the Aluminaire House to plead the case for preserving the house. It is highly unlikely that anyone else will fit in the room. A few people may be able to stand in the doorway.

This is in no way meant to discourage everyone from participating in the process and perhaps if people do come and sign in, there will be a public hearing in Sunnyside. The timing of the application seems to me to be designed to stifle public comment since the community board does not meet again until September yet must act on the application within a limited time frame (1 month?). If you do attend tonight and are not allowed into the conference room due to space limitations, ask that your name and contact information be taken down and whether or not you oppose the project. I’m going to get there early and see if I can be seated as chair of the Environmental Committee. If so, I’ll report back tomorrow.

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Sunnyside Native

@ Mike Novak – were you pro or agianst the landmarking of Sunnyside?

Everybody who opposes this housing project / development needs to attend the meeting and voice their opinion.

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Mary Caulfield

I see I should much more carefully proof my own copy. Sorry for the sloppy mistakes. I wish there were a way we could go back and make changes to our comments. Is that possible, Christian?

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Mary Caulfield

I respectfully and passionately disagree with the previous comment.

Of course we can be picky. That is what the whole landmarking movement is about. Wouldn’t it have been nice to still have the magestic and perfectly functional Penn Station rather than the retail maze that exists? The Singer Bulding rather than the black plinth that replaced it? Your argument makes no sense to me, anyway.

Building and commerce are not universally and eternally good. New York City is dense with buildings. People can not truly form a community and get to know each other if they do not have a place to gather. And, I am sorry to have to point out a shameful truth, but developers are notorious for sacrificing everyone and everything for the sake of their profits. Manhattan is full of the bleak, cheerless and anonymous plazas community boards demanded they provide when they were given exceptions to existing restrictions. The NY Times did a story in the past year or so which concluded a huge percentage–I forget the number but it was more than 75%–are so arranged that most people have no idea it is a public place.

I think Phipps made a smart business decision when it sold that lot because it decided a long time ago it didn’t know how to make a buck off of it. But they did a huge disservice to a community they used to be a major bulwark and promoter of. And the buyer bought himself what has so far proven to be a six-year headache drain on is resources. No one would wish that on him, but we all have to accept losses with as much grace as we can muster.

He should sell it to a community group that would find the existing restrictions just perfect for their purposes. It is restricted to remain open ground, not a built up residential lot. People here need it for rest, beauty, peace and conviviality. They are more essential to the human spirit than an landmarked house seeking a home.

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Anonymous

I would much rather have development on that corner than what is is now. Nothing. Maybe it doesn’t match but what are we holding on to, Brick and mortar? I say develop. We can’t be too picky in Sunnyside and should be happy that it’s not another laundry mat or nail salon or thai restaurant being built.

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Pliny the Elder

This makes no sense.

The paperwork I saw said nothing can be built outside the footprint of existing structures. There is a little shed and the much-admired summer house. That’s it. If no one in the Gardens can even replace a tiny little pre-existing back deck, how in heaven’s name can someone build a few substantial buildings meant to house many households?

If there is some sneaky backdoor clause that allows this, then someone should be held accountable. I very seriously doubt anyone here supported restricting every property owner in the Gardens except the guy who bought the white elephant from Phipps.

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Anonymous

@ mike novak

Because everyone who welcomes change obviously is the developer in question… lol

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Rook

Mike: It seems highly unlikely that an architect made these designs without checking what the zoning and restrictions currently are. That’s the first thing they would check to determine height.

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Mike Novak

Rook: The property in question is landmarked as park space. Its that simple. The fight for landmarking was vocal, contentious and very much in the public view. When landmarking was foisted upon us, the rules changed for all property owners. The folks who bought it have obviously did not do their due diligence and made a poor choice if they looked at the property as if it could be developed with housing.

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Mike Novak

Marcus: Why would anyone buy something that has no business being here in the first place? You sound like a shill for either the current owners of the Aluminum Abomination or the owner of the property in question.
Let me repeat…This aluminum abomination has no place in Sunnyside.

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Rook

Landmarks can not prevent new construction. As long as the zoning allows it; there should be no issue.

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Marcus Aurelius

Why don’t all of you who oppose building on the lot coin up and buy it out? Either that or find a benefactor who will buy it for Sunnyside. Then you’ll have the right to keep it as you wish.

Nothing lasts forever.

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Mary Caulfield

You sound as if you have good information, Ms. Morehead. I’d like to hear more from you on community-wide issues.

That fleshes out some reading I have done that indicates the corporation that formed the Gardens saw a need for the entire community to join together for common purposes. They built the park, somewhat as an afterthought according to one story, and formed forming the SGCA. The board comprised both members generally elected and those appointed by the court associations amounting to 24 members. Once the Depression hit, households in the area were asked for $12 a month in annual dues to help keep the park afloat. Of course that was not possible for everyone, membership declined, the courts focused on their blocks–or not at all– and soon the heaviest users, parents with little children, ruled the park and the SGCA.

I’m glad the membership is listening to new voices. It would be most welcome to many people if the SGCA acknowledged that the community is made of up of all people, not just young families.

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Mike Novak

Anonymous: “I’m not sure where the proper starts or ends…”
ROTFLOL.
Thanks for making it clear that you are just another coward as well as a clueless hater. 😉

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Dorothy Morehead

I”ll find out tomorrow if I can get into the meeting. If not, I’ll contact the committee chair and will post the info on Thursday.

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All's Well

Is there another forum in which the community could voice their opinions before the landmarking committee meeting? Now that we all know, we have an uproar on our hands, to judge by the number of posts here.

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Dorothy Morehead

I’m not decrepit–at least not yet–having spent the weekend volunteering at the Clearwater Festival with kayaks and canoes. I fell in love with Sunnyside Gardens when I first walked down 46th Street. I lived in an apartment for seven years until I bought my house, before landmarking but with Planned Community Preservation District zoning which I knew restricted many changes to the house but which would preserve the community. I’ll never sell it so any increase in value is irrelevant to me except for the increase in taxes I pay. I agree that some houses look decrepit but many homeowners have financial limitations. You will find retirees living next door to two-income professional families. One of my neighbors is about to celebrate her 103rd birthday!

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Utalkintome?

The sudden rise in prices has a lot to do with the greedy developers who wanted to take this oasis over and turn it into a forest of condo towers. I’m talking to you, DBH Associates thinly disguised as “Anonymous. By definition old timers liked it the way it was, so forget about that drop of mud you are trying to sling.

I don’t own a thing buy my dirty laundry, so the prices have nothing to do with me. I pay as I go and I don’t try to twist the law to suit my own purposes.

You learned that from Bag ‘OWind Bloomberg across the river. Get out of here and let honest people make a living in peace.

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Anonymous

I’m not sure where the proper starts or ends but many of the houses in the “Gardens” already look run down and decrepit as is, not unlike the residents inside them with these views.

I, for one, welcome any newcomers who want to settle in, new ideas breathe new life.

The old timers in the neighborhood need a serious reality check. Why don’t you protest all the newcomers by never stepping into a new cafe, restaurant, pet store, or park that isn’t in its original 1928 pristine landmarkedness? Typical nimbys, hate on anyone new but no issues with the sudden rise in market values when they sell their homes.

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Dorothy Morehead

Thanks to everyone for their interest in this site. There are a few points which need clarification.

1. There was no single organization established for all of Sunnyside Gardens when it was built. The community was developed a block at a time between 1924 and 1928. The designers felt that local governance was a prime tenet of community devopment and established property owners associations for each block with trustees who were property owners within the block to see that the 40-year easements and deed restrictions were enforced.
2. The courtyards are not commonly owned but commonly gardened. The center court property is owned, insured and taxes paid by the property owners on the streets (rather than the avenues), the properties being 100′ deep. The exception is the playground on 48th Street between Skillman and 43rd Ave. which is deeded to Colonial Court property owners.
3. The first proposal for the 50th St site included more houses somewhat similar to the Gardens houses but larger. My personal feeling is that the Aluminaire House was added to gain the support of preservationists, particularly those outside of the Gardens.
4. While all the meetings of Community Board 2 are open to the public, committee meetings are held in the board office on 50th Street which has a small conference room. A few people would be able to attend but would not be able to speak or ask questions. The public meetings are where the public can testify. The next meeting will be in September and the community is encouraged to participate. At the last meeting, there were at least a hundred people who came to speak in opposition to the plans to develop 5 Pointz in LIC (the board voted unanimously to reject the application).
5. The Park does have a range of membership levels which reflect the anticipated use of the facilities, e.g., family of four, single parent, seniors. I have a senior membership which is only $45. At the membership meeting last night, the topic of additional levels was discussed and will be considered by the board.

Sorry for the length of this. I recommend Toward New Towns for America for the further history of Sunnyside Gardens.

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woodside guy

owner is:
DBH Associates LLC
40-14 72 street
Woodside

bought for $1,425,000.00 on 7/17/2007 from Phipps Houses

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Blondie

Am opposed to the new development. The developers are not only not thinking about the community but the area is landmarked! It also looks very “cheaply” constructed.

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Who is paying?

I support the idea of a public community garden but am confused by where the funds will come from to purchase the lot from the current owner? Are Herb Reynolds and others suggesting public funds be used?

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Rook

I’ve lived in this neighborhood for a long time. Most people who live in the Gardens are out of touch with the needs of the community.

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Mayor McCheese

HOLD THE PHONE!

…are we allowed to bring popcorn to the meeting on Wednesday?

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rook

It looks nice to me. I know people don’t like change, but new construction would help the community. I could easily argue that the landmarks designation was done without adequate public notice as well.

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Just Asking

Technically, I guess it was Jackson Heights. The Rory Memorial park? Something like that.

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Just Asking

Couldn’t it be sold to the Parks Department who would then grant exclusive use rights to the community? Wasn’t this just done in Woodside?

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Mike Novak

Shirl Girl.
I agree 100%. America is the “Land of Opportunity” not the “Land of Guaranteed Profits.”

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Mike Novak

The owner of the lot bought it just before Landmarking swept over us.
Wether they were hoodwinked, lied to, or just did not do their due diligence is not the issue here. The law is clear. The plot is Landmarked as a park space.
It is NOT to be “developed” with housing or become the home of a eyesore of a building whose current owners are looking to dump to get it off their ledger sheet.
This scenario smacks of politics of the most odious kind…where the well off get to make off with profits at the expense of the neighborhood.
This entire escapade never got off the ground in 2010.
We, the community, should ask some pointed questions to Landmarks, to wit, WHY is this now being “fast-tracked” through the approval process?
WHO exactly stands to benefit monetarily from this proposal?
WHAT can the community do to stop this aluminum abomination from being deposited in our “brick and mortar” neighborhood?
I suggest that everyone who is AGAINST this plan attend the meeting on Wednesday and voice their disapproval and demand transparency and accountability.

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Marty Concerned

I think a public park would be perfect here as long as it was kept clean and none of those drunks were allowed to take it over, and booze their day away in it !!!

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Patricia Dorfman

correction on my post, not mary but

Marjorie Sewell Cautley

is name of often unsung sunnyside gardens landscape architect

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Shirl Girl

In my opinion nature is always more beautiful than anything man made. NY is way, way, way overbuilt. This neighborhood is near the tipping point of being unbearable for anyone with a need for natural beauty.

The “Anonymous” who thinks the current lot is ugly is so obviously a shill for the developer I can’t help but chuckle.

If the lot can’t be built on, it is not worth a million dollars. Capitalism works both ways, buddy. Phipps unloaded it on you so you have the headache. You bought a white elephant. Take your lumps and go home.

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SunnysidePostHatesMe14

hahahhah, keep packing them in boys, I’ll be outta this Sunnyside just in time for all the people to appreciate the raised costs and no parking.

It was good while it lasted. Thanks hipsters!

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Marilyn

I think they should build affordable housing on the lot on 39th street and use the lot on 48th street off of Skillman for a community garden. The lot on 48th street also has landmark status.

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Anonymous

I knew it,I knew it,I KNEW IT. I was just telling my mother. Sunnyside theater,PJ Horgan’s was the start. Now their going to start ripping apart
Sunnyside.

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Anonymous

All the ppl that want to make this lot a community garden should purchase the property for 1 million dollars Ok put your money where your mouths are!!!!!

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Anonymous

I believe that site is in need of something other than a Park Really its a sight for sore eyes & doesn’t even look like that picture I look out my window every day to this horrible landmark let it be developed on wake up

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Mike Novak

10 years ago when I was on the board, there were approximately 300 memberships. Only 12 to 20 people would show up at meetings. They made a lot of noise, they bitched and moaned and because they showed up at the Park Meetings AND VOTED on things like the budget, they effectively ran the place.

You want change in the park?

SHOW UP AT MEETINGS. MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD.

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Sunnyside Girl

I don’t see anything wrong with it. It’s housing for people, we have enough parks and gardens around here.

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Nosey Parker

Join the park. Make it the community center it was supposed to be. There are green places all over it, just waiting for people to take care of them. And a few places where the asphalt could come up. It would help with global warming!

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Mary Caulfield

The reason we are even able to protest the builder’s plans is because the old Phipps Nursery is in Sunnyside Gardens and is therefore landmarked. Wanting to take possession of something that is there because of a community covenant formed years and years ago, and at the same time implying that the covenant was ill conceived, is some kind of crazy, but I don’t know which kind. Where is the gratitude that someone had the foresight to protect it? That someone took care of it for almost 80 years? That someone else, Herb Reynolds and like mined people, are fighting for it?

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Curious

Is that the actual plan or is that a photoshopped picture created by the pro landmark people? It looks very similar to pictures (color and all) displayed by these people during the landmarking debates

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Sheila Waxman

I dont’ think anyone was suggesting the courtyards inside people’s houses be made public, but each courtyard is part of a larger whole community, is it not? And that whole is called Sunnyside Gardens, right? And there is an organization, which was chartered at the time the community was founded with the purpose of giving each court association a voice in how the whole community was run. It is called the Sunnyside Gardens Community Association. Read the literature.

Although the original covenant ran out in 1966 and perhaps the whole thing would have been forgotten, the real estate didn”t disappear. So as moribund as it was at times the SGCA continued to exist. There is new life in this community. It should use what has been preserved, the SGCA, instead of forming murky associations no one knows anything about, can’t check out and may be here today and gone tomorrow.

If this community agrees it wants more green space, and I think everyone but the developer does– it might be wise to use the organization that was formed to achieve common purposes.

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Sunnyside Lifer

We have zoning laws that tell us how tall a building can be, whether it’s a residential or commercial property, the density of the building, etc.
Since when have we had laws telling us what design the building must be? Why should a bunch of snobs decide what to do with private property? If someone owns a lot, let them build whatever they want as long as it conforms to the zoning ordinances. Remember, this is still America!

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Rebecca

Community Gardens all over NYC are run and operated and funded by volunteers. It is a sustainable model that is proven to work. This is what we want for Sunnyside, too! Let’s not forget about all the Sunnyside residents who don’t live in “The Gardens” and don’t have access to backyards or a membership to Sunnyside Gardens Park. Everyone can only benefit from more green space in the neighborhood!

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Gardens resident

Nosey Parker: The courts are owned in common by the owners of the homes ringing them. There is nothing for you to “work on”– they are private property and there are liability issues involved in opening them to the public. Some of them were fenced in by the homeowners before the area was landmarked so they aren’t even open green spaces anymore.

That aside, I am all in favor of fighting this new development.

Reply
Woodsider -- Theresa

I will definitely be at this meeting and do whatever it takes to quelch this proposal. Hopefuly since this property falls in the perimeters of the Sunnyside Gardens District, it will be very difficult for this to go forward.

Reply
Sheila Waxman

I don’t want it to be a city park. Absolutely not. I want it to be a park, but this whole thing needs a good plan or it will fail. Transparency is necessary!

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Annie D

Thanks for the info, Darren. Let’s all ban together for more public green space in Sunnyside! This chained up lot and a few other empty spaces in the blocks between Queens Blvd and Skillman could be great little parks for sitting under trees. It’s fine to have a private park in our area, but we should also have more free public space. The membership for an individual at Sunnyside Gardens is really steep, and not to mention unappealing for someone without kids. A lot of us adults like being outside in parks too!

We do live in the city that pioneered the amazing idea of public parks for public good (seriously, Central Park was incredibly radical). In the spirit of Lewis Mumford (for whom Skillman Avenue has been dedicated), we should try to green up Sunnyside for all its residents.

Reply
Grimace

@Mike Novak

I agree that due to the Aluminaire House’s history of multiple relocations it would be a great con to get a building permit that he can then ship out the house and expand on the new structure.

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Sheila Waxman

It is a good cause, but who is running Cautley Garden? Nameless organizations give me the creeps. Especially when they are about to start looking for money.

Remember the Barnett Avenue Association? That was a yahoo and cohorts looking to drum up support for a political candidate and gave out ice cream to do so. Sick.

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darren

The Sunnyside Garden Park is not the problem — it is fine as a private park. But let’s not accept it to be the “only” green space in the neighborhood, since after all that’s what this fight is all about. The Sunnyside Garden Park is a well-maintained park and serves its function in the neighborhood, but its not the place for gardening and likely never will be. Its also not the place for quiet study or leisure and neither are the other parks — e.g. concrete playgrounds. This is not to detract from the SGP park but it shouldn’t be a substitute for a common green space. This is what we hope the corner lot can be for our community.

The big issue facing our community right now is the imminent development of this historic corner lot unless we can all organize together to defeat it.

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Mike Novak

Darren,
The park was originally created for the residents of Sunnyside Gardens.
Period.

Over the years, membership had declined to the point where people who live “out of zone” (meaning outside the Gardens proper) were allowed in to make up the revenue to allow the park to remain open.

When i was on the board ten years ago, there were less than 300 total memberships. Now there are over 400 and there is a waiting list.

The proliferation of new families in Sunnyside is astounding in the last decade.

If the park is open to the public, WHO will pick up the expenses of running the park? Its not simply a matter of throwing open the gates to let the masses in!

The SGCA does the best it can. Its is a VOLUNTEER ORGANIZATION.

As a member of the executive board, I…as other have….put in over a hundred of hours a year…without pay to make the park as best we could.

No one is preventing you, or anyone else from having community gatherings in the park. I just ask you to recognize that the park is one of TWO private parks in NYC, (the other being Gramercy Park) and that you should invest your time and efforts by attending meetings, volunteering and making the park a better place and not by bellyaching like the “johnny-come-lately’s” who have recently moved into the neighborhood who expect to get whatever the demand just because they can afford the obscene prices that the neighborhood now commands.

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darren

For Annie D and everyone else interested in either the community gardening initiative or just in opposing the development, you can sign-up for the Cautley Garden e-mail list to receive updates on the latest happenings and volunteer opportunities. The mailing list can be accessed here https://sites.google.com/site/cautleygarden/

Any and all opinions welcome.

Larger than just gaining access to the historic lot for communal gardening, we are also in opposition to this poor development proposal. The community needs to be involved in the whole decision-making process and must not be silenced or rendered invisible by the interests of a few — in what amounts to a land grab. This is a landmarked lot and therefore under the Landmark Law each and everyone of us has a say in its future, we must exercise that right.

If the community wants an imported aluminum house, then so be it, but please do some research on the 1931 Aluminaire house first and decide for yourself if this is something you want in your backyard. The Aluminaire house has a history of vandalism to it — please check the facts. The campus of NYIT, on Long Island, wanted to sell it to any willing buyer. Is Sunnyside Gardens going to “buy” it? We will assemble a list of facts soon on the house. Stay tuned.

If you oppose this development then please show up to the Community Board 2 Land Use meeting this Wednesday @ 7pm, in Woodside. And also call Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s office today at 718-383-9566, ext.5 and let them know you want the public hearings to be delayed to allow adequate time for forming community consensus and organizational efforts.

From the overwhelming public support we have received over our community garden idea, it seems like the community is definitely clamoring for this lot to remain true to its legacy of being for the public good.

CautleyGarden@gmail.com

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Mike Novak

Nosey Parker,
Why don’t you form committee/group and see about purchasing the land and transforming it into the oasis you envision instead of just whining about it?

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Mike Novak

Dear Neighbors,

Despite landmark rules dictating that the Phipps Outdoor Nursery remain
mostly unchanged, the current owner of the lot wants to relocate in a two story aluminum building there.

The building is called “The Aluminaire House”

http://archleague.org/2009/08/the-aluminaire-house/

http://xroads.virginia.edu/~MA01/Lisle/30home/modern/alumin.html

This structure, which does have some historical architectural significance, it totally of of character with the architecture of our neighborhood as it is constructed not of brick and mortar but of aluminum, steel and glass.

IMHO, it would be a eyesore to the community and should not even be worthy of any consideration in our community.

Thank you.

Mike Novak

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sm

At least its not a highrise. The brick color seems “off” relative to surrounding, but I suspect would mellow out with age.

More green parks and spaces would be nice (both sides of Queens Blvd.), but if this is private property, then the city has to buy the seller out to keep it as a green park (or the community has to buy it out).

Simply because its historically preserved doesn’t necessarily mean it has to stay a green space. A developer can buy and build if it meets those landmark restrictions (and while I don’t know what they all are, I suspect it does not include restricting all building on this one site).

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The Blue Baron

IT seems like we might be able to get it, thanks to the efforts of Mr. Reynolds and his co-horts who worked for a long time to make this a possibility. If it is to be for the community it needs a community-wide association to organize, develop and care for properly. As anyone who has ever done that kind of thing knows, it can be an awful mess unless a solid, fair and commonly-agreed-upon power structure exists to maintain it.

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Anonymous

No one is paying that’s why its an empty lot, which most in the neighborhood prefer than any type of development.

However, once it’s built….

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Nosey Parker

Do you think if it were successfully made into a community park it would be free? Running a piece of property is expensive. And in this city running anything is time consuming. Who would run and maintain it? The preservation alliance? I’m open to hearing about it. But it seems to me it would take money of some kind.

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Nosey Parker

@Darren I didn’t make myself clear, I see. I apologize for sloppy writing, but this issue is a hot one for me.

Sunnyside Park was built for the entire community and it is run by the Sunnyside Gardens Community Association. The taxes on the land are paid by everyone who owns anything in the Gardens. The Association’s founding documents stipulate that its concerns do not end with the park, the park is simply the locus of its power.

Unfortunately, long ago adults in the community allowed themselves to be sidelined by parents of small children. Subsequent generations don’t even know they are being robbed of what is rightfully theirs. My call here is for adults in this community to demand a change–before they pay any dues. The association–without malice or aforethought–essentially locked them out. If single adults, couples and seniors went to a meeting and said, “You took our park away and we want it back,” no one could say them nay. The constitution stipulates that the board is to concern itself with all members of the community, not just their kids. And because no one makes them, they don’t.

A few people can’t do it alone. It takes a voting block. The dues for a single member should be much, much lower than they are, but no one there really cares because they are families and get a great deal for their money. The current president is eager to reach out to all different sections of this community. She is fair minded, thoughtful, scrupulously honest and has run organizations much, much larger than the SGCA.

The scope of the SGCA, which is the legitimate place to voice community wide concerns, not just park matters, needs to be widened. It will only be widened if the members of the community who have been cut out demand that it include them. With the backing of everyone in the neighborhood, not just the hardworking Mr. Reynolds, the issue of the old Phipps Nursery could be addressed with great force.

That’s my idea, anyway. We should all be allies, not competitors.

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Annie D

I totally agree with Darren. We need more PUBLIC green space. There’s nowhere to just sit and read under a tree without a massive playground nearby. I’m also interested in participating in the community garden. Can someone share the info for how to get involved?

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Native NYer

@Nosey parker: I’m confused at your anger toward the SGCA board. These are volunteer positions. If you don’t like the direction of the current board or feel they are not doing their duties, then run for office. As a Gardens resident and a long time park member (before and after we had a child), I am thrilled with the current board (and the prior 2 for that matter).

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Nosey Parker

HE took a chance and he lost. PRofit is not assured in life. You take a risk. H/e took a risk and lost. Stop whining. Do what you can within the law. Either run something that makes money on what is there, or sell it at a loss. That is called free markets, they go up, they go down. The law doesn’t have to change to cover your losses.

Mr. Developer, go home. You lost. Take it like a man and stop your shennanigans.

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darren

Nosey Parker, unfortunately the Sunnyside Gardens park is exclusive –requiring membership dues. The park is unfortunately not for the entire community, it is for dues-paying members. Let’s be realistic — the only division is that of charging people to access one of the only green spaces in Sunnyside. You can live in Sunnyside Gardens (or elsewhere) but be denied access – I know, I have. So why shouldn’t the community create a truly public, gardening and green space open to all for benefit? As a community initiative, it could bring us all closer together than these ugly edifices with few attributes of community bonding.

The current development proposal is taking away from the community another green space suitable for gardening, community gathering, whatever.

I also laud the efforts of the community garden @ Barnett Avenue and have participated in helping them out. This doesn’t mean we should let go and let another vacant lot succumb to development because they’ve established themselves — it means we should continue the good efforts of the garden @ Barnett avenue and redouble our efforts to ensure the community doesn’t lose touch with its original flavor.

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Grimace

I’d pay $30/month for access to a private community grilling location. I’d also love to spend weekends planting over a couple cold beers.

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Nosey Parker

He got taken in a bad business deal. No one who lives here should have to pay for that.

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Nosey Parker

He can do what he likes within the law. It is landmarked. If he didn’t know that when he bought it, he was stupid and should suffer the consequences of his actions. I think he planned all along to skirt the law, and that is slimy beyond description.

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Anonymous

Hey who cares if someone owns this private lot and wants to do whatever they want with it, community garden and parks for everyone!

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Nosey Parker

Anything done for the community should have a solid, transparent power structure and duly elected representatives. Anything else is little more than confused power struggles in which everyone is likely to lose to whomever has more money.

The Sunnyside Gardens Community Association–although myopically focused on children for 60 or 70 years–is the official community organization for Sunnyside Gardens. The SGCA is constitutionally charged with overseeing matters of concern to this community. It has shrugged off then lost site of its wider responsibilities for far too long. Go into the meeting in the park tonight and demand equal representation for non-kid, community wide issues.

And no real-estate interests should ever, ever, ever be voted into power there. They will sell us all down the river. It has been tried many times. Real estate interests are interested in money, not community.

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Tony the Tour Guy

We ARE trying to do something nice with that corner. A community garden would benefit everyone.

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anonymous

people that oppose this new development should at least try to do something with that corner.

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Ed

I like the development. Go for it.

That weedy corner plus those run down stores would benefit from development.

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Nosey Parker

While I laud the effort to keep the old Phipps Nursery as it is, but open to community use, I object to the division this letter creates with existing community facilities.

The entirety of Sunnyside Gardens was built for community mingling. Every single block has courts and court associations. Those areas should be restored to their original shared arrangement using the existing power structures.

And Sunnyside Park was built for the entire community to use. Originally every court association appointed a member to the board. That board was above the “blacktop politics” that ruin the park for anyone but the current crop of moms and dads who want the whole thing for their offspring but will be gone in seven or eight years.

The lowers, which was recently turned into a playground for older children was originally a state-of-the-art outdoor playground for adults. It had a workout section and horseshoe pitches. There was a croquet pitch near the tennis court. There was a theater group, arts groups, all kinds of clubs that used a club house called “the cabin” which burned down and was never replaced. In the picnic green playing was discouraged because adults used it for their gatherings.

I wish the community would reclaim their power by reactivating their membership in Sunnyside Park, demanding equal representation on the board, changing the ridiculous dues structure in which a single adult–who are very light users of the facility–pays almost as much as a family of seven–who place enormous strains on the facilities and services.

And there is a Green Thumb community garden on Barnett Avenue that has done enormous work recently, with no public money, to beautify Barnett Avenue. The group that runs it hope to extend the garden all the way to 48th Street so more people can participate in what has been a true grassroots development for and a unique success for 40 years.

In addition, there is another “park” in the neighborhood. It is on the west side of 48th Street between Skillman and 43rd Avenue. That, too, is a Sunnyside Gardens Park. It served as a community gathering place until it was fenced in and taken over by the surrounding buildings. I clearly remember looking in there and seeing playground equipment when I was a kid. It is an intermittently cared for place now. That court association could look into reviving it for community purposes. It is far better suited to people coming and going in cars, has not been sold off to a developer and is part of the original Gardens footprint.

All the courts were designed for all the people in Sunnyside Gardens. Lets work on all of them too, since there is no “developer” out there fighting over them.

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Webley

Maybe the opposing people can get together and buy it and keep it looking empty and crappy the way it is. We do not need another park, that’s for sure, unless it is one with a fountain and reflects the neighborhood, but that too would quickly become neglected and nasty.

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EA

I like the building look but not there. Although I live really far and would not benefit from it, it would be nice to make it in to a park. We really lack the green space here in Sunnyside and don’t need another building. There will be plenty of high-rises going up in the near future.

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Anonymous

I like the building look but not there. Although I live really far and would not benefit from it, it would be nice to make it in to a park. We really lack the green space here in Sunnyside and don’t need another building. There will be plenty of high-rises going up in the near future.

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PG

Looks nice

But the color should be a bit darker or at least more red to blend in with the area.

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JOR

Who owns the property and has the owner been paying property taxes on the property? If the lot is privately owned, then it can hardly be used as a public park unless the owner is compensated. It would be helpful to know the significance of the aluminum house mentioned in the article and why that makes a difference in the use of the property.

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Tony the Tour Guy

Sue, you most definitely do not have to be a Garden’s resident to be involved! We welcome everyone in the community.

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Tony the Tour Guy

I think many people would use a community garden. There’s Phipps across the street, plus plenty of other people in the area. You’d certainly find me there!

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Sue

I’ve always wished this was open to the public and I would love a community garden! Do you have to be a resident of Sunnyside Gardens to have a say in this? Should I email even if I live on 43rd Ave?

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Casey

I remember when this use to be a playground for the Phipps Garden Apartments. Something needs to be done with this place but the housing designs looks way out of place for the neighborhood. Nor do I want to see a small community park which nobody would use.

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Tony the Tour Guy

This proposed development is ugly, and completely inappropriate for our neighborhood. Let’s put in a community garden!

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Patricia Dorfman

We are all desperate for a spot of public green, soque and noque (south and north of the blvd, pronounced sokwuh and nokwuh) that it has been a like nano vacation to the mind just pass by this empty lot with trees, black squirrels, and birdies!

Please let’s support Reynold’s appeal to JVB and CB2 to help us retain blades of green over ANY structure there; even charming hobbit hole won’t do!

ps: mary cautley is the often unsung landscape designer of sunnyside gardens.

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Michael Kilpatrick

This building is just not right for the neighborhood! I don’t really oppose developing the site as long as the new building fits into the neighborhood. This proposed building is UGLY and is a complete eyesore. A park and green space would be nice for that spot.

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Sammy

This is atrocious! Who is Cautley Garden group? I do like the idea of a community garden there

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Annie D

True, but I also oppose the ugly neglected space that’s there now. How about a nice park?! 🙂

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Sunnyside Baby

I will definitely be at that meeting. I frequently walk by that abandoned lot and have thought that it would make for a nice, non-playground, non-cement, park. And those buildings would look absurd in the neighborhood!

Reply

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