Sept. 10, 2013, By Christian Murray
Sunnyside residents will be able to express their views on a proposed development that calls for the construction of eight residential units—alongside a 1931 aluminum house– within the Sunnyside Gardens Historic District this Thursday.
The plans will be presented by Michael Schwarting, an architect with Campani and Schwarting Architects, at the Phipps Apartments Community Meeting Room (51-01 39th Avenue) between 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm.
The proposed development would be constructed on the corner of 39th Avenue and 50th Street, at the site of the historic Phipps playground. The residential units—which would surround the aluminum house – would be clad with terracotta-colored panels, with a brick pattern.
The plans will be presented again at the Community Board 2 meeting on Sept. 19 before going before the Landmarks Preservation Commission on Sept. 24. The community board acts as an advisory body, with the Landmark’s Preservation Commission ultimately determining whether the development can proceed.
Architect Michael Schwarting said in June that the relocation of the aluminum house (which will not be lived in) is of historical significance. The house was designed in 1931 as a case study for the New York Architectural League Show at the Museum of Modern Art—out of donated building materials, primarily aluminum.
However, opponents of the plan argue that the aluminum house is just a smokescreen used by the developer to get the other eight units built.
The plan has already met a great deal of resistance.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer wrote a letter to the Landmarks Preservation Committee voicing his opposition to it in June. “Though architecturally significant in its own right,” the letter read, “the Aluminaire House is … out of character with the neighborhood and I am opposed to it.”
Stephen Cooper, Co-Chair of Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee, suggested in June that the aluminaire house – and accompanying units—were not a good fit for the Historic District. “The buildings [in the Gardens] are all essentially the same. They are brick, all two stories tall—essentially all the same look,” he said. “There is not a single aluminum house in the area.”
However, Schwarting argued that the aluminaire house “will stick out in an elegant way and it is a beautiful house of the same time period as the surrounding houses.”
Presentation of proposed 39th Ave/50th Street development
Thursday, September 12, 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Phipps Apartments Community Meeting Room (51-01 39th Avenue)
People who are complaining about this. You do realize that when these architects and their harmless ‘museum’ are forced out by you guys, the next thing to come along isn’t going to be some wonderful little park.
This property is owned, and as such, it’s probably someone’s investment for themselves to get more money. Next up will probably be a chase bank, a starbucks, and who knows what else, just like everywhere else in the city. The fact is, the legal and financial clout that they’ll have will make these architects look like school children, and we’ll get with something that will ACTUALLY hurt our community.
I used to think otherwise, but after researching the building (it seems like a lot of architects like it, and we’d probably have them and students coming in to draw it and spend their money in our local businesses, right?), and thinking about what would likely come next, I think we might be making a big mistake chasing this thing out…
This reminds me of when tasty d’lite was able to somehow negotiate their way onto Bedford ave in Williamsburg. Once they were able to break into the barrier of the supposed “no-franchise” zone, the floodgates opened. Williamsburg has lost a lot of it’s charm with all the banks, chains, etc moving in. That’s what’s at stake here, this development should be fought tooth and nail to preserve what’s left of the charm of Sunnyside. All it takes is one developer to work the system and the rest will follow.
If other’s get exceptions to zoning, such as putting a seven story building in a four story zone, why can’t we ask for an exception to zoning? Even though it is zoned R4 it could be treated as Zone Nothing, open ground.
This neighborhood is thoroughly contained by the railroad–we used to be rail yards, remember–traffic can bypass us on 43rd, cut us in half on 48th, but it is choked on Woodside Avenue. There is no free-flowing outlet on that side. So once a moving hunk of metal is in among our streets, moving from east to west it ends up on 39th Avenue. It is like a placque filled artery near the heart. And at this point it is sooner rather than later that a crippling attack will occur. That stretch of 39th Avenue–between 50th and 51st–is already a scar on the neighborhood. Tie-ups and snarls happen at all times. Where are museum visitors going to park?
Please don’t put more people in here. It is hazardously noisy here already.
The proposal includes 8 parking spaces in back of the residential buildings which would be accessed by a driveway on 50 th St.
also, where is the parking? I though new development in the city had to contain parking the residents. This will just add strain to street parking.
I heard an earlier mesmerizing pitch from the architects and I am sympathetic to those trying to find a home for this historic gem; but…
…I am entirely opposed to placing the house in that spot and this plan.
SOLUTION DOES NOT WORK
The attempt to split the vast visual difference between the new and old structures is a difficult task, made more difficult by having to factor in the Aluminaire.
The plan fails – way too much going on; particularly on the tiny .25-acre lot – in the midst of an already miniaturized landscape. With so little space, packing in the third element of the metal house is an impossible task, no matter how cool, interesting and significant.
Part of the genius of Sunnyside Gardens is its heralded economical yet compassionate use of interior and exterior space, to provide breathing room and sky for then poorer urbanites. The balance of enough and not enough space was solved elegantly.
Space is as key now as it was then, providing tenement dwellers with a slightly larger single living spaces with pretty brick facades and a bit of air and green. Sunnyside Gardens is a grand architectural success; historic because it achieves all it set out to do, studied by scholars and prized by dwellers.
In my view, those who operate largely out of sight, who plan citywide for development–financially, politically, historically, came together to throw Sunnyside Gardens the bone of landmarking when it was determined that wider Queens development was to be. I do not believe it could have been defeated–not that I opposed it. Indeed, I formally testified for it. That it was up to us, I believe, was largely illusory, is my point. In Queens, unless one is willing to lie down in front of bulldozers, we don’t seem to get a say.
Other areas in Queens not protected, have been or will be rezoned to allow for serious money be made by property owners, banks, developers, and realtors, most of whom are not residents. We will live with the results. That is the way of big cities and if we don’t like it, living here is not going to get easier.
Hasn’t everyone noticed the one-foot diameter gas pipes, replacing six-inchers being put in all the way to the boulevard? Presumably, our Con Ed rates will go up to pay for these infrastructure improvements not needed by us, but desired by developers.
Old-timers in Sunnyside who moved here when they were cast out of Yorkville (coinciding with the destruction of the Third Avenue elevated, done to make room for dull high rises) attest to the same feeling many here are feeling now. If residents cannot do anything about this small project in the midst of a landmarked area, we have no hope.
SPEAK UP NOW
If we do have a say, we who do live here need to try to hang on tight to the integrity of the gift we have received and work to reject this plan and ask for another. I am grateful that Councilman Van Bramer has so forcefully opposed this plan.
We can try for but cannot demand a public garden, if the land was sold to the owner as an investment and the law allows that. Let the owner, known to be a fair guy, continue to try to reap some benefit from his investment with another plan.
These individual and personal remarks make me uncomfortable- I understand that there is a history behind some of this that I don’t know, but it seems like some people just do not like each other and use this forum to crafts insults. This Laura Heim, is she even aware that there’s a discussion going on about her in such a public arena. Shouldn’t she in the conversation if things are being said about her? Again, I’m ignorant about the history of this real estate and I live on 50th ave, so what happens to this little lot doesn’t matter too much to me, but I’m wondering about how to keep these conversations pleasant.
As Mike Novak seems to be well aware, a person’s principles and ideology go flying out the window as soon as they see a few dollar signs.
My guess is that if this plan go through, it might set a precedent and you can kiss Sunnyside Gardens goodbye in a few years.
The fact of the matter is that the Phipps managed to offload the land onto a developer who DID NOT DO HIS HOMEWORK. He got screwed by buying property that was about to be landmarked. Too bad for him, “Caveat Emptor”, comes to mind.
If ANY COMMON RESIDENT of Sunnyside Gardens would have proposed erecting a aluminum box in the Gardens, the idea would be shot down in a nanosecond. HOWEVER, since the proposal is coming from an elitist group of architects, most notably our own Laura Heim, it is actually being considered as a possibility. This is an act of incredible hubris and gross hypocrisy as Laura Heim has relentlessly expounded and extolled the virtue and value of preserving Sunnyside Gardens’ “brick and mortar” aesthetic value.
Hi ketchup man
Let’s keep it abandoned for another decade. I’m surprised how well kept it is considering.
@ dubliner. If there is in fact no permit, you can file a complaint by calling 311. I’ll report it to the community board on Thursday.
The playground hasn’t been used since the mid-1990s. it was originally the playground for the free nursery school at Phipps. After the nursery school endedd, it was used for a paid summer camp. There are no playgrounds included in the development plan. It was bought by a developer after it had been calendared for landmarking with the expectation that it could be developed.
The corner house on 48th and 39 Ave …is clearly illegal…the driveway was cut in the early 1990’s no permit. It does not even conform to DOB rules if it were permitted.
Ugly looking designs, Are the playgrounds used much ? Are there public playgrounds in this new proposal ? Guess not looking at it again, Who is the owner of the land ?
There was a window of time between the expiration of the original 40-year easements in 1964-1968 and the establishment of the PC designation in 1974 during which it was possible to get a legal curb cut and put in a driveway. Even after the designation, the city gave a permit to the property owner on the southeast corner of Skillman Ave. because his attorney claimed it was not a significant change in the topography, though he totally removed the front and side yards–in the process removing a beautiful flowering tree–and installed a wrought iron fence. He even moved the city sign “No Parking Here To Corner” to accommodate the driveway. One of the situations that makes the case for landmarking.
@ Dorothy Moorehead Thanks for the details. They are always important. I didn’t realize the designations started as soon as the easements expired. That explains a lot, except those annoying houses on 39th Avenue between 48th and 47th. How did they get to rob their neighbors of spots?
I just heard–from a trusted source–the meeting is starting at 6pm. Could you put that up, Christian, so people who stopped following this story will find out before it is too late?
#ano[email protected]. How about some stores that are well it?
How about a nice big brick building with a rooftop garden for adults only. No crying babies or pets.
I am just so glad to read normal posts from people (for the most part), without Julie J. chiming in about abortion. She likes to mention abortion in almost every article, regardless of the topic at hand. #annoyingwoman
It’s okay, I understand. To me, grammar and spelling are more important than this vacant lot. I’m teaching the Holocaust to 10th graders and many of them are also struggling to use the language properly. I remember how you ended one of your posts: ” …think before you write! ”
Always a good idea!
This would be a groovy location for a video arcade.
Sorry my English grammer does’nt meet your exacting standards…its not my first language. Seems as if delivery is more important than substance? Counter my position on the issue at hand….if you have any ideas?
@ Sycamore. Re your comment about the reason the community remained intact: Sunnyside Gardens was designated a Planned Community Preservation District by the Department of City Planning in 1974 at the request of a number of Gardens homeowners. Sunnyside Gardens was developed between 1924 and 1928 a block at a time with 40-year easements and deed restrictions. When the easements and deed restrictions expired on the first block (47th and 48th Sts. between Skillman and 43rd Aves., Skillman and 43rd Aves. between 47th and 48th Sts. and the west side of 47th St.) in 1964, many property owners installed driveways and fenced in their property in the center courts. The reaction of the rest of the community was to prevent additional curb cuts and fences. The designation as a PC Preservation District prevented most new curb cuts and fences but not the facades of the houses which landmarking now does.
Queens to my knowledge does not have a center dedicated to the needs of the gay community. With an ever growing gay population right here in Sunnyside, why not construct a facility to be used for fostering acceptance and tolerance. An FAR bonus could be offered to a developer in LIC and in return such a facility built. After school programs or daycare could be offered that would immerse children in gay culture. That would certainly be a much better alternative than an aluminum monstrosity!
It seems the only time they get serious about enforcing zoning regulations around here is when some woman wants to open a dance studio for kids in a vacant retail store.
But when developers sense a chance to make a fast buck, and put up some chintzy eye-sore, suddenly those regulations aren’t quite as rigid.
I’m glad Van Bramer is on the right side of this issue.
A beer garden!
If somebody makes it to the meeting tomorrow, can you please post a summary? Thanks!
@ ebeth “Flanker cheeseball condos,” I like that.
A community garden would be great… !! It’s true there is SO LITTLE green space in Sunnyside (especially for us South-siders who don’t get to join SGP despite being on the waiting list for two friggin’ years and being fine upstanding citizens and all that, he-hem) …
And while I am actually all for diversification of the housing stock in Sunnyside, I agree the alu-house and its flanker cheeseball condos wouldn’t work over there.
@ Ben david- sorry, it should be spelled correctly and capitalized (a museum about THE Holocaust- proper noun,) especially when posted by someone using a Jewish name. I’ll assume you know that the words “holocaust and “”shoah” have different meanings. Show me where “holacaust” is used anywhere. Or “ad hominim” for that matter. If you want to use fancy Hebrew and Latin words and phrases, you need to pay attention to your spelling. …Spell-check and edit (there/their) before you click on “submit comment” or I’ll get out my red pen.
I agree with the point about the fake brick. Every home in SSG landmarked district is supposed to use very specific & expensive materials. Shouldn’t they have to use the same brick, wooden windows, wrought iron railings, etc. that everyone else in the district is supposed to use? If Landmarks is going to allow new housing in the gardens, shouldn’t it match what is already landmarked as much as possible? Are existing homeowners going to be held to a higher standard than a developer who wants to use cheap materials?
@Ben David Take your own advice.
I never mentioned commercial development.
Perhaps the neighborhoods that maintained their integrity without landmarking status were not in the middle of an area targeted for redevelopment.
Perhaps they did not have in the viscinity of 70% of their land dedicated to greenery.
Perhaps you could examine your own position before you write rather than attack others’. You brought up the accusation of racism, hitting everyone who lives here with a broad swath of gun shot.
I don’t know what ad hominem means, but I gather you consider yourself way above everyone around you. Perhaps you need a higher level web outlet. And that is the end for this conversation, as far as I am concerned.
Hal, are you crazy? Housing projects in Sunnyside Gardens? We need to make it a nice community park. don’t let them build ANYTHING There!
Hey Dave K I know the people you are calling nut jobs.They are good people from that block.
What difference does it make? we are talking about a structure
Sorry but there are many diffrent ways to spell “Holocaust” Holacaust..Shoah
It should be NoBoD (North of Boulevard of Death) and SoBoD (South of Boulevard of Death).
Dave k: these people are all your brothers and sisters , why don’t you let them live with you!
It’s not SoQue, it’s QueSo.
And no thanks, we much prefer you northsiders get the eyesore and the headache, thanks. We’re doing swell over here without tin pan alley.
@Ben David- It’s Holocaust.
Sycamore…thats an ad hominim attack….you find an example of where lack of “landmarking” led to commercial sprawl….your reasoning is flawed…you assume there were no other factors that contributed to that type of developement. There are many neighborhoods without “landmark’ status that have maintaned there character….Williamsburgh, fresh meadows, forest hills. etc…think before you write!
terracotta-colored panels with a brick pattern = fake brick. These new houses are going to be constructed cheaply w/ cheesy material. The developer wants to maximize his profit Sadly, that’s true of much of the new development in Queens. If you want something to look like brick & blend in with Sunnyside Gardens try using real brick. I’m afraid this will turn out to be a much bigger eyesore than what is already there.
How about housing projects? We need housing projects in the gardens…
@Ben David While I completely agree with “enough with profiteers and yuppies” you are kidding about the “ethnic cleansing,” right?
The landmarking was to keep a special neighborhood–full of all kinds of people–from turning into the visual and architectural mess that results from unbridled, idiosyncratic greed.
Just go look at neighborhoods without good zoning. Take a look at the single house on 37th Avenue overwhelmed by the factories that grew up around it. Or one of the very old wood-frame “dugouts” down in LIC that have condo towers looming over them like forests of glass trees filled with people. A well planned, well maintained group of homes filled with a diverse group of people forms a strong community. That was the idea behind Sunnyside Gardens and it worked. It is important to maintain it so the idea can be replicated in other places. It is good first for people. If it is also good for pocketbooks that is secondary. It was built to keep people together, not separate them.
Landmarking is now ethnic cleansing?
Time for a trip to the funny farm.
How about a holacaust museum? along with a community center . A place where immigrants and established residents of Sunnyside finally come together. The whole idea of Landmarking was nothing more than ethnic cleansing in disguise….there are people of all faiths in Sunnyside including those who don’t believe ….what better way to end hate and bickering. Enough of profiteers and yuppies driving up prices!
No, opposed, Ridiculous it’s even being considered. SHAME on Laura Heim
PS 1 is an ideal place for it.
Perhaps on Governor’s Island or Roosevelt Island.
But not in the “brick and mortar” of Sunnyside Gardens.
The hypocrisy of our own exalted architect and noted “preservationist” Laura Heim in being instrumental in the efforts in bringing the Aluminum Albatross to Sunnyside Gardens is staggering.
She has fought tooth and nail over every single change anyone made to the facades of their HOMES in the name of “Landmark Preservation” and now she wants to bring the Aluminum Albatross to Sunnyside Gardens so she can take credit for “saving it”? Talk about chutzpah!!!
Oh…BTW…those beautiful pictures of the Aluminum Albatross? You think that is what it looks like now? Hahahahaaaa….it is currently a pile of parts in storage. An oddity that deserves a home. Just not in the brick and mortar neighborhood of Sunnyside Gardens.
Put the house there without the new units, I bet they won’t do it. It’s just a gimmick to get around the rules.
@ Dave K Your racist talk is unwelcome here.
The Aluminaire house doesn’t belong there. Nor is that house Queen’s problem.
The matter at hand is a landmarked lot. No matter what anyone’s opinion of its current condition is, it is not allowed to have so many structures. If the current owner bought the land with the intention of circumventing the law, I hope he loses his investment.
It would teach developers a lesson. The rest of us have to live within the law and no one–including Michael Bloomberg’s pets–should plan on getting away with their will over the will of the people.
Developer’s can just get out of town as far as I’m concerned.
An even better location is PS1. It would fit right in. It could be an additional attraction and could house exhibits. MOMA seems to find money for anything they want. (Unfortunately, they don’t seem to want to improve the ugly too-tall cement wall they present to the community but that’s an issue for another day.)
I wonder how those Irish American nut jobs who grew up on that block feel about this
Arc de Effu!
The arch is lovely. I love how it looks like it’s giving the world the middle finger.
Please just get rid of both of them. The ugly Arch and the museum ..
So who’ll be at the meeting to voice all these brilliant sugestions?
Make 46 street between the arch and Greenpoint a pedestrian zone and stick the aluminum house in the middle of the street as a visitor’s center.
Why not affordable housing dedicated to undocumented immigrants or minorities living below the poverty line. Sunnyside Gardens needs to be more diverse. The Landmarking status has hurt the integration of the community. Most Latinos and also Indian residents have left since their homes were landmarked. This can no longer be a community run by entrenched xenophobic racists.
I believe Roosevelt Island would be my first choice to site this building. it is totally eclectic with a mix of housing styles from the late 1800’s to the Louis Kahn memorial. Roosevelt Island also has more green space, even near the tram, to site this structure.
don’t want the building in the gardens at all
however…how nice it would be to put it SoQue (“so-kwuh” or south of the boulevard)!
once we have a local museum on the boulevard in a basement (temp control, dust and sun free, in a developer’s give back for nine stories!), it would be so nice to have the historic building there; great for tourism and good for SoQue which needs more love!
visitors and scholars can visit sunnyside gardens as they already do, check out the museum, go for lunch at one of our wonderful restaurants, hit SoQue for the Aluminaire! beautiful and what a great name (“touch of tomorrow” as chris used to quote from the old ads)
Build a multi-storey parking lot use only for 5 block radius residents, that’s what the place needed. If outsiders park charge them double.
Forget more buildings or more dog runs or parks, aka homeless/drunks gathering spots.
I guess they’ll have to move Jimmy Hoffa again before they start building
Those sharp angles and cold metal surfaces are bad feng shui. It angers the dragon.
Build a fountain instead, running water brings prosperity.
Toss the aluminum shack in the recycling bin along with the empty beer cans.
It’s an eyesore. Does not fit in with Sunnyside Gardens at all. I agree with HoofHearted. We need this space to be opened up as a green space for the community to enjoy.
Mike Novak makes some excellent points.
Sell this metal box to White Castle and let them turn it into a new franchise along some commercial street.
If these buildings are rejected, what happens to this lot? It’s an eyesore right now, as far as I’m concerned. It’s not a park, it’s a field, and it’s not an open space, it’s fenced in.
Lets look at the winners and losers here.
WINNER: Architect Michael Schwarting…He finally gets rid of the Aluminum Albatross.
WINNER: Architect Laura Heim…She gets a feather in her cap for “saving” the Aluminum Albatross.
WINNER: The current owner of the plot who thinks this will get him a variance so he can circumvent the Landmarks Designation and put housing on what clearly is park space.
LOSER: Sunnyside Gardens. We get stuck with the Aluminum Albatross. We are responsible for its maintenance and security. Its will only be open a few days a year, by appointment only.
The Aluminum Albatross is an eyesore. It needs a home, just not in the brink and mortar neighborhood of Sunnyside Gardens.
That park is fenced in and in disrepair.
Use it or lose it.
If aluminum houses are such a good idea, I think they would have built more than just the one 82 years ago.
Leave the park alone. There are plenty of empty condos in LIC for people to live in and more on the way. There aren’t enough parks and open spaces.
Here is your chance people! Bitch in person and not on the internet! Go get em’