May 16, 2012 Staff Report
After remaining closed to new members for nearly four months, Sunnyside Gardens Park combed through its long wait list and accepted new families.
Forty-one families on the wait list who live “in zone” have been invited to join, according to Park President Natalie O’Sullivan. As defined by the park’s constitution, “in zone” refers to people who live in Sunnyside Gardens and the Phipps development, which borders the park.
When families were turned away this winter, it was the first time in years “in-zone” residents were denied membership.
The park, with a capacity of 465 families, still has a further 92 families clamoring to join.
The 92 additional families on the wait list will be invited to join based on how close they live to the park, should spots become available, O’Sullivan said. Spots typically become available when existing members decide not to renew their membership.
The difficulty gaining park membership is a far cry from the years (decades ago) when membership was so low the park was actually shut down due to a lack of funds.
“The park is getting more popular and that’s a great sign for Sunnyside,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s a great place to be a part of.”
Annual membership dues range from $335 for a family with children to $40 for a senior.
So where do you start out? The first thing you certainly can do is start
out incorporating local into your key phrases. A great illustration is
if you are attempting to sell essential oils, your own keywords
could be”essential oils,” or even”high quality essential oils.” Now you want to introduce neighborhood, and that means you just turn your key word into a long-term keyword with location, such as for example for instance”essential oils
London” or”essential oils in New York” as examples.
My daughter and son-in law are members of the park, How grateful I am that they joined,I have a little granddaughter and I love bringing her there.
It is clean and save.
Unlike the park on 43rd and greenpoint, where obnoxious teens and drunken low lifes run rampant.
I had a birthday party today – given by my daughter @ the Sunnyside park.I had the best time and I felt safe . All the children were safe and we all had a good time. At no point did we feel unsafe or worry about sharing our seats with drunks.
I love this Park. You get what you pay for in life-that is just the way things are.
There’s also these awesome things called subways that will take you to waaaaay better parks than SGP is or aspires to be*, that ARE public! Try Imagination Playground down at South Street Seaport, the “water park” at Hudson River Park (just south of Jane), Chelsea Piers, Clement Moore in Chelsea, Pier 6 in Dumbo (take the east river ferry- it’s fun!), Gantry in LIC, I could go on… Heck, more close to us South-siders- we’ve got tons of graveyards that offer our only green space (though I can tell you from experience that kite flying is discouraged). Let’s convert *them* to public parks! Are dead people entitled to privacy too? Jeez.
And as for the Park Slopization of Sunnyside … it friggin’ WISHES!! Let’s get one palatable restaurant within 4 miles of here, or a place to buy an article of clothing that isn’t sweatpants-based and we’ll talk.
*That said, don’t forget to email me if I get off the waitlist, k? You’re great, don’t ever change.
Do ANY of you who bemoan that “your tax dollars” are being used for Sunnyside Park object to Bloomie giving away hundreds of millions of YOUR TAX DOLLARS to private corporations???
Sunnyside Park is far form perfect. But it has its place in history and in woven into the fabric of our community. The hue and cry that I hear is not from the established families who make Sunnyside Gardens and Phipps Gardens a community worth living in, but rather from the interlopers, hipsters and “developers” who have no history with us.
Rather than EDUCATING themselves about our neighborhood BEFORE they move in, they come in and like spoiled children, start caterwauling like mad when they cannot get their way.
Well I have news for you, suck it up and grow up.
The Sunnyside Park was built for the residents of Sunnyside Gardens and the Phipps.
You live outside the “zone”…tough shit. Those are the bylaws as stated in the founding documents.
All you newbies, hipsters and wannabe’s should find something else to complain about. Awwwwww….too bad you did not do your homework before you bought into our community.
If any of you were to move in the neighborhood of Gramercy Park, would you all expect the red carpet to be rolled out for you there as well?
Well said Mary.
I am a park member and think nothing wrong that the park got a fund. Because I also a taxpayer. Not only you non-par member.
I live on the eastern edge of Woodside – well out of the ‘zone.’ I joined the park last year without any problem – just before the wait list was started. I consider myself lucky to finally have the means to join after years of visiting. I know everyone is not so lucky. Many of my daughter’s friends are members and it is nice to always know you will see someone you know there. I like knowing there is one way in and one way out. Some of you may dismiss that as a false sense of security but I disagree wholeheartedly. It does make a difference with small children. I like that my daughter has a place to run around barefoot in the city. On grass. And I like to BBQ.
But to call me a ‘snob’ because I belong to the park or say that I have no energy to give to the community beyond the park is absurd. I have spent many hours planting and maintaining the garden outside the Woodside Library, volunteering for my CSA as well as my daughter’s school. The fact that someone belongs to the park means just that – they belong to the park. It says nothing else about their character.
If you want to have a discussion about the merits of tax dollars going to something you disagree with go right ahead. Lord knows I disagree with many uses of my tax dollars. Let the politicians know. Vote out the man who got less than 23K for a private park and over $2 million to renovate two public parks and playgrounds. Seems like biting off your nose to spite your face, but do what you need to do.
Just don’t call me a snob.
Steve & Leigh – a few posts down there is a notice about a community clean-up day this coming Saturday. What a great way to “make the neighborhood better for all its residents”, see you then.
It is very nice that different languages have been heard at the park. But, unfortunately, on more than one occasion my family has received dirty looks and been made to feel unwelcome by a few others. I have paid my membership dues and am there to stay. Unpleasant, ignorant people are everywhere. It’s unfortunate that I’ve had to explain this to my little one so soon. We continue to visit Loudati, Noonan and Dougboy parks. No one park or playground solely represents Sunnyside (thank the heavens).
@Lou I’m fifty three and a third-generation park member. It was magical for my grandparents when they realized their children were safe, magical for my parents when they played there and magical for me when I did. I’m deeply gratified it was magical for you.
No one alive today can take credit for setting the park aside for the community, but many of us can take credit for having worked to make it the best it can be in each era. It didn’t change much at all until the past few years and suddenly it has changed a lot.
As someone who has seen it in many eras from many points of view I can attest that many many people have given enormous amounts of their time, talent and treasure to make the park what it is. Everyone except one or two employees in any given season is a volunteer. The entire board volunteers as does the park manager. If you talk to anyone who has served on the executive board they will tell you it takes an enormous bite out of your life during your term of service. It can be personally, socially, physically and psychically grueling. Every single year the different personalities create TRYING situations. Many board members walk away and never return.
Some of us recover and continue to love the park. I don’t know anyone who was a member of the park and came away thinking they were better than anyone else, but almost all of us know we were unbelievably lucky to be in a position to become members. We do all we can to make sure we take care of it so the next lucky–not better, just luckier–generation benefits too.
As in an idviudal who has capital, be it property, natural resources, means of production or labor, all of which constitute capital. In modern usage, meant to signify someone who believes or participates in a capitalist economic system, in which labor, capital, or other resources are bartered for paper currency which can be used to by whichever othe form of capital the currency holder desires. Capitalist also signifies someone who wishes to avoid excessive government involvement or regulation in this system of capital bartering.
To a child enjoying the great open space is a thrill and experience onto itself. A child has no concept of ownership or let alone what it is to own private property. In short children do not practice Capitalism until later on in life. Adults on the other hand have learned this concept first hand , especially as they mature and implement it in daily life.
Growing up I attended the local elementary school, P.S.11. I remember the school trip during my last year there. We were taken to the park and had as much fun any eleven year old could have. To this day it is a memory I am very fond of.
The Park has a long and illustrious history in the greater part of Sunnyside.
To be a member of the SGP the applicant has to pay a certain due and also volunteer X amount of time. Just like everyone else or so I have been told.
I believe volunteering gives the member a sense of pride, accomplishment, hell dare i say it?! Even Ownership?
I am going to cut this short because I believe I am starting to ramble.
If you keep up to date with whats going on in our quiet lil piece of the world. Crime is starting to go up! Attempted Bank robberies at the Chase Banks, Degenerates Boosting Rims off vehicles and leaving them on Cinder blocks. What is this the crack wars of the 80s? Oh and If i almost forget what about the jerk that pulled a shotgun on somebody?
The families in the surrounding area have good reason to keep this park private. They want to keep their children safe and prevent anything from happening. They All know each other, one way or the other. To this day my buddies family still goes there for the bbqs. Im 27 now btw!
If ppl want to go and join the park they should do so pending a review of the application submitted and the proximity to the park; or to make life easier a background check.
Alejandro if you are reading this THe lamb of god concert is sold out!
How about we pave the park for more parking. Oooh, and maybe a bookstore too!
marilyn – don’t accept money! – are you kidding?, take that up w/ the politicians who GAVE out the money
Private property rights?
What a quaint notion.
Those got shredded with the constitution years ago.
I don’t care if the park remains private. More power to you! Just don’t accept my public money to fund any of it.
Leigh, No one is actually “worried” you (and/or Steve) are capable of converting SGP, a private entity for public use. It’s the mere suggestion of it that warranted a logically comment.
So you are suggesting, people should not “cling to their mantra of private property rights”, without private property rights, then what type of rules are we living by? So anyone is entitled to other people’s property because you feel it’s unfair. Why don’t we convert where you live into public space, as you said, “it might better serve Sunnyside”. And I’m only suggesting it, so no fear that I can actually make it happen.
I too pity the naive, ultra idealistic way of thinking and the lack of respect of the rights of private “ownership”.
@Leigh I’m sorry, but I didn’t catch your last name? If you would care to declare yourself, we can speak further. Otherwise, your denigrating terms have no place here.
To call it a country club is laughable. Members are teachers, electricians, police officers, nurses, etc. You understand. Please come to the park and try to find anyone who fits the description of elitist. You will not.
@you all make me….
So what if people who don’t live at Celtic Park express an opinion on the matter and lend their support. Something about free speech perhaps?
I’m with you 100%
thank you Leigh – you do not have the power to emancipate SGP from private ownership which is why our position is NOT vulnerable – it’s a members only private park – get over it.
The idea that commenter Steve and I somehow have some kind of power to emancipate SGP from private ownership is laughable. That this is feared at all suggests to me that those who defend the validity of setting aside almost an entire city block of open space for the exclusive use of 500 families who can afford it in a moderate income neighborhood like Sunnyside recognize at some level the vulnerability of their position, to entirely legitimate critiques of equity, fairness, and the appropriate design and accessibility of open space in dense urban cities like NYC. I pity those who cling to their mantra of private property rights and inability to revisit the legacy of SGP and whether it might better serve Sunnyside if it was more accessible to all residents. This is a rigid and ill-fitting position in a communal city like NYC and a historically progressive neighborhood like Sunnyside.
My intent here is to challenge these ways of thinking about our shared home, not to seize your beloved country club that you keep justifying with cries of child safety.
Lastly, please stop asserting the park is open to everyone. This is only nominally true. Through capacity caps, waitlists, in-zone prioritization and especially fees, it is only open to a select few.
@ Roger, yes I am aware. My point was that the plaque is an issue about private property and how no one should be able to tell private property owners what to do with their property. There were PLENTY of people who don’t live there that were making an issue about it.
After reading all the comments, I really don’t understand why people are getting so upset over a private park being private? The park is private because it was purchased in 1926. So are you saying if we ran out of living space, YOU, or any homeowner is supposed to open his/her home to the public? Or if we ran out of Green space, the private house with the largest yard to be opened to the public?
Making the SGP public does NOT make sense to me!
Last I remember this is still America, you have the right to own private property. That’s what makes this country worth living in, the opportunity and the diversity. Speaking of diversity, on numerous occasions when I was at the park with my family, I have heard at least 2 languages spoken. So I don’t want to hear people saying, the park is trying to keep “certain” groups of people out.
Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the lack of green and outdoor space in the neighborhood and agree that we should collectively work to solve the issue.
As for the Park receiving public funds, oh, boy, do I wish they didn’t. Let’s look at the whole picture here: Van Bramer said he secured $2.4 million for improvement for public parks in the district, what SGP received is like less than 2% comparatively.
Lastly, regarding only letting “zoned” residents to sign up for the park, that’s ONLY if there’s a waiting list. This also makes complete sense to me. As in, if a school, public or private is at its full capacity. Only the residents live closest or zoned will get priority on the waiting list. What’s wrong with that? Fair is fair.
How dare you expect people to buy their own things when it’s so much easier to just confiscate it under the guise of “fairness” and “equality” and “inclusiveness.”
Steve, Leigh & Tywin – you all seem like great leaders – why don’t you get 200 families together & chip in 5K each – I’m sure 1 million will be plenty for a downpayment on that empty lot even if you had to mortgage the rest – then you could do what you want w/ the place.
@ you all make me….
The Celtic Park plaque issue was raised and is being pursued by the private shareholders in the co-op. The people who own the place.
It really isn’t that lovely. I’ve been to the park over the years, and it’s still kind of dilapidated. Is the “pool” ever open? As someone who understands money better than most, I would say there is no way they are diverting the necessary funds for the beautification of the park. Someone is skimming off the top. Also as a father, I would say that no place is as safe as any other. That’s just life, and to think otherwise would be folly. You pay to use a park that you think is safer, which lulls you into a false sense of security; and when that happens you drop the ball, and that is when accidents happen.
Has anyone pointed out that this is nothing but the same issue as the plaque at Celtic Park? How hard is it for some people to understand the basic concept of PRIVATE property? Who are we to tell PRIVATE property owners what to do with THEIR property. If you have an issue with some of the funds that the park received why don’t you take it up with the governmental agencies / offices that decided to give the funds to a PRIVATE park? Maybe you should ask them why these funds weren’t directed to more PUBLIC needs and concerns.
My major question with this whole issue is if GREEN SPACE is such an important issue for some of you people why did you ever move to Sunnyside in the first place? If you want to go to a park, how hard is it for you to jump on the 7 train and take a 15 minute ride to Flushing Meadow Park? Did the city or state take away a park or something that I don’t know about? I’ve only lived here for 5 years so I may have missed something.
Just so you all know, I don’t belong to the park, want to join the park, live in The Gardens or even live on the “Right” side of the Blvd. for that matter. I just happen to think that this is another issue that is completely silly and overblown……..
In defense of the park, I must add that it is open to anybody on occasion. I attended a Shakespeare play there a couple of years ago. It’s a lovely facility, no doubt because it’s private.
@Fred Thank you. Well said.
steve- this is private property purchased in the 20s – what members do w/ it is their business, in this case using it as a park. There is no one stopping a group of individuals in 2012 from spending money to purchase say the empty lot on 43 St & 47 Ave & doing the same thing today – talk is cheap.
If it keeps the “elitist, racist snobs” out of public parks I’m all for it remaining private.
One thing people don’t get is we joined a private park so we don’t have to worry about the safety of our children. Doghboy park nearby is much larger. But if you have young children sunnyside gardens is the lone place in the city where you can allow them to run free without worrying about them running to an unsafe place, being harmed by strangers or getting lost. Anyone who would want to tamper with the only safe haven for children in the neighborhood should examine their true motivations for wanting to do so. You are an adult. You are safe at the numerous other parks nearby. Sunnyside Gardens is open to all, when there is room for $30 a month. But why you would want access to the toys, swings, slides and sandbox, or so angrily want to tamper with what’s there is beyond me.
The assertions Leigh and Steve make are very serious and I would appreciate it if they would state their full names and come out into the open if they have any serious intent to pursue this intent to take over private property.
Sunnyside Gardens may wish they never accepted public money soon.
It’s private property, what they do with it is their own business. However, when they decided to accept taxpayer dollars, they gave people a golden opportunity to lay claim on it. Then again, look at all the private corporations that have received taxpayer bail-outs and “stimulus” funds. What a mess it becomes when politicians start throwing other people’s money around like confetti.
hear, hear Steve. Eloquent and thoughtful response to this often less than productive debate. I would be quite interested in working with other Sunnysiders to improve, expand and make more equitable the open space in the community.
How the SGP organization manages its wait list, whether it receives grant funds or not, or whether individuals experience it as wonderful or mediocre are not the substantive issues here. Nor is what we might imagine Alexander Bing, Clarence Stein, Henry Wright, or Lewis Mumford to say about life in 2012. Nor does the supposedly elitist or snobbish behavior of some individual SGP members.
The problem with SGP is that it is private. In fact, it is a very rare thing, one of only two private parks in NYC. In densely developed cities like New York, open space is at a premium. It is a common good. One that should be accessible to all. A long tradition of public policy and landscape design, as well as generations of activism and use by New Yorkers, supports the notion that open space access is an integral component of livability in the city.
A public park doesn’t mean that there are no rules of behavior, no funding, or no hope. In fact, many varieties of public management strategies and creative ways of managing space may be found in New York City alone. Indeed, case studies and examples of “best practices” and great parks can be found throughout the boroughs. Running down Lodati Park’s reputation or complaining about public parks in the neighborhood generally, as several commenters have done, is not particularly helpful or relevant. Instead Sunnysiders should be focused on supporting and building a (new) constituency for these public parks, for top quality public design, and for enforcement of reasonable rules of behavior by neighbors, park staff, and/or police. Whether the exclusiveness or purported benefits of SGP as a private park in relation to the public version are expressed in class, race, geographic, life cycle/ demographic, or other terms, retreating from the public parks and treating them as inferior is the root of the problem. No, Sunnyside is not like the Hamptons. Nor is like Park Slope (where’s Prospect Park?). It has its own physical, social, economic, and other characteristics.
A private park is not like a choice to own a luxury car, as one commenter suggests above. Or the decision to send a child to private school. It is more like a country club, a private gym, or a social club. Except that the resource involved, open space, is in short supply in this urban context, something that was most definitely not the case in 1926 as Queens was rapidly developing. In 2012, the neighborhood is under served by parks and needs more open space.
In response to the Councilmember’s letter (cited above), I would argue that SGP is dramatically less inclusive than the Y in terms of number of members, wide variety of backgrounds, and services provided, not to mention the size and uniqueness of SGP as a resource in land and open space.
From a private perspective and a private administration viewpoint, restricting SGP membership based on an estimate of the “capacity” of the park makes sense. But what of the capacity of the public parks? Are they over capacity? And what is the total park need in the neighborhood? How many people in the neighborhood have access to high quality park space? How much of that park space is hardscape? What kinds of uses does it permit? From a neighborhood perspective, the issue is not that SGP might be “overrun” or “overwhelmed” by the public hordes but that, by that very statement, and by the fact of the waiting list, and by observation at local parks, one can plainly see that the neighborhood demand for park space is not being met. Either through good will, legal agreement, or other arrangement, SGP management recognizes this relationship at some level– the need for some gesture of openness and access for the broader community with special events and the like.
Many of us in the surrounding community would urge SGP organization members, particularly Board members and elected officials, to consider opening up the park to greater public use and creatively exploring new ways to fundraise, manage, tend to horticulture, maintain facilities, provide supervision/ security, and all the other services involved in determining the “capacity” of this uniquely valuable three acres of green space. Sunnyside is a great place, and there should be a concerted effort to make the neighborhood better for all its residents.
People, wake up….Jimmy Van Bramer LIVES in Sunnyside Gardens. Of course he appropriated monies for HIS park.
This is the same representative that had south side residents practically BEGGING for trash cans, for pete’s sake!!
As a 12 year resident of Sunnyside-both north and south side-I find the “Gardens Park” attitude laughable! We’re not Park Slope, so quit the ‘tude, put down the babyccinos, pack up your man purses and get back to Kings County if that’s what you want in a neighborhood.
Although I fully understand the desire for many to have an exclusive place to send spend their weekends with their kids and family, the fact remains that opening the park up to everyone is a guaranteed way to destroy that well kept gem. I remember many days there as a child, living up the block from the park, and many of those memories was of a safe, controlled environment where we could run around and have fun. Woodside, Sunnyside, and other neighborhoods are not the same as they were back in the day. These once proud communities of hard working families that set root and invested in every aspect of the neighborhood are becoming rarer and rarer, replaced by somewhat nomadic individuals whose last interest is giving back to their local community. Not to say this is everyone but there are no longer the Ed Fowley’s or the countless other individuals who gave back and put everything into creating a community by all for all; they are now “for all” communities. That being said, sometimes, some things are just not meant for everyone, just like a 2012 Astin Martin is not meant for me. I have to accept it and move on and so should those who complain about exclusive memberships to the park.
Sunnyside Gardens was built specifically with lots of outdoor areas, some private, some communal. The Gardens, which are a registered landmarked district, have a clearly delineated outline which you can view on line if you want to. It is oddly shaped because the developers bought the available land. From what I have read I believe the block the park was built on was going to be fully surrounded by houses, with shared gardens inside. However, as the development progressed the designers saw that the entire community needed a gathering place, not just the individual blocks. Hence they devoted the last block in their development to be a park open to anyone living in Sunnyside Gardens. If you would argue that anyone at all should be able to take their kids and their lawn chairs into the gardens that are at the core of many of the blocks in Sunnyside Gardens, then your argument that the park should also be open to anyone might hold water. But that argument is ridiculous on its face. The fact that it is a shared back yard doesn’t detract from the fact that it is someone’s back yard. The park is the back yard of everyone who lives in Sunnyside Gardens and cares to contribute to it.
Phipps Gardens Apartments–to my knowledge there is no such thing as Phipps Park–was built as part of Sunnyside Gardens. It is one of several apartment buildings in the community. Not everyone is rich, wealthy or white. Many people are unemployed, disabled or seniors.
And up until recently, no one in the park was a snob. We all knew we were blue collar working class folks who lucked into a great deal when we stumbled into Sunnyside Gardens. None of us came from the Upper East Side or aspired to be anything but a little better off than we currently were. It is only the new influx of people who think they are cooler than cool, and frankly they turn me off too.
Susan – reread my post, re: affordability of a home in Sunnyside Gardens or a coop in Sunnyside Towers. You dishonestly misstate my position. I never stated that they were “EASILY” affordable as you assert, I said it was affordable to a typical middle class family with a teacher and a nurse. Combined they could pull in 170 after some experience. That income is sufficient to afford a 650k house or a 300k coop. I stand by that statement.
actually fair is a poor choice of words but who says life is fair – go cry to the OWS crowd.
yes it is fair – look up the island swim club on staten island, the riverdale yacht club or the green in Forest Hills Gardens for that matter – all private property along the same lines as SSG park & no dogs allowed
I wonder what facilities are available in SGP for canines who reside in “the zone”? I believe that animals, including canines, are not allowed in SGP. Rather, the public park available for the entire Sunnyside community, Lodati Park located at Skillman and 43rd Street, is being chopped up to build a “state of the art” dog run, including no less than two doggy playground areas. Lodati Park currently is used by dog owners throughout the area, including dogs belonging to owners who live in the Gardens. Is it fair that the park area available for the entire community at Lodati Park is being reduced in size to accommodate dog owners in Sunnyside Gardens when the people using Lodati Park are not allowed to use Sunnyside Gardens Park and no dogs, not even Gardens dogs, are allowed in SGP?
The park should not have to give back one penny – it applied for and was given the money as a private park – lots of organizations apply for funds – some get them, others don’t – you can be bitter about it but theyy were always a private park before & after the public $$$ – go ahead & write to JVB but if that money was given w/ no strings attached then I wouldn’t hold my breath that it gets returned.
Also, members should not have to subsidise anyone else – if you can’t afford it – don’t apply
Finally, the success of the park allows them to now draw from in zone only. Clearly there is a large demand to join so they have to draw a line somewhere. If in zone membership was required originally then that seems like a good place to draw it.
I thought it might interest some to see the response JVB’s office sent me when I wrote requesting information about what, specifically, he was giving this private park money for. This is the reply I received on August 4, 2011:
“Council Member Van Bramer allocated funding to the Friends of Sunnyside Gardens Park in the same way he allocates funding for the Friends of Queensbridge Park and many other local non-profit and community park groups. The total amount allocated from the Council Member’s discretionary funding was $22,600 for crucial renovations of the park house on the grounds to fix significant damage to its structure, providing a safe, clean area for the thousands of children and families who use it. The park house will also be available at the festivals, concerts, and special events, which are open to the public and do not require dues or membership. The other private park in the city is strictly private and does not allow the public to enter at any time. It is also important to point out that the Council member has invested $2.4 million into public parks in the district. The projects funded so far include, the renovation of Torsney Park and Noonan Park, as well as, hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring additional green space to Woodside. Sunnyside Gardens Park operates in a similar capacity to the YMCA, requiring members to volunteer their time, and contribute a fee. If you have any additional questions regarding this issue please contact me any time.”
While I strongly disagree with giving this park public money, I did appreciate Joe Kenton from JVB’s office replying to my inquiry promptly.
A Blow In’s response would also necessitate not reverting to “in zone” prioritizing when working through its wait list.
Great point, re: subsidized memberships.
I was reluctant to pay money to join this space at first (on principle), but couldn’t resist the load off my shoulders that it provided when we joined when my son was 18 months old – I didn’t have to worry about glass, animal waste, multiple exits opening onto busy streets and older children taking over because they don’t have a space of their own. Since that time, the space has become a cherished haven to us, and I understand the need to restrict membership because there is simply not enough space for everyone
But I also wish the park could offer, like the local CSA offers, partly subsidized memberships for lower-income families as a way to maintain diversity and fairness. I love the community that the park brings to its members, but I think it’s the park that creates this community, not the streets that its members live on.
Agreed. For example, lots of organizations with wealthy board members and donors apply for public funding; doesn’t mean they should get it. Taxpayer dollars should be spent making Noonan and Loudati beautiful, safe, and clean for all kids; and JVB should be lauded for making these upcoming renovations a reality. But if the members are so devoted to SGP, they should raise the money to underwrite it and take responsibility for all maintenance beyond the required minimum of twelve hours per year for a true community effort. With 465 families as members, that doesn’t seem far-reaching. Anyone who agrees should write to JVB.
Ok keep the park private but give my back my taxpayer dollars.
If you keep my tax money then I should be free to use the park when I want.
Obviously, some people missed this article written by the Sunnyside Post.
Leigh – you sound like you would be a wonderful asset to any group that you might join but unfortunately I think 86Mets is more on target.
Let’s face it, if this park were open to anybody and everybody, it would be a urine soaked, graffiti covered dump within a month.
There are fewer people and resources available to maintain the public parks when people feel they are benefiting from the exclusive amenities Jean describes in the private, fee-based park.
I personally don’t recognize the description of the public playgrounds as urine and graffiti infested with animals running amok, but that personal anecdote serves the larger point of how diverting community resources for private purposes harms the public sphere that is meant to serve us all.
I’m a member of SGP
I like SGP because there is 1 exit and the lever is high enough my son can’t open it and run. I love that there are picnic benches and bbqs. You can leave your stroller and not worry someone will go in it. Yes, I leave my wallet in the hanging mesh basket and not think twice about it at SGP. I can charge my phone in the office, have had emergency diapers at my disposal, 2 playground areas so little ones and older kids have their own space and no one is running roughshod over the little ones.
SGP Volunteer hours: I’ve met a lot of people this way and have formed friendships. I’m a f/t working person and have never met and formed relationships in the public parks. There are events for the members and we love them. We watch out for kids when other moms/dads that have to step away.
All public parks I’ve been too in Sunnyside, no one closes the gates, I see dogs on the playgrounds, I see little kids putting graffiti on the play equipment, grown men urinating right in front of the children, people drunk staggering in the parks, sleeping on benches.
There are toys in SGP for the kids to play with. Try that in a public park.
I like the public parks but love SGP.
The members of the park are not only those that live in the zone. I live in Woodside and am a member. There is currently a waiting list. Those that live in the zone are given first priority when there is a waiting list. There was no list when I joined. Anyone who is interested in joining can get on the waiting list.
Totally agree with frank and Leigh as a longtime south-of-the-boulevard Sunnysider (since ’96). I also happen to be a member of SGP since 2011 and you know what? My toddler and I spend far more time at Noonan than we do there. SGP’s broken down donated riding toys, abominably filthy sand area and leaning blood spattered playhouses do not a terrific park experience make. Amenities aside, we also find a lot of the parents and young kids with whom we interact at Noonan to be eons more approachable and polite than many of SGP’s members. Born and raised on the Upper East Side, I find SG and SGP’s new found elitism preposterous.
There are lots of private homes in Sunnyside with gardens in the front and the back. This is simply a larger version of that. Sort of like a co-op compared to a one or two family house.
The point of my original comment has been lost, though I think the comment from Steve above captures its spirit. ALL open space in the neighborhood could be improved from the collective action and voice of Sunnyside residents. Member energies and focus directed exclusively at SGP detract from our potential for collective action to improve all the parks and playgrounds in the neighborhood. I would feel less distressed about the endurance of a private park in Sunnyside if I felt like its members also cared about the quality of the public parks for the rest of us and were willing to help us agitate for improvements to them as well. Given how spent most of us likely are from living and working in such a high cost city, I fear members have little energy or interest left over for open space activism. This is the true peril of maintaining a private park in a community that requires cooperation from residents in order to thrive. And again, the nature of the political system is such that more affluent residents and organizations have more power to bend the ear of and receive resources from city government. When that power is exercised on behalf of a private park and not all open space for Sunnyside residents, only a privileged few benefit.
And comments in the vein of well-I-worked-hard-for-what-I-have implicitly assume that the rest of us have not, instead of working from the perception that we are also working hard for what we have and would like to devote those energies to the collective benefit of the community, not a chosen few.
The park is a nice place to take your kid and let her run free without hovering because it is gated. Parents need not worry about broken glass, condoms, etc. There are lots of amenities (green space, tennis courts, bikes, scooters, sandbox, pool), but diversity is not one of them. I often hear in passing that Sunnyside “would be great if we could get more coffee shops and cool restaurants instead of all these Colombian bakeries.” It is likely that these people have enjoyed an empanada or two at some point. Queens has always been home to myriad cultures that tremendously benefit their neighborhoods. I am embarrassed for those who feel Sunnyside is too ethnic. The park contributes to this feeling of division by favoring those “in the zone”. If it started out that way, fine, but there is room to evolve.
another point about the public funding is that the park APPLIED for grants & was given the money – I’m sure they will APPLY for more grants in the future – the city council gave them the money knowing that thy are a private park – angry taxpayers should be directed to the council (I’m sure many who don’t pay taxes will complain also)
Commenter RHWS talks a bit more plainly about the segregation in the neighborhood, I see…
I have to disagree with Bob’s comment above. Volunteers, residents, neighbors, and community groups throughout the city contribute time to public places, through all types of hard work. Investing one’s time and money to improve a community resource is not only a private activity. Whether it is through tree planting, neighborhood organizing, community activities, or park work, plenty of New Yorkers find it worthwhile to invest in the public realm. So, yes, people involved in the park (from 1926 to the present), some with long tenure in the neighborhood, have given time and energy to this private organization and private space. But one of the main arguments about Sunnyside Gardens Park isn’t about the park as private property. It is about how it creates spillover effects in the neighborhood by devaluing the public realm, allowing for an exclusive and separate mode of park participation to co-exist with the public version.
The phenomenon of private parks in NYC is very rare, as the Post article points out- Sunnyside Gardens Park is one of only two in the city. There is something in the idea of park (as opposed to “club”) that most people recognize as an asset for all residents to enjoy. Particularly in NYC with its dense development and intense demands for space, most people recognize that “open space” and access to natural-like places is a unique resource. These ideas motivated the first park builders, including Olmsted, to provide them as resources for all. I would argue that we all benefit from investing our time and energy in shared resources and the public realm.
leigh – your point is not missed but the park is doing well financially – there is a cap on the # of families so it does not become overcrowded – a wait list of in zone families is in keeping with the rules / charter of the park from when it was founded – if you don’t like it, too bad
As far as public funding goes – take that up in the ballot box.
@ Bob – this is fine with me if you want your “private” park – just don’t take MY taxpaying dollars to subsidize the exclusion of the residents helping to pay your way of privacy! And how dare you tell people what they can”EASILY” afford! I will be contacting Councilman Van Bramer to voice my concern over WHY Sunnyside residents (and I am here for over 30+ years) are spending our money for you SGP snobs . I only hope your park becomes another “Park Slope”
Unfortunately, I believe if this park were open to the public it would be overrun. The Lou Lodati park has been taken over by Latinos playing volleyball and congregating en masse. While I certainly don’t begrudge them a place to meet and socialize they effectively have shut off that section of the public park to any one else looking to utilize it. The same thing would occur in SSG park were it open to the public.
I don’t know where you get the idea that 650K is affortable.
I don’t think agitation about the private nature of the park is new. I recall the long thread about this last year when the NY Post revealed that SGP receives public funds.
My point about others wishing they have the privilege of contributing their financial resources and sweat equity to the park has been sadly missed, I see.
I agree with Bob and don’t understand why people try to make the Gardens out to be the Hamptons. Let them enjoy their park. Who really cares anyway.
“It’s also sad that members see sharing it with their neighbors as a loss to them, as opposed to enriching the community for everyone.”
It is sad to that Johnny Come Latelys want to benefit from the hard work and labor of others.
“I hate the “Park Sloping” of Sunnyside that I see happening.”
As a long time resident, I’ve often heard this term. I honestly don’t see that happening. As to house prices, a small home in Sunnyside Gardens can be purchased for 650K. Additionally, there are coops in Sunnyside Towers (wihich is in zone for the park) that an be had for 300K. A typical middle class family of a teacher and a nurse could afford these.
Just goes to show that people tend to take care of things better when they have some degree of private ownership in them. Ever see somebody washing and waxing a rental car in their driveway?
Of course the park is attractive to non-members, and members should be proud of their hard work and welcome others to pitch in as well. It is 3 acres of green space in a neighborhood with almost zero public green space, a neighborhood bounded by highways and train yards and vehicle bridges. I imagine many Sunnyside residents would love to roll up their sleeves or open their pocketbooks to contribute to SGP; many public parks – like Central Park – thrive with a blend of public and private funding. SGP as a public entity could maintain an affiliated 501c3 dedicated to park improvements through contributions, events and volunteerism.
There are many ways to enhance the park as a community asset, not a Gardens asset, that do not harm current members. It is a reflection of the stratification in our neighborhood that the members weighing in on this comment thread don’t see it that way.
Hear hear Frank.
It’s also sad that members see sharing it with their neighbors as a loss to them, as opposed to enriching the community for everyone.
I hate the “Park Sloping” of Sunnyside that I see happening. A stroll down Skillman shows how the area is changing. Prices for a house in the Gardens are out of control. Sad to see a working class neighborhood get wrecked by snobs.
As for the park, I can understand the whole private thing. But why does there have to be a zone? Probably to keep non-whites out. Let’s be honest about it.
The park should allow families from all parts of Sunnyside, or at least the north side.
As a long time park member, I’ve never considered my park duties to be “slaving away”. For the most part they are enjoyable and I value the contribution of my fellow members. The park is in good shape financially.
Opening the park to the public (I assume you mean converting it to a public park) absolutely means “giving it up”. There are obligations to membership. Each family much volunteer hours or pay a fee for unvolunteered hours. The volunteers hours are used for many things but, among them, are the family events and free sports lessons we set up for our kids.
The current park is run by members for members. We, the members, get to decide how park funds are spent, volunteer our labor and time to maintain the park, run events and hold sports clinics for our kids. We volunteer our time for our families and children. So opening it up to the public most definitely takes it away from the current members.
We have been members for a long time and, not so long ago the park needed lots of TLC, yet it was still a great place. Due to the work of the dedicated members, the park is in great shape. Now all of a sudden a hot commodity with families clamoring to get in.
Expanding access also potentially brings more resources to the park, relieving current members from “slaving” away to keep it going.
Also, opening the park to everyone does not require current members to “give it up.” It merely expands access to others, it does not take it away from you.
To the commenters who value their private access to SGP, I would then ask that you dispute this characterization of it by the park president, quoted above:
“The park is getting more popular and that’s a great sign for Sunnyside,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s a great place to be a part of.””
It’s “a great sign for SG and Phipps Park residents”, should be her statement. It is not a great “place” for the entire neighborhood, and in fact, likely hurts the public parks, as we lose a substantial advocacy community for parks that are open to all Sunnyside residents.
Let’s be clear here.
I am curious about the info provided by other commenters, that SGP receives public funds? I agree that those should be redirected for actual public parks.
NO MORE PUBLIC FUNDING FOR THIS PARK. There are many other groups that Van Bramer, Quinn, et all should fund with out dollars. It shoudn’t go to a group that is closed off from the public.
@Leigh Why do you think anyone is entitled to private property held in trust for a specific community of owners and renters who have slaved sometimes for generations to take care of it? I am the last member of the Corrigan family to live in the neighborhood, but every single child in my family enjoyed the park and all the adults contributed their time, talent and treasure for years and years to ensure the park remained viable. Someone here said the park was once closed due to lack of membership, but I politely dispute that. There were years in the late seventies when membership was very low, before the baby boomers started having their own children, but that is clearly not the case now.
“but the equitable, inclusive option now would be to make it a public park for the community” – It is for the “community” – Sunnyside Gardens community. The park and land have been maintained for years by the local residents. Why the heck should we give it up?
And how much state money to they get again for the park? I remember it has been posted here before, I just forget the exact amount.
If membership is doing so well how about they give the money back so it can go to actual PUBLIC parks.
There is a progressive and important history to SGP, no doubt, but the equitable, inclusive option now would be to make it a public park for the community, especially considering the Gardens’ yards are significantly more outdoor space than other Sunnyside residents have.
In 1926 City Housing Corporation was in the middle of developing a ‘model residential community’, designed along the lines of English garden apartments, for moderate income working class people. The private park was intended to provide residents of the new development complex with playground space, given that they had small backyards.
It’s like becoming of a member of the small council. All on a King’s whim. Long live Joffrey Baratheon, first of his name, King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm.
I did not realize park membership was not available to those of us who just live in Sunnyside, not the Gardens (or Phipps Park). That is really problematic.
I think the presence of this private park in the community is directly related to the public parks – available to the rest of us – lacking in amenities compared to other Queens parks, such as in Forest Hills, Jackson Heights, and Astoria, never mind Manhattan facilities. Especially concerning is the lack of tree cover to keep the jungle gyms cool in the hot summer sun and the lack of any grass to sit and play in.
A private park for the relatively wealthier section of the community – based on housing values – siphons off the types of residents that politicians typically listen to when we ask for better services and amenities in our community. I would love for concerned parents and residents, those who belong to SGP and those who do not – to get together and talk to JVB about the need for park improvements. I hope the Lodati makeover at least includes some trees and grass, though we won’t be enjoying them anytime soon, given their need to grow and mature.
Just HOW do they pick & choose who becomes a member?