Sunnyside Gardens, in northwest Queens, was the creation of architects Clarence Stein and Henry Wright and the City Housing Corporation led by developer Alexander Bing. Constructed between 1924 and 1928, it consists of a series of “courts” (composed of rows of townhouses and small apartment buildings) built on all or part of sixteen blocks, a total of more than 600 buildings. The designated area also includes the Phipps Gardens apartment buildings, constructed in the early 1930s, and Sunnyside Gardens Park, one of two officially private parks remaining in New York City (the other is Gramercy Park in Manhattan).
The large complex is one of the most significant planned residential communities in New York City and has acheived nagtional and international recognition for its low-rise, low density housing arranged around landscaped open courtyards.
In the early years of the Great Depression, nearly 60 percent of Sunnyside Gardens’ residents lost their homes to foreclosure. Those difficult years saw organized resistance by residents who forcefully opposed efforts by city marshals to evict families. The character of Sunnyside Gardens was protected by 40-year easements which assured the integrity of the courtyards and common walkways and controlled changes to the exterior of every property, extending even to paint color.
From the 1940s through the mid-1960s, young families and artists moved to Sunnyside from more crowded parts of the city. Well-known residents of that period included Rudy Vallee, Judy Holliday and Perry Como and a young James Caan.
On June 26, 2007, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate the community. Before designation, there was considerable illegal or inappropriate work done on the Gardens’ houses. Since designation, the district is returning to its original character.
Every once in awhile, an ambitious plan is floated to “deck over” the Sunnyside Yards and develop right over it. Well, it looks like we’ve got another one of those plans — or at least a proposal — on our hands. Queens Courier shares that at a recent board meeting, Community Board 2 approved a motion to ask Borough President Katz for a feasibility study on decking the yards and developing on top of it. While Board Chair Joseph Conley brought the issue up for a vote, there are no specifics whatsoever about the plan — the goal is just to start a dialogue. As Queens Courier puts it, “Conley reasoned that it would be good to explore the ability to use the space, especially for affordable housing, as land prices continue to shoot upward in nearby communities such as Long Island City.”
Some board members didn’t want more housing — which requires more public services and infrastructure — for the area. Others want to explore possibilities of a hospital, affordable housing, school or public space there. Here’s a technical analysis complied by the former Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding Daniel Doctoroff in regards to future development.
The Big Six Towers, Queens Boulevard between 59th and 61st Streets, were developed, like Electchester in Flushing, by a trade union. In 1961 the New York Typographical Union (Local 6) completed the project in 1963 and one-third of its current tenants are active or retired union members. The AFL-CIO invested heavily in the towers in 2008 to help keep its apartments affordable for middle-class families. There are still some retired lithographers and printers among the residents.
While other large residential developments have joined the Big Six Towers on this stretch of Queens Boulevard, the small terra cotta former Childs’ restaurant outlet holds firm on the NW corner of 60th Street. The building hosts a laundromat, bodega, Irish bar and pizza parlor on the ground floor.
A row of Greenpoint Avenue shops between 47th and 48th Streets are getting the boot for what looks to be a new development. Sunnyside Post shares news that the landlord of King Boulevard Men’s Shop, SSS Video and Azteca Restaurant is selling the property and asked the businesses to leave. Mike Perez, the owner of King Boulevard, has operated out of that location for 31 years. According to the Post, “He said that his landlord told him that the building will be torn down and redeveloped.” The owner of SSS Video/DVD, which has been there since 1999, also heard from the landlord that the building will be demolished. A lawyer associated with the property owner confirmed the building is in contract to be sold, but said the building would instead be extensively renovated.
There’s no word yet on the new owner, and nothing filed with the Department of Buildings. King Boulevard will close at the end of the month, SSS Video/DVD will try to stay open until December, and Arteca doesn’t have a closing date yet.
You’ve got lots of eating to look forward to this month, with two different restaurant weeks happening in the borough. The first takes place in Sunnyside, from October 20th to the 24th. There are 32 restaurants participating — twice as many as last year — including Venturo, Salt & Fat, Tibetan Dumpling Cafe and Murphy’s Lobster Grill. Check out the full list of participating restaurants at Sunnyside Shines. Each restaurant will serve a three-course dinner menu for $25; other spots will offer a special lunch menu. The arts collaborative No Longer Empty will also bring site-specific art installations to five of the participating restaurants, and three will feature local artists in Sunnyside. The five restaurants participating are Bucharest Restaurant, Los Verdes, PJ Horgan’s, Salt and Fat and Venturo.
Then from October 13th until October 31st, it’s full-on Queens Restaurant Week. More than 100 different restaurants in 30 different neighborhoods will offer special prix fixe meals — most places will set up a three-course dinner for $25 and lunch for $14. Check out the long list of participants at the It’s In Queens! website.
Last week, Community Board Two held a public hearing regarding two proposals to install Slow Zones in Sunnyside, Sunnyside Gardens and Woodside. If the zones are implemented, the DOT will bring 38 speed bumps and 50 gateways (special signs to indicate where the zone begins) to the neighborhoods. The speed limit will be reduced to 20 mph. The Times Ledger reports that the proposal “did not receive overwhelming support” with board members worried about possible gridlock and more traffic. One member called the yellow gateway signs an eyesore, although the DOT stated they cannot be altered. But CB2 Chairman Joe Conley spoke in support of the measure, saying that cars usually travel 35 to 40 mph through the residential streets.
Ultimately, CB2 almost unanimously approved the proposal by a hands-raised vote, according to the Ledger. The DOT is now going to take the community suggestions into consideration before submitting a final plan for installation.
The coordinator of the Sunnyside Greenmarket, located on Skillman Avenue between 42nd and 43rd Streets on Saturdays, is pushing to keep the market open year round. Currently, the market runs from May through December. Around 10 vendors would participate in the colder months, and continue to sell items like bread, vegetables, meat and fish. Sunnyside Post reports that there is now a petition on the matter with 800 signatures.
As coordinator Jessenia Cagle told The Post, “I think the neighborhood is ready for it. There are a lot of people in the area who like fresh, local food—and they don’t want to have to go too far to get it especially in winter.” Check out the petition right here.
Remember the Aluminaire House, the 1930s-era modernist home proposed to move to Sunnyside Gardens, prompting a neighborhood showdown? We know it’s not coming to Sunnyside. And now Curbed reports that it may leave New York altogether. The new location in question is Palm Springs, California, the birthplace of one of the Aluminaire House architects, Albert Frey. The mayor is actually attempting to raise $600,000 to disassemble, transport, and reassemble the historic house, placing it near the Palm Springs Art Museum. (Apparently many of Frey’s works are already on display around Palm Springs.) Well, it’s nice to know someone wants the house!
It’s going to be a bad weekend on the 7 line for Queens residents. The Sunnyside Post sends the alert that the MTA is suspending 7 train service between Times Square-42nd Street and 74th Street/Roosevelt Ave from 2 am Saturday through 4:30 am Monday. The closure is part of ongoing construction that’s unfortunately expected to last until 2017.
There will be two free shuttle services for the weekend. The first is running from Vernon Blvd/Jackson Ave to Queensboro Plaza, stopping at Hunters Point Ave, 45th Road/Court House Square and Queens Plaza. The other is running between Queensboro Plaza and 74th Street/Broadway. It will stop at 33rd Street, 40th Street, 46th Street, 52nd Street, 61st Street/Woodside and 69th Street.