Today local pols, the Department of Transportation, Sunnyside Shines and Community Board Two cut the ribbon on Sunnyside’s second public plaza to open this year. Lowery Plaza, located at 40th Street and Queens Boulevard under the elevated 7, now features plantings, tables and chairs. In the future, Sunnyside Shines will host neighborhood performances and programming here.
Not far away, Bliss Plaza opened this summer at 46th Street and Queens Boulevard. It’s a similar design with new, leveled concrete, tables and chairs, granite blocks and planters.
Development over Sunnyside Yards may not just be something people vaguely talk about every few years. Capital New York reports that Amtrak is considering development, and may seek out investors by next spring for building opportunities. Amtrak executives have also discussed the possibility with Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo, with a spokesman for the mayor saying the site could potentially accommodate de Blasio’s affordable housing initiative.
Of course, there are still a lot of “what ifs.” Amtrak is evaluating many of its properties and isn’t looking to develop right away, instead seeking out partners to work on development strategies. And it’s still unclear how, exactly, development would look over the sprawling 167 acres of rail yards — any building strategy will be extremely complex and also require collaboration with the MTA. But as Capital says, “Still, the chairman’s comments were by far the most aggressive made on the topic by an executive at the company and were read as a significant moment for those thinking about the potential the Sunnyside Yards hold.”
This month, Sunnyside Gardens turned 90 years old and this weekend the Sunnyside Gardens Preservation Alliance is celebrating. On Saturday, October 25th the Alliance plans to unveil three historic district signs displaying maps of the full neighborhood and then throw a birthday reception. City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer will kick off the event, beginning at 1 pm on Skillman Avenue and 46th Street. The first map will be unveiled there, then Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan will unveil a sign on 47th Street and Assemblywoman Margaret Markey will unveil a sign in front of Sunnyside Park. Borough President Melinda Katz and Landmarks Preservation Foundation Chair Christina Davis will also be in attendance. The stroll through Colonial Court should wrap around 2 pm with a birthday reception. All the details, plus some history on the innovative housing complex, live here.
Photo via the Sunnyside Gardens Preservation Alliance
Lowery Plaza, a proposed public plaza underneath the 40th Street subway station in Sunnyside, will open up tomorrow. Sunnyside Post spotted workers in the space removing an artist commission previously on display there. Next up is a power washing job, then finally setting up planters, tables and chairs. The Lowery Plaza will look much like Bliss Plaza (pictured above), which opened this summer at 46th Street. The Lowery Plaza was also scheduled to open this summer, but according to Sunnyside Post the DOT had a contract to keep the artist commission up until October.
A ribbon cutting ceremony will take place here tomorrow at 1 pm. Once open, Sunnyside Shines will be in charge of programming and upkeep of the plaza, just like the organization has been doing at Bliss Plaza.
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.