Bunche House designated

Home designated cultural landmark, but community demands full historic district. On May 17, 2005, Landmarks held a public hearing and immediately voted to designate the neo-tudor style, single-family home at 115-24 Grosvenor Road in Kew Gardens as a cultural landmark since it was the home, from 1952 until his death in 1971, of Dr. Ralph Bunche. Dr. Bunche was appointed to the committee that oversaw the partition of Israel following the United Nations’ formation and, in this position, successfully negotiated an armistice agreement ending Israeli-Arab fighting in 1949. Dr. Bunche was greeted with a tickertape parade down Broadway and awarded the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize. For his continued work with the U.N., President Kennedy awarded Dr. Bunche the Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor.

Opponents of the single-site designation, including the Kew Gardens Civic Association president and chair, cautioned Landmarks that, if it “spot landmarked” Dr. Bunche’s home, the rest of Kew Gardens would remain at risk of being replaced with the oversized homes becoming prevalent in Queens. They argued that Dr. Bunche, who was on the board of the civic association, would have opposed making his home into a museum at the potential cost of losing Kew Garden’s other great homes. Urging Landmarks to forego a vote and act quickly to establish a Kew Gardens historic district, they argued that Dr. Bunche had chosen a neighborhood, not solely a house.

Closing the public hearing, Landmarks immediately acted to designate the home as a cultural landmark. Chair Robert Tierney noted that the “purpose was to designate a building to honor Dr. Bunche.” Commissioner Christopher Moore advised the civic association to use the designation as part of a justification for the establishment of a Kew Gardens historic district.

LPC: Ralph Bunche House, 115-24 Grosvenor Road (LP-2175) (May 17, 2005).

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