Sunnyside Gardens designated a historic district

Landmarks unanimously designated despite community controversy. On June 26, 2007, Landmarks voted to designate Sunnyside Gardens, Sunnyside, Queens, as a historic district. A planned community designed by Clarence Stein and Henry Wright in the 1920s to house working class families, Sunnyside Gardens’ distinctive characteristics include its large landscaped courtyards and its mixture of single- and multi-family buildings. It was one of the first planned communities built by a private limited-dividend corporation, and, as a non-car dependant suburb, boasted accessible public transportation and commercial establishments within walking distance. 4 CityLand 44 (April 15, 2007).

At the designation hearing, residents voiced strong opinions both in support and in opposition to landmarking. Some alleged that the controversy had led to spying and harassment between members of the community. Many residents argued that the City already adequately protected the buildings and landscaping by its zoning as a Special Planning Community Preservation District, while others argued that the zoning imposed an unnecessary burden, or did not sufficiently protect the community. 4 CityLand 59 (May 15, 2007).

At its meeting to consider designation, in front of a full-to-capacity room, Landmarks praised the district’s architecture and historical significance. While audience members held signs reading, “Do Not Landmark Sunnyside Gardens,” commissioners called the district a “triumph of the ensemble, rather than individual buildings,” and “the architectural quality we are looking for.” Landmarks also discussed the possibility of establishing rules, in conjunction with the community, specific to Sunnyside Gardens, much like the Fieldston Historic District in the Bronx.

If approved by City Council, the 600-building Sunnyside Gardens Historic District will become the seventh largest historic district in the city, and the largest in Queens.

LPC: Sunnyside Gardens Historic District (LP-2258) (June 26, 2007).

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