By Bob Harris
On Oct. 23, representatives of civic associations in Fresh Meadows met with representatives of their local legislators to discuss what they should do to preserve the Klein Farm on 73rd Avenue and 195th Street.
This farm, which operates a fresh produce farm stand during the summer and fall, is the last operating farm in Queens, and probably New York City. The problem is that the farm is part of the Fresh Meadows development parcel of land which is zoned R 4 — only homes up to 4 feet high could be built there. The one- and two-story private homes surrounding the property are zoned R 2.
The civic association leaders present were Monte Shwartz and myself from the West Cunningham Park Civic Association, Tami Hirsch and Maria DeIocentiis from the Civic Association of Utopia Estates, and Jim Gallagher, Fresh Meadows Homeowners. The civics decided to create the Klein Farm Task Force which would represent some 3,000 homeowners and tenants. State Senators Frank Padavan and Dan Hevesi are being informed of their activities as will the elected councilman who will occupy Morton Povman’s seat.
The discussion by the members of the Klein Farm Task Force centered on the Special Planned Community Preservation District created in 1974. The then-owner of the Fresh Meadows Development wanted to tear down the magnificent oak trees in the Oak Grove and build apartment houses. The community responded with the preservation district. Under Department of City Planning regulations, no sale or change in the property structure can be undertaken without a full public hearing by our Community Board 8 and a City Planning Commission decision, subject to City Council review.
If a builder could break the preservation district then all the open space in all the two properties could possibly be developed. This could destroy the bucolic nature of the greater community. David Weprin has noted that only about 20 percent of land in the Fresh Meadows Development and the Klein Farm has apartment buildings on it. This could be a bonanza for a ruthless developer. This would also threaten other preservation districts in New York City, and could lower the quality of life in many areas of New York City. Look at how many large buildings were built in Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan.
The Klein Farm Task Force would like to have landmark status for the farm. This would prevent any disruption to the two properties. Jim Trent expressed interest in looking into the ability of the Trust For Public Land buying the Klein Farm and then perhaps leasing it back to the Farm Museum. Food grown at the Farm Museum could then be sold at the historic Klein Farm. This would maintain the historic rural continuity of Queens. The Klein Farm could then possibly become a museum.
During the summer the owner and the developer were turned down at the City Planning Commission when they went to inquire if they could develop the Klein Farm “as of right.” We don’t know their plans. The Klein Farm Task Force is examining all options, securing information and seeking allies.
Hopefully we can conserve our history.
GOOD NEWS OF THE WEEK
Flying the flag of the United States has become a symbol of our nation, our patriotism and our unity. Hopefully, displaying the flag will draw us closer as one people no matter our national origin, race, creed or religion.
BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK
Various neighborhood in Manhattan are concerned about unbridled development which will affect their quality of life. People around New York University are concerned about development. People on the East Side are concerned about a 440-foot tower proposed by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. A zoning change would be required to build this higher and bulkier building. There has to be a balance between building a new modern medical center and the impact that the bulk and height would have on the traffic and shadows created on the surrounding residential community. Why must buildings get bigger and bigger? We need light, air and greener.