Residents, Pols Oppose Klein Farm Sale

Councilman David Weprin reiterated his and the Fresh Meadows communitys opposition to a developers proposal to buy and build homes on what was formerly the last private farm in New York City.
Standing at the edge of the front lawn of Klein Farm where a boarded, brick home was the only reminder that fruits and vegetables were once sold there the councilman railed a plan by S&W Development Group, which is in contract talks to purchase the property from Audrey Realty, to build 22 three-family homes.
"The Klein Task Force and the community will fight any proposed development in the form it currently is," said Weprin, referring to the group he formed to protect the farm land and uphold the neighborhoods status as a special preservation district.
The councilman called S&Ws plan virtually identical to one proposed two years ago by notorious developer Thomas Huang, a convicted felon credited with destroying downtown Flushings RKO Keith Theatre. Huang wanted to build 23 two-family homes on the 20,000-square-foot property, but his proposal was rejected by the Community Board.
Weprin noted that S&W would also have to pass a ULURP process, which involves Community Board 8s approval.
Concern about development at Klein Farm first arose when the owner, John Klein, sold the land to Audrey Realty, last November. The sale raised eyebrows because of suspicions that companys principal, John Huang, is connected to Thomas Huang. Though Audrey Realty has not verified the connection, Weprin said a principal at S&W confirmed Thomas Huangs involvement in the current sale negotiations.
The $4.3 million that Audrey Realty paid for the farm also turned heads, said Weprin, since it was more than $1 million over the market price. The farms sale listing states that Audrey paid $1.8 million in cash and received the additional $2.5 million through a non-conventional mortgage from Klein.
Weprin questioned whether Audrey Realty would have been able to obtain a conventional mortgage from a bank, at the $4.3 million sale price. Most banks, he said, would have balked after comparing their own property assessment to the inflated sale price.
The councilman noted that he has contacted the Department of Buildings to remind Audrey Realty of their obligations under a special purpose district and their need to file permits before starting any work or demolition. Dumpsters were noticed at the site last week, but Weprin said only interior work on the house was being done.
The councilman did note that at some point the community will have to consider the future of the farm, but stated he would support the neighborhoods wishes to prevent or, at the very least, restrict development.
"[Fresh Meadows] schools cannot accommodate the additional children and there is also a parking concern," he said.
Before its sale, Klein Farm was one of only four farms left in New York City, three of which are in Queens. The other two in the borough are the Queens County Farm in Little Neck and a four-acre farm on Main Street that the students of John Bowne High School use.
The Fresh Meadows farm has been around since 1895. Jim Trent, the president of Queens County Farm Museum, stated that efforts had been made in the past to landmark it, but they were turned down by the Landmarks Preservation Commission because the owner did not support the designation.
Some in the community would like to see the land bought by the city and then incorporated as an extension of the Queens County Farm. Weprin said he has asked staff members of the City Councils Finance Committee to examine the feasibility.
Trent said the extension would help them accommodate school children who come and learn about agriculture at the farm, which, he noted, is the number one class trip location in Queens.
"We cant afford to lose our connection to our agrarian past," said Trent.

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