Sunnyside Gardens residents don’t want aluminum house in neighborhood

Renderings courtesy of Campani and Schwarting Architects

Sunnyside Gardens residents and local officials are saying no to an aluminum exhibition house and residential development looking for a new site to call home.

The Aluminaire House – an all-aluminum, historic home built in 1931 for a New York City exhibition – is proposed to be relocated to the corner of 39th Avenue and 50th Street in the landmarked district of Sunnyside Gardens. The house would be surrounded by an eight-unit apartment building which property owner Harry Otterman is also looking to construct.

Although architects Michael Schwarting and Frances Campani of Campani and Schwarting Architects, who run the Aluminaire House Foundation, believe the house would be a “positive contribution to the cultural milieu of the historic district,” many of those opposed say the structure is out of character with the neighborhood’s brick homes.

“The Aluminaire House is wrong for our neighborhood and quite frankly the town housing is all inconsistent with the historic district,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, who lives in the area.

“The consistency in the colors and in the materials is essential to what creates that sense of place, and while the Aluminaire House is terrific and interesting, it is not the right neighborhood [for it].”

The nearly 23’ wide by 29’ deep aluminum house was dismantled and is currently in storage on Long Island. If constructed in Sunnyside Gardens, it would serve as a museum and gallery open to the public.

Yet, many residents do not believe a museum is appropriate for the area and would only promote vandalism.

The Sunnyside Gardens property was previously used as an outdoor nursery and playground, one of the few Depression Era play areas left in the city. The property was sold in 2007 after it became a part of the historic district. Residents hope to bring the park back to life to be used by future generations.

“The playground has been used by the community for generations, just as it was intended, and it can continue to serve for the community as a play area and community garden,” said Herbert Reynolds of the Sunnyside Gardens Preservation Alliance.  “It [the Aluminaire House] would deserve a far better future with more forethought than to force it upon our neighborhood where it’s not only out of place, but it’s simply unwanted by the great majority of our neighbors.”

The City’s Historic Districts Council met with Campani and Schwarting Architects on September 12 and did not support the plan. On September 19, Community Board 2 voted against the proposal to bring both the Aluminaire house and the residential development to the neighborhood stating it “contrasts to the surrounding community.”

Although the opposition from the community has been heard, Schwarting said they are still looking to bring the Aluminaire House to the area and will wait to see what the Landmarks Preservation Commission decides on October 15.

“We understand the community is concerned, but I feel that everyone had already made up their mind and I was not able to convince them that this will be a very positive contribution to the neighborhood visually and culturally,” said Schwarting. “It will not be an ugly duckling that everyone is worried about once it is there. We will see what Landmarks thinks.”