By Bill Parry
With London Plane trees towering above them, City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and members of the Sunnyside Gardens Preservation Alliance held a street co-naming ceremony at 45th Street and Skillman Avenue to honor the life and legacy of renowned landscape architect Marjorie Sewell Cautley. Cautley was part of the group that designed Sunnyside Gardens in the mid-1920s, and the trees she had planted more than 90 years ago have become the pride of the community.
“This is even more special because it is relatively rare to name a street in honor of a woman,” Van Bramer said. “What a historic gem our neighborhood is and I consider myself extremely lucky to live here.”
The 16-block area, with more than 600 buildings, began construction in 1924 as a way to alleviate stifling overcrowding in the tenements of Manhattan. Only 28 percent of each block was developed, with the rest set aside for green community space.
Marjorie Sewell Cautley was responsible for the neighborhood’s trees, plants, gardens, courtyards and roads. She was also responsible for the landscape design for the nearby Phipps Garden Apartments in the 1930s.
Joining the group on “Marjorie Sewell Cautley Way” Saturday was her last remaining relative, granddaughter Lee Hill, who traveled from California for the event.
“I was so pleasantly surprised,” Hill said. “I never knew my grandmother because I was born a year after she died. It was a real privilege walking through the neighborhood and learning about it.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr