A privately-owned Depression Era playground in Sunnyside will become public parkland again

sunnyside park
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A private lot in Sunnyside will soon be purchased by the city to create a public park for Queens residents.

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer announced in a press conference on March 19 that the site at 50-02 39th Ave. will be purchased for $3 million after going through a rezoning process to turn it into public parkland.

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.

For years, residents have been calling on the city to buy back the land and turn it into a park. It’s currently fenced off and not accessible.

“The Phipps property holds an important place in Sunnyside history, but for too long the space has been overlooked and inaccessible,” said Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. “Parks is thrilled to move forward on purchasing and restoring this parcel, and give it back to the community for their enjoyment.  With the support from our dedicated elected officials, and a little extra TLC, we can create a viable public space.”

In 2013, property owner Harry Otterman proposed relocating the Aluminaire House – an all-aluminum, historic home built in 1931 for a New York City exhibition – to the current site. In addition, a total of eight apartment buildings would be constructed around the house.

Community Board 2 and the city’s Historic Districts Council both shot down the plan. Recently, the City Planning Commission certified the Unified Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) application and the rezoning will go before Community Board 2. When the rezoning is complete, the city will officially purchase the property with money allocated by Van Bramer.

“This rezoning will be a great victory for Sunnyside and Woodside,” Van Bramer said. “Public space is a vital component of healthy, dynamic communities and we have been fighting for years to acquire this site. Ensuring that this private land is returned to public park space is really important to me and to the Sunnyside community. I am proud to have secured the $3 million in funding for this and am thrilled to see the community’s vision for this site start to come to life.”

Congressman Joseph Crowley, who was also at the press conference, said “it would be tragic to lose this historic site to private developers, and with each step we take toward restoring Phipps, I’m reminded of the concerted community effort that has brought us this far.”

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