Brick Houses, Winding Paths and Unexpected Sharp Elbows
Photographs by Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times
By JEFF VANDAM
Published: December 31, 2006
The 16-block enclave of Sunnyside Gardens in western Queens, a co-operative garden community built in the mid-1920s and home to about 8,000 people, has always had a close-knit feel.
That closeness was built into its master plan, which called for modest, two-story brick houses and the occasional apartment building separated by shaded, intimate walkways. Among those who strolled along these paths was the pioneering urban historian Lewis Mumford, one of the original co-operators.
Yet in recent weeks, some of the talk in Sunnyside Gardens has turned sour over the subject of whether the community should be designated a historic district, a move that would protect it from future changes.
Community leaders have been working for four years to win the designation, and their efforts finally seem ready to pay off. The city's Landmarks Preservation Commission is poised to schedule an initial hearing on the subject. In response, however, some residents have begun to argue against the change, on the ground that it would spur unwanted gentrification and thus force out the very people who give Sunnyside Gardens its special character. These opponents say they are getting considerable flak from their neighbors.