Today’s news:

The Civic Scene: Do not develop Klein Farm, but preserve it as a museum

The Fresh Meadows Community Coalition held a press conference in front of Klein Farm late last month with City Councilman Tony Avella (D−Bayside), a supporter of the civic associations and their homeowners. Area residents and many borough groups and individuals have long fought to bring back the farm, which was sold by the Klein family in 2001, as a working farm and museum.

The conference called by Avella was in response to the eviction notice given to the Apple Tree Day Care Center, which operates in the Manor House on the property. The original owners, Adam and Catherine Klein, bought the farm in 1895 for $3,600. The land was sold off over the years and the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. bought most of it to develop into an apartment community.

The farm’s final 2.2 acres were sold to Audrey Realty, owned by the Huang family, for reportedly more than $2 million, with another over $2 million going to the Klein family when the property was built upon. The problem was that in 1974, the Fresh Meadows Tenants Association had the whole Fresh Meadows Development made into a preservation district to protect the low−rise, residential apartments that had been built there and Oak Grove.

The land had been zoned R4 with the houses across 73rd Avenue zoned R2 and in 1961 recently changed to R2A. R4 areas can contain fairly tall buildings, but as a preservation district, there cannot be changes to the buildings or topography unless there is a series of ULURP public hearings. This last private farm in Queens was closed Nov. 4, 2003. Since then, the owners have been aching to build family homes on it. When they had their expediters go to the city Planning Commission, they were told Klein Farm was part of the Fresh Meadows Development, as shown on the zoning map as being R4 with a community preservation district designation known as PC.

It is hard to figure out who the owners of the farm are. Finally, the farm was rented to a nursery school to obtain income. When a church set up shop in the basement, it was told to leave because of the zoning and nursery school upstairs.

Last year, Councilman David Weprin (D−Hollis) discovered the property was being offered for sale as being zoned R4 with no mention of the PC designation. A quick rally was organized and soon the “for sale” signs came down. A similar rally had been organized in 2005. Neighbors watched over the property because they wanted it to be a landmark farm operated by the Queens Farm Museum.

The eviction notice sent to the day care center set off the need for a press conference on three days’ notice. The Memorial Day weekend was coming up and there was concern the farm owners would try something. The rumor was the owner was selling the property to a religious group that wanted to build a temple and school on the property.

The Greater Fresh Meadows Coalition is against breaking the special preservation district because of what might happen to the Fresh Meadows Development — plus, people want Klein Farm to become a farm and museum.

With only three days’ notice, about 50 people came to the press conference called by Avella. State Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D−Little Neck) came with his daughter, as did civic leader Bob Friedrich. David Weprin and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D−Whitestone) have been supporters in the past, but this event was set up too quickly for them and leaders such as Tammy Hirsch, Maria DiInnocentiis, Jeff Gottlieb, Jim Driscoll and Jackie Forestal. Connie Clausen and Tami Osherov were there, as were other leaders and interested neighbors.

We do not know what will happen next concerning Klein Farm and the Fresh Meadows Special Preservation District, but we are ready because we know who we are dealing with. Hopefully, we will have more notice prior to the next activity.

IRONIC EVENTS TAKING PLACE: If the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison is closed, many of the detainees would be moved to prisons in the United States.

Ironically, some officials say they do not want these dangerous people in their states even though many rural communities with few or no industries use prisons to boost their economy. Some towns build prisons to create jobs for their citizens. Upstate New York legislators constantly lobby to keep their prisons or mental hospitals open, although some may not be full.

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