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The Civic Scene: Don’t develop Klein Farm, but preserve it as a museum

Back in 1895, Adam and Catherine Klein purchased 200 acres of land and started a farm off Black Stump Road. By 1936, the Klein family started to sell off some of their farm and built the current Manor House at 194-15 73rd Ave. Black Stump Road became 73rd Avenue.

On Nov. 4, 2003, Klein sold the last privately owned and operating farm to speculator Tommy Huang of Audrey Realty for $2.3 million and promised another $2 million when the new owners build on the property. This was more than the property had been appraised for.

In the next few years the property was sold a few times. This is called flipping. A property is sold over and over for a higher price each time so the value is raised. Usually flipped property is sold to family or friends so the price keeps going up.

The owners of Klein Farm went to the City Planning Commission to try to get it to say the farm was not part of the Fresh Meadows development. The development is a special preservation district. The area is zoned R-4, which is higher than the one-family R-2A or row-attached R-3-2 houses nearby. Huang sent expediters to the Department of City Planning to try to prove the farm was not part of the preservation district. But DCP ruled the Farm is part of the preservation district.

Back in the 1970s the then-owner of the Fresh Meadows development wanted to build apartment houses where the oak grove now stands. Currently there are summer concerts held in this magnificent grove. The Fresh Meadows Tenants Group had applied for and made the Fresh Meadows development a preservation district.

Klein Farm is supposed to be sold for $5.6 million Dec. 1 after the nursery school leaves. The lawyer buying the property is Robert Frischman, president of JD Realty, for a group called Fresh Meadows Jewish Development. We have no idea what they want to do with the property.

Sometimes a buyer will purchase a property, do things to it and say, “Oh, I didn’t know I couldn’t do that.” When civic leaders learned there was a buyer for Klein Farm, they spoke with state Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Little Neck), who wrote a letter to Frischman telling of the legal situation. He then wrote back saying his clients did not want to change the footprints of the property.

Then why did they buy it if not to try to develop it? The legal preservation district zoning of the property is in the public record, but some groups when they buy a specially zoned property do not seem to care and do what they want.

Some speculators will buy a property for an exorbitant price and say they will lose money unless they get the zoning changed. This is a subterfuge but sometimes the city Bureau of Standards and Appeals goes along with the con. The Queens Civic Congress has long supported its members who try to defend their zoning from such a subterfuge.

Over the years, when rumors about Klein Farm surfaced, all the civic groups, tenant groups, co-ops and historic groups, with the help of the QCC, legislators and political candidates, have held well-attended rallies or press conferences.

Residents want Klein Farm to be purchased by the city as a farm and museum and operated by the Queens Colonial Farm Museum. The city says it does not have the money at this time.

One problem with building on Klein Farm is that south of 73rd Avenue is the West Cunningham Park Civic Association. Since the owners of the Fresh Meadows development have tried to take control of some of the privately owned streets on their property, they have issued stickers to tenants. A person cannot park on these streets without a sticker or are subject to towing.

Often a community facility says it does not need parking, using a half-truth as an excuse when it really does need it. Then nearby private houses have their quality of life disrupted. Also, if Fresh Meadows Jewish Development succeeds in breaking the special preservation district, the owners of the Fresh Meadows development would probably try to build apartment houses on their property and thus ruin one of the finest urban housing developments in the city.

The Fresh Meadows community loves the bucolic ambience of the area. We want to keep it that way.

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