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Klein Farm, one of the last family-owned, working farms in Queens until 2001, is still owned by a company connected to the notorious developer Tommy Huang despite reports several years ago that the firm was preparing to sell the property.
Audrey Reality, headed by Henry Huang, the son of Tommy Huang, is currently listed by the Office of the City Register as the owner of the property, at 194-15 73rd Ave. in Fresh Meadows.
Tommy Huang was convicted in 1999 of spilling oil in the landmarked RKO Keith’s Theatre in Flushing and, when Audrey Realty bought Klein Farm in 2003 for $2.3 million, it caused much consternation in the community, which feared the old farmhouse would be torn down to make way for private homes.
The story last left off with Huang trying to sell the property and ordering a day-care center that was previously operating there to vacate in 2009.
But it appears that never happened, leaving Audrey Realty’s intentions for the farm a question mark.
“Nothing’s going to happen [there] while I’m the city councilman,” Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) said recently, “unless it’s what the community wants.”
He said the owner has been quiet in recent years and Klein Farm seems to have fallen off the radar, but he remains committed to protecting the property should it come into question in the future.
Phone calls to Henry Huang were not returned.
Although the community had been pushing for the city Landmarks Preservation Commission to give Klein Farm landmark status, the LPC eventually evaluated the building and found that it did not rise to the level of a landmark because it lacked architectural significance.
Weprin said he was not sure landmarking Klein Farm was the best way to preserve the property in any case because it would prevent anything from being built there that the community might like.
In the meantime, Klein Farm is protected by its location in a special preservation district. No changes can be made to the property unless the City Planning Commission gives its approval.
Weprin said in the future he would still like to see Klein Farm return to the days when the farm stand was operating and the community could buy fresh produce there.
“We still would love to see it turned into a farm of some type,” he said.
It seems that desire is actually a partial reality: Klein Farm is now enjoying its current incarnation as another nursery center, which is preserving the land as a children’s farm and garden.
Preschool of America, which offers day care, after-school, art and music programs for children, operates one of its branches out of the farmhouse, holding a six-year lease at the location with an option to renew.
Li Lian, who said she is a provider at the Preschool of America’s “Farm House, Fresh Meadows” location and is listed on the organization’s Website as the primary contact for the Klein Farm center, said that before the nursery moved in the property was a mess, with weeds growing tall and trash strewn around.
She said when the day care center took over, it cleaned up the area.
“It’s good for the neighborhood,” she said.
Preschool of America’s owner said it plans to incorporate nature science programs into the children’s curriculum, and the center welcomes family and community events.
“[We] hope the community likes this idea and supports the project,” the owner said in an e-mail.
Preschool of America is in the process of adding new roof tile to the building and has future plans to fix the driveway and sidewalk, put up a new fence “and of course design beautiful landscaping,” the owner said.
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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