Huang still looking at Klein Farm

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Controversial Flushing developer Tommy Huang may still purchase and develop the historic Klein Farm in Fresh Meadows despite reports that he had given up on the contract, Huang’s lawyer and the owner of the farm said.

Meanwhile, interest in purchasing the property was rising among outside groups hoping to preserve the city’s last family-owned working farm and the possibility of landmark protection for the property was also progressing.

Huang, who lives in Douglaston, was “moving ahead” with plans to purchase the 2.2- acre parcel for housing development, according to Sheldon Lobel, Huang’s land use lawyer.

“He hasn’t changed his mind about buying this property,” Lobel said. A local paper reported last week that Huang planned to cancel the deal.

A secretary for Huang’s development company Monday said Huang had lost interest in the Klein farm.

“We have no interest to buy [it]. We don’t want to buy it,” the secretary said.

But John Klein Sr., owner of the farm, said Huang told him the deal was not yet completely dead.

“I spoke to him and he wants more time,” Klein said. “It’s up to me to make a decision. I said I’d wait a week.”

Huang originally planned to construct 22 two-family homes on the property, according to Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis).

But Huang faces a number of hurdles, including a zoning amendment that restricts development in the neighborhood, possibilities that the farm and the houses on it may become protected landmarks, and strong opposition from Weprin and organized community members.

The Landmarks Preservation Committee is evaluating the entire property, including a two-story brick house built in 1930, for landmark status, said Weprin, who met with committee officials Monday. Weprin said an official Landmarks photographer will visit the site this week. Weprin was “optimistic” that landmark status would be approved, but the decision may hinge on maintaining the farm-like setting that gives the property its historical character.

“The houses are historical in the sense of what they stand for: in this case, the last family-owned working farm in Queens,” Gottlieb said.

If the buildings receive landmark status, Huang and any other developer would be forbidden from altering them. Lobel said Huang may plan to preserve and incorporate the Klein farm home into part of his plans, perhaps as a centerpiece to the housing development.

Meanwhile, two non-profit organizations have expressed interest in purchasing and preserving the farm if the opportunity presents itself.

The Trust For Public Land, a national open space preservation organization, is interested in purchasing the Klein farm so that it can be maintained as an open space and working farm under the direction of the Queens County Farm Museum, spokesman Susan Clark said.

Another organization called Peconic Trust has also communicated an interest in the farm, said Jeff Gottlieb, an aide to Weprin.

Clark warned that any purchase by the Trust for Public Land was still only a possibility and would not occur in the immediate future.

“There are a lot of steps before we would be able to make an offer,” Clark said. “We have to see first if there is interest from the land owner.”

Klein said he could “go either way” in terms of selling to Huang vs. a nonprofit organization, but he noted that the Trust for Public Land had not contacted him with an offer.

Clark explained that if Klein was willing to sell to the trust, it Trust would have to procure an assessment before making any offers and then find sources for funding the purchase.

The 2.2-acre property is valued at between $1.3 million and $1.5 million, according to Vincent J. Gianelli, an appraiser for Du-rite Realty.

“We’re not sure yet where all the money would come from,” Clark said. “We would explore all the options.”

The Queens County Farm Museum was standing by its offer to take over and run farm operations even though the farm would probably not be profitable.

“We’re still willing to take it on even in a break-even situation,” said Queens County Farm Museum president Jim Trent. “Actually, we’re really quite excited about this. A couple of months ago we weren’t so sure that this could happen.”

While the future of the farm was still uncertain, he said prospects for preservation were “looking a lot better.”

Reach reporter Patricia Demchak by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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