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Deepdale Gardens, Little Neck's largest housing co-op, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year with a street fair scheduled for Saturday.
The community of two-story red brick apartments with tidy gardens and tree-lined streets was completed in 1953 and today houses more than 3,000 residents, said Pat Kehoe, vice president of the Deepdale Gardens Corporation and chairwoman of the anniversary committee.
Saturday's celebration for co-op residents, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., is set to feature children's rides, hot dogs, a deejay and the presentation of a proclamation by state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose). The fair will take place on a closed-off portion of 251st Street between 61st and 63rd avenues.
Originally advertised as "A Two Story Garden Apartment Community that's 'TOPS' in Living at Bottom Prices," Deepdale Gardens was one of many planned residences built in suburban America to house GIs and their young families inexpensively after World War II.
The community features one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments and six playgrounds over 63 acres between Marathon and Little Neck parkways and stretches from part of 57th Avenue to 63rd Avenue.
A brochure printed in the early 1950s describes the simple amenities offered by the apartments, including "scientific kitchens," which Kehoe guessed referred to the newfangled electric stoves and refrigerators that came with the homes.
About 200 of the co-op's original residents still live in the community, and several who grew up there have moved back and purchased homes as adults, said Kehoe.
The enduring appeal of Deepdale Gardens, she said, lies in its "country-like atmosphere ... the quietness, the accessibility to all the highways and the railroad."
The original war veterans who occupied the apartments were largely Jewish and Italian, but today's residents are a mix of many ethnic groups with a large Asian component, said Kehoe.
A state program for Deepdale Gardens' naturally occurring retirement community, or NORC, was established two years ago as a service for the co-op's many older residents.
The program, Deepdale Cares, provides a nurse on duty three days a week along with two social workers, a clerk and an intern on site. The co-op contributes $25,000 a year to the program.
Like any community, Deepdale Gardens has had its share of happy times and sad chapters.
Weight Watchers, the $2 billion-a-year diet empire, was started by Deepdale resident Jean Nidetch in 1961. The first Weight Watchers meetings were held in Nidetch's apartment in the co-op.
The establishment of Community School District 26 in 1969 gave the co-op another selling point, with many families answering ads that featured the "SD 26" label.
Deepdale Gardens held a mortgage-burning party in 1994 to celebrate the completion of bank payments on the land, marking the community's fulfillment of shareholder ownership.
But on Sept. 11, 2001, two members of the Deepdale community, Mary Rubina Sperando and Robert Speisman, were killed in the terrorist attacks.
Sperando, who was single, died in the World Trade Center. Speisman was on American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon; his parents live in Deepdale Gardens.
A candlelight vigil was held a year after the attacks to dedicate the co-op's Sept. 11 memorial at the corner of Little Neck Parkway and 255th Street.
Through it all, Deepdale Gardens has remained an extremely sought-after place to live for people seeking a corner of serenity in a bustling city.
"We do not have to advertise," said Kehoe.
Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2003 Community Newspaper Group
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