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Klein farm could bloom again under new plan

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But after World War II, the accumulated 93 acres gradually dwindled to two, profits fell, and by April 2002 the lot was barren and vacated. In November, John Klein Jr. sold the property to a Queens realty company for $4.3 million.Still, though the end of an era, the farmland remains fertile -- a fact that brought the woman who now leases it to pose a question: Why not bring it back?This time, Wei Yang said, there could be flowers, vegetables and even pumpkins for Halloween."(The farm) used to be very pretty. I just want to keep something beautiful for the community," she said inside the two-story brick house where she oversees 12 children at her Fresh Meadows Day Care Center.There are only two problems, Yang and her assistant said: "It's too big" and "We don't know how to plant." So she is asking the residents for help, either in the form of labor or money, with the promise that in exchange the garden would be theirs.To show she is serious, Yang has already hired a crew to till the land surrounding her day care. By last Thursday, a man in a front-loader had finished digging up the back and was working on the side yard. Yang, who hopes to renew her lease with the owner, Audrey Realty, when it expires next year, said it was costing her about $2,500 for the 10 days of work.Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis), a longtime advocate of preserving the farm, said he thought Yang's plans were "something that would gain strong community support."Indeed, once they got over a bout of suspicion that Yang may have ties with her landlord, Audrey Realty - whose vice president, John Huang, is thought to be related to Tommy Huang - civic leaders seemed to be onboard."It sounds like a win-win situation," said Jim Gallagher, president of the Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association. "We'd be more than willing to work with her."Gallagher suggested recruiting agriculture students from nearby John Bowne High School to maintain the garden as they had done in the past with the Klein Farm.But Jim Trent, president of the Queens County Farm Museum, warned that Yang's idea was only a temporary solution since she did not own the land."It's all short term," he said. "The owner wouldn't spent that kind of money and settle for just a day care and garden."Instead, Trent has been pressing the City Council to buy the land and allow his Glen Oaks museum to turn it into a park -- an option that Council members favor but also have reservations about, predicting that Audrey Realty would ask for too much.Neither Audrey Realty nor John Huang could be reached for comment. Most in the area certainly agree that Yang's proposal beats the one they faced four years ago when Tommy Huang was on the verge of buying the property and erecting 22 two-and three-family homes. Fortunately for residents who desperately want the Klein Farm preserved the lot falls into a special zoning district that prohibits development unless approved by the City Council's Land Use Committee. Tommy Huang, who solidified his notorious reputation when he was convicted in 1999 of spilling oil and ignoring asbestos contamination in the basement of Flushing's historic RKO Keith's Theater, backed out of the $4 million deal in March 2002.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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