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Activists fight for future of Woodside Triangle

An odd island at the convergence of three streets known as the Woodside Triangle may soon end five decades as a de facto park and become another home unless activists in the neighborhood can raise the cash to buy it from the developer.

The 1,265-square-foot lot at the junction of 34th Avenue and 59th and 60th streets has been used by residents as a park since 1959, when Mayor Richard Wagner planted a tree there. Now the owner is poised to begin construction.

At the time the land was owned by a Carvel’s establishment across the street. But when the Carvel’s went under, the triangle changed hands a number of times before ending up with Sano Construction, which first applied to build a two-story home there in 2004.

About two dozen protesters and City Council candidates Brent O’Leary, David Rosasco and Jimmy Van Bramer booed a Sano dump truck as it rattled past the corner Tuesday afternoon. The driver briefly looked down at the crowd and shook his head.

“All of a sudden they put up a chain link fence and we got nervous,” said resident Marion Molno, who has led the effort to stop the development of the triangle starting with an appearance at Community Board 2 in March 2008.

She said neighbors contested the property owner’s application at the city Board of Standards and Appeals, but the agency ultimately granted the variance to make a home on the irregular lot.

“The owner wants to build a dollhouse on this little piece of land,” Rosasco said.

Activists have said Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) tried to get the city Parks Department interested in the land, but it balked after the owner asked for $300,000. Gioia’s office was not available for comment Tuesday.

The boards blocking public view of the lot went up Sept. 2, organizers said. Sano Construction has a valid permit filed with the city Department of Buildings to proceed with construction.

The number listed on a building permit for Sano’s owner, Vincenzo Oppedisano, was disconnected Tuesday afternoon.

Corporate attorney Brent O’Leary, who is also running for Gioia’s seat, said Oppedisano told him Tuesday over the phone that he would be willing to sell the land for $300,000.

“We’ve got to move quick,” he said, hoping the Parks Department might still be willing to contribute $175,000.

The demonstrators got some moral support from state Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-Jackson Heights), who lamented the potential loss of the green space in the neighborhood.

“From a state point of view, there’s not much I can do, except support the Council member,” he said.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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