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The Civic Scene: Klein Farm should be left as is: Task Force

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The Klein Farm Task Force is a coalition of civic associations in Fresh Meadows which is opposed to plans for selling the farm to a developer who would build a couple of dozen houses on the property. One developer had wanted to build 22 two-family houses on the two-acre plot, but he withdrew his offer probably because he was badly lambasted in the newspaper due to his past activities and because the property is in a preservation district. It cannot be developed in the way he wanted and needed public hearings.

The Klein Farm Task Force met on May 6 and stuck with its previous stance that the farm should remain a farm. It is reputed to be the last operating farm in New York City. The property has been vacant since Klein’s son moved out of the fine colonial house about a month ago. It is interesting that someone has cleaned the leaves, trash and fallen limbs so that the property looks even better than it did as a farm.

Someone has plowed the land along 73rd Avenue and 195th Street where they used to grow spices. Farmer Klein actually owns farmland on Long Island and most of the food sold on the famous farmstand had come from there. Klein has a problem, though, because he had a historic farm, grew food in the front and back and had the farm stand, he had a large tax rebate; if all this stays closed then the taxes on the property should skyrocket.

Jim Trent from the Queens County Farm Museum on Little Neck Parkway told the gathering that a land trust had offered the farmer $2 million for the property. The original developer reputedly had offered the farmer $4 million but then probably realized that the preservation district prevented the kind of development he wanted. Considering that only 20 percent of the property can be developed, after a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure public hearing, it is not worth that much.

Trent would like the land trust to buy the property, give it to the Queens County Farm Museum and use it to grow and sell food there. This is what the Klein Farm Task Force would like. Perhaps it could be made into a museum.

Councilman David Weprin and his assistant Jeff Gottlieb have been working with the civics. Weprin has filed to make the Klein Farm a historic site. However, the Landmarks Preservation Council takes its time. Councilman Mark Weprin, state Sens. Frank Padavan and Daniel Hevesi also have offered assistance. If anyone has any suggestions or would like to help, please call Councilman David Weprin’s District Office at 465-8202.

The Klein Farm Task Force is worried that if somehow, however unlikely, the Preservation District gets destroyed, then a domino effect could take place and developers could build all over the area, thus destroying the bucolic nature of the community. The Preservation District was created in 1975 by members of the Fresh Meadows Tenants Association because the former owner of the property wanted to cut down the wonderful oak grove and build apartment houses there. Developers then could do things to the commercial property in the Fresh Meadows Development — what, we do not know.

The Klein Farm Task Force keeps alert as rumors fly. The member civics are the Civic Association of Utopia Estates, Inc.; Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic, Inc.; Fresh Meadows Tenants Association, Inc.; Flushing Heights Civic Association, Inc.; Hillcrest Estates Civic Association, Inc.; and the West Cunningham Park Civic Association, Inc., plus Jim Trent of the Queens County Farm Museum and Jim Driscoli of the Queens Historical Society. All the members of these groups are volunteers who labor for their community.

Good and Bad News of the Week

Community Board 9 has asked the City Planning Commission to downzone parts of Richmond Hill to prevent developers from buying the quaint Queen Anne Victorian houses and from tearing them down to build bland three-story box houses. Richmond Hill Historic Society President Nancy Cataldi believes the city has to protect the current historic houses from developers.

People in Richmond Hill love their old houses with the picturesque porches. They want this area zoned down from R3-1 to R2. Incidentally, the Fresh Meadows area where the civic associations exist, is zoned R2 and has one-family homes. The Fresh Meadows Development is zoned R4 but was built tastefully with lots of open space and lots of trees between the apartment houses.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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