Parks Dept. seeks to buy Cornell farm

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City Parks Department officials and Nassau County leaders are trying to determine how to appraise an historic Little Neck farm on the border of Queens and the Long Island county before the city can make an offer to buy the property, a Parks Department spokeswoman said.

The farm, located along Little Neck Parkway, was built by the Cornell family in the 1820s and is now owned by the Patrey family. The city has been eyeing buildings for potential landmarks at the site and Parks officials have been attempting to negotiate with the Patrey family to buy the farm and preserve it as city park space.

But the farm straddles the border between Little Neck and Nassau County, so the city is currently trying to determine how the 1.7-acre farm should be appraised, said Abigail Lootens, a spokeswoman for the Historic House Trust, a nonprofit that works with Parks to protect houses of historical significance.

"We're talking with Nassau about how to appraise a property that is in two counties," she said. "It's the last working farm, an important piece of the city."

Lootens said the city would preserve the site as park space, which the Queens County Farm Museum would use for additional programming, including activities, events and showing city children how a farm is operated.

A spokeswoman for the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission said the city is also reviewing buildings at the site — including the greenhouse, farmhouse and barn — to determine their eligibility.

The commission wrote the Patrey family last fall in an effort to designate the farmhouse a landmark, but the owner had noted that the building had received multiple additions and was in poor condition.

Ken Patrey, the farm's owner, decided to sell the property after his father, who married into the Cornell family and ran a nursery business on the farm, died in 2003. Patrey could not be reached for comment.

Borough elected officials and community activists said the farm, which was part of a large Colonial dominion deeded to the Cornell family by the British crown, was a preservation priority.

"This is something that the borough president believes should be preserved," said Dan Andrews, a spokesman for Borough President Helen Marshall. "It's just been an issue of getting both sides out there to see what's involved."

He said no money has been allocated for the farm's purchase in next year's city budget because the property has not yet been assessed.

Kevin Wolfe, the Douglaston-Little Neck Historical Society president, said the group included the farm last fall on a list of priority sites to preserve in the neighborhood.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 6:39 pm, October 10, 2011
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