The Cause

Painting of idealized Cautley Garden credited to Ann Cofta

We are building a coalition of residents, community gardeners and land preservationists to ensure that the historic lot, the former Phipps Apartment playground, on the corner of 39th avenue and 50th street in Sunnyside, Queens is not commercially or residentially developed upon.  Our idea is to acquire the land and transform it into a community garden and general commons in the middle of a neighborhood desperately in need of public green spaces.  

Sunnyside and Woodside are underserved in terms of public parks offering gardening opportunities and outdoor common grounds for relaxation and socialization.  Most of the parks in the neighborhood are concrete playgrounds serving primarily schoolchildren or private parks requiring membership.

We are proposing an open garden to all and a truly public green space in an otherwise crowded and dense urban environment.  

We started out as a group of residents interested in community gardening on the historic corner lot but after having learned of the imminent development proposal on it, we've since been gathering storm as an opposition movement.  If we can appeal to the the majority of the community we can reclaim what is rightfully ours (by Law, no less).

The corner lot is a national Landmark -- the NYC Landmarks Preservation Committee controls what becomes of it.  Under the law, we, as residents of the community, have a right to determine its future.  It is now that time for us to exercise this use of law for our own benefit.  If we allow this current proposal to go through unchanged (especially without sufficient public involvement), the developers and landowner will benefit at our expense.  The future of the neighborhood is at stake here.

We feel that the proposed aluminare/housing development is ill-suited for the neighborhood and fails to meet the three criteria for development in the Historic District of Sunnyside Gardens: the design is completely unlike anything in the district, the materials are not those used in the district (aluminum, steel, glass), the massing (size) is taller than the adjacent building and the development is far denser than the 28% footprint that Sunnyside Gardens in famous for.

Please join our campaign in opposing any development proposal contrary to the aims of our community!  


Sunnyside Gardens Historic Lot today:


    In response to the post-World War I housing shortage and  the overcrowded tenement-style developments in design at the time, many urban denizens wanted to reconnect with nature.  During the 1920's Sunnyside, Queens became home to one of the nation's first planned garden-communities. During this time, Marjorie Sewell Cautley, a visionary landscape architect,  created Sunnyside Gardens to accommodate contemporary city-life with an alternative living arrangement.  She planned the Sunnyside Gardens community to preserve the natural landscape as much as possible while providing people with only modest incomes a chance to live in communal areas with access to common greenspaces to all for gardening and repose.  “A park,” Cautley wrote, “is not a rectangular bit of turf and trees with pincushion flower beds and warning signs to keep off the grass.” Rather a “large, winding strip of land” with wide pavements on either side, flanked by shade trees that would maximize outdoor activity. 

    In keeping true to Cautley's legacy we strive to preserve the corner lot between 39th avenue and 50th street on the border of Sunnyside and Woodside, Queens from any future commercial, housing or otherwise private development. Instead we wish to create a community garden and common green open to the public.

Photo courtesy of  the Marjorie Sewell Cautley papers, #4908. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library

Below are photos of the old Phipps Nursery from the 1940's showing vibrate community land use and masterful urban planning.  We wish to re-utilize this historic lot as a community space and preserve the existing structures as important Reform Era relics of Sunnyside Gardens.  


e-mail us at cautleygarden [at] gmail [dot] com

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