A National Historic Landmark? That’s Us (or Should Be!)

Professional staff of the National Park Service have informed our Preservation Alliance that they are interested in naming Sunnyside Gardens a National Landmark. This would raise our National Register Historic District to the highest national designation. You can help achieve this honor by e-mailing Neighborhood@SunnysideGardens.us.

With slight variations from our New York City Historic District, the National Register Historic District more closely adheres to the boundaries of Sunnyside Gardens and Phipps Garden Apartments as originally developed. (The two omissions from the original plan are the great walled Parking Court on 39th Avenue, which Fred Trump demolished to construct Sunnyside Towers, and the commercial building on Queens Boulevard at the northwest corner of 47th Street.)

The distinction would finally acknowledge the first achievement of the farsighted housing advocates of the Regional Planning Association of America, led by Clarence Stein, who made this planned community the example for others to follow, all with the aim of building housing that was affordable to working families. Dr. Dorothy Fue Wong, a champion of Stein’s work, has spurred the initiative that has recognized his other legacies as National Landmarks—Radburn in Fair Lawn, New Jersey; Chatham Village in Pittsburgh; Baldwin Hills Village in Los Angeles; and the three federal Greenbelt Towns of Greenbelt, Maryland; Greenhills, Ohio; and Greendale, Wisconsin.

Scarcely 3% of all sites on the National Register are elevated to National Landmark status, and the Borough of Queens is miserably under-represented, with only 4 individual Landmarks: the Flushing Quaker Meeting House, the Rufus King Manor in Jamaica, the Louis Armstrong House in Corona, and the Ralph Bunche House in Kew Gardens. A former Landmark, the Jacob Riis House in Richmond Hills, was destroyed in 1973.

Sunnyside Gardens would become Queens’ fifth National Landmark and its first National Historic Landmark District. But in past years, the National Parks Service declined to name Sunnyside Gardens a National Landmark, so this is by no means a sure thing.

As our local advocate, the Landmarks Preservation Commission can vouch for the significance and maintenance of our historic properties, so National Landmark designation imposes no added responsibilities on owners. We will need the support from our representatives in Washington.

Want to see Sunnyside Gardens become Queens’s first National Landmark Historic District? Tell us you’re interested in an e-mail to Neighborhood@SunnysideGardens.us.

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