To Save Historic Parkland for a Public Garden Park: Clarence Stein Park

We’re on track for a new public park at the border of Woodside and Sunnyside.

Since 2009, dedicated neighbors have worked together in a variety of ways to save the parkland at 39th Avenue and 50th Street and create a garden environment that’s open to the public. In 2013, we defended against a proposal to develop the property, winning a unanimous decision at the Landmarks Preservation Commission. In 2016, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer secured capital funding through the City Council for a sale to the Parks Department. The acquisition process is now under way, with Community Board 2 in unanimous support of a City park on the site. If successful, this park will provide a marvelous addition of green space that is desperately in demand in Western Queens.

This corner lot has special resonance within the Sunnyside Gardens Historic District. The land was purchased by the City Housing Corporation in 1924 when principal architect Clarence S. Stein and his colleagues began to design Sunnyside Gardens. Completing the planned community in 1928, City Housing sold the property to Phipps Houses, which built Phipps Garden Apartments, where Clarence Stein was again the architect. We've naturally chosen to honor Clarence Stein by naming the park for him.

At the top of this page, Google's high-angle street view beckons us into this 10,000 square foot space that for half a century was the “outdoor nursery” for children in Phipps Garden Apartments. Below, a photo from the late 1930s locates the two iconic Reform Era playground buildings that survive today, the largest ensemble of such structures in New York City: At the left edge is the open-air pavilion that shelters from sun and rain; at the right edge, behind the privet, the peaked roof houses the comfort station. Thanks to Kay Grimshaw, courtesy of Gerry Perrin. Above, Sunnyside artist Ann Cofta envisions the historic buildings in a garden-park-to-be.

Our Friends of Clarence Stein Park advocate a passive, quiet garden park, planted to attract native birds and butterflies, with pathways and benches: a tranquil repose to wander through, sit, and enjoy nature.

We are currently in the midst of a series of public hearings, and you can help. E-mail us at, and we'll keep you informed of our Friends movement. Then take some time to view other photos of the historic playground on our History page.

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Below, in August 2016, our Friends group staged our first rummage rally at the site, enhancing public awareness and enlisting dozens of new park supporters. Photos by Erin Williams, courtesy of Jeremy Ritz-Totten. Bottom, on a V.I.P. occasion, visiting U.S. Congressman Joseph Crowley is welcomed by City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, Assemblywoman Marge Markey, and generations of park hopefuls. Photo by Matt Wallace.

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