Sunnyside Residents Oppose Aluminum House

BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
Staff Writer

Community Board 2 members unanimously voted against a new shiny aluminum and steel structure at the site of a former playground because they say it would not fit in to the predominantly brick, landmarked historic district
Michael Schwarting, architect and head of the Aluminaire House Foundation, spoke in favor of relocating the metal house into Sunnyside Gardens along with a two-story eight-unit apartment building at 39th Avenue and 50th Street at the Sept. 19 CB2 meeting.

A rendering of the Aluminaire house and the residential units proposed for Sunnyside Gardens.

A rendering of the Aluminaire house and the residential units proposed for Sunnyside Gardens.

“The historic district is wonderful for this building because it will remain a cultural contribution to the community,” said Schwarting.

After years of repetitious reassembly and dismantling of the house in various locations across the City, Schwarting and his wife Frances Campani say they have found a theoretical site. They have joined forces with Harry Otterman, the owner of the property, who is looking to develop the vacant lot.

Herbert Reynolds, head of the Sunnyside Gardens Preservation Alliance, said the new building will be out of character and is unwanted by a great majority of the community.

Instead, the Preservation Alliance proposes to build a community garden at the vacant site.

The proposal to move the house, which was built for an architectural and arts exposition in 1931, will go to the Landmarks Preservation Commission on Oct. 15 for a final vote.

Schwarting proposed that the house would be open to the public as a museum with exhibition space and the library would function as an archive not only for the house, but also for the Sunnyside Gardens Historic District.

Some of the big concerns that surround the proposed house are the security of the house, the foundation’s budget and the upkeep of the building.

Schwarting said the house would be secured by a high-tech security system. He said the reconstruction budget of the house is $300,000, but they would raise funds to secure an operating budget.

While Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said he respects the architect and desire of the nonprofit foundation’s mission, he said the owners should find a better, more suitable location for the house.

“The Landmarks Preservation Commission should respect the people who live here and oppose the proposal,” he said.

A representative who spoke on behalf of U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) said the 23-feet-by-28 feet metal house would be an eyesore for the community. It would be taller than the two-story brick residential homes surrounding the building and lastly, the house and the proposed residential units would be much denser than the 28 percent footprint of the Sunnyside Garden’s community.

Reach Trisha Sakhuja at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, tsakhuja@queenstribune.com, or @Tsakhuja13.