Preservation group silent
By Adam Pincus, Times Ledger
A Sunnyside Gardens nonprofit created in the 1980s as a mechanism to protect the neighborhood's common courtyards remains a mystery to community residents even as it holds a permanently restrictive deed to the back yards of nearly two dozen properties and owns a house in the district.
The Sunnyside Foundation Inc., was founded in 1982 with the purpose of conserving the open spaces in the neighborhood, specifically the courtyards between the two-story homes in the neighborhoods, yet it has not contacted residents in years.
The foundation is also listed as delinquent by the state attorney general's office for not filing the past two years of federal income taxes with the state, the agency's Web site said.
The agreements arranged by the foundation were one of a number of efforts made after the original restrictive covenants on the garden homes, built in the mid-1920s, began expiring in the late 1960s. The sunset of those restrictions led to concerns as some owners began fencing in and developing their back yards at the expense of the neighborhood's signature gardens.
The foundation took ownership of a home in the gardens in 1988 at 41-13 47th St., city Department of Finance records show. It is currently a rental property, tax records indicated.
Some 600 properties in Sunnyside Gardens, including three large apartment properties and hundreds of smaller two-story homes circling interior gardens and courtyards, are being considered as a historic district by the city Landmarks Preservation Commission.
As a method of conservation, at least 23 property owners between 1986 and 1988 signed an agreement, knows as a deed of conservation easement, with the foundation, which regulated what they could do in perpetuity.
The contract required owners to pay an annual fee of at least $100 to the foundation.
The foundation is led by President Dorothy Morehead, who has directed the group since taking over from the former president and preservationist, Franklin Havlicek, who moved to Washington, D.C. and has since died.
Morehead did not respond to several requests for comment.
The not-for-profit was listed as delinquent by the state attorney general's office and has not filed the federal tax document since 2003, according to the agency's Web site.
Residents with the easement said they have not paid the annual filing fee in nearly a decade. Ira Greenberg, an attorney who lives in Sunnyside Gardens, said he is not aware of any current activities by the foundation.
"I have not been billed in at least eight years. As far as I know they are not active," he said.
Susan Meiklejohn, a professor of urban planning at Hunter College, whose property is regulated by one of the easements, said she hoped the building owned by the foundation could be put to better use than just as a residential rental property.
"I think it is a valuable community resource. My desire is that they sell the house and put it in the hands of a reputable community agency," she said.