By Adam Pincus, Times Ledger
In a sign of growing opposition to a proposal to landmark Sunnyside Gardens, a number of Democratic political leaders from the area have spoken out publicly on the plan.
John Smyth, Democratic district leader for the 37th Assembly District, said the city Landmarks Preservation Commission should not set a date for the proposal, a bureaucratic move that can signal the plan will ultimately be approved.
"I think the best solution would be for Landmarks not to calendar it," he said in a telephone interview Monday. He was elected to the district leader seat formerly held by the late Queens County Democratic Chairman Thomas Manton in September.
He was one of about 70 people who attended a meeting at the Sunnyside Reformed Church at 48-03 Skillman Ave. in Sunnyside Gardens, organized by a loose group of residents opposed to creating a historic district in Sunnyside Gardens, which contains about 600 buildings. The group is calling itself the Preserve Sunnyside Gardens Coalition.
State Sen. George Onorato (D-Long Island City), though not directly involved in the process, also sent a letter critical of the plan to Landmarks Commission Chairman Robert Tierney.
"I have come to believe that the landmarked historic district status is inappropriate for this community," he said.
Another Democratic district leader from the area, Deirdre Feerick, said although she supported landmarking in general, she opposed it in Sunnyside Gardens.
The situation could be difficult for City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside), who must navigate between voters supporting and opposing the designation.
He has been holding small meetings with residents of the proposed district in his office and area homes, residents said.
Although Landmarks can designate the area a historic district, ultimately the decision must be voted on by the Council.
Organizers of the meeting, including longtime Gardens residents and authors Judith Sloan and Warren Lehrer, said they were not opposed to preservation, but did not want the additional layer of bureaucracy that would come with landmarking.
"Lets see how we can fix the current situation instead of going to Big Daddy or Big Brother," Sloan said.
The Landmarks Commission was considering a designation for about 600 buildings in Sunnyside Gardens as an historic district, which would create greater regulation as a means of preserving the area.
The third public meeting sponsored by Community Board 2 over the past three months to discuss landmarking was scheduled for Feb. 27 at the Sunnyside Community Services at 43-31 39th St. where representatives from the city departments of Buildings, City Planning and Landmarks were expected to attend.
Landmarks, which said in December that it would likely calendar the proposal by early February, has not set a date for the hearing, spokeswoman Elisabeth de Bourbon said.