Sunday, December 31, 2006

Brick Houses, Winding Paths and Unexpected Sharp Elbows

The New York Times ran a piece today entitled, "Brick Houses, Winding Paths and Unexpected Sharp Elbows" about Sunnyside Gardens. It seems that certain residents of the neighborhood would like to see it designated an historic district while others don't. It's no surprise that Prof. Meiklejohn of Hunter College's Urban Plannning Department is leading the opposition to landmarking. She is the person behind the Corona and Dutch Kills studies that said those areas need massive upzoning for immigrant influx. I guess Sunnyside Gardens should look like Elmhurst in her opinion. There are already two historic districts near the 7 train, we can't have another! Professor Meiklejohn did expose a dirty little secret, however: Landmarking increases, not decreases property values, and is used to help rich people keep their neighborhood rich, or to gentrify targeted areas. Photo is of Sunnyside in 1900, when the Gardens was still decades away from being built.


Anonymous said...

We live on a block that is primarily immigrant.

Prof Mickeljohn told me (she did not know I lived on the block) that it was the only bad block in the neighborhood.

We challenged her to a debate that immigrant communities are under represented in landmark designations and immigrants should also enjoy the substanial benefits of designation.

She has refused to publicly debate us on these points.

The great mystory about her is who is backing her?

Every time she shows up the community boards give her free reign and plenty of space and time for her 'studies.' Slick power point presentations sweep the gullible off their feet.

Every report is exactly the same (massive rezoning, immigrant services.)

When confronted with infrasturcture costs, she smiles and says they are not addressed.

Anonymous said...

For a details of the Hunter College studies for Corona and Dutch Kills, go to:

To see what the residents in Sunnyside Gardens really want, go the the website of the Sunnyside Gardens Preservation Alliance:

Anonymous said...

Wait...what is this about landmarking increasing property values. If that were true, then why do so many homeowners fight it?

Anonymous said...

This hardly shocks me. If you hear the good (g) Professor everything is class and ethnic conflict. The Preservation Alliance has the most diversity of any local organization that I know of. Her "grass-roots" movement is obviously 99 percent her own patronizing self.

Anonymous said...

Because we are TOLD it is bad for us by the press and politicians (which both stand to reap substantial benefits from development that they DON'T tell us).

And how do they get away with this? Because sadly, the Manhattan crowd permits this to happen.


Thy don't want their little special niche tainted with too many Queens communities that would have the same status,

so they keep quiet as they spend the Queens portion of their city-wide grants in Manhattan (which starves local groups for support),

sets an agenda that talks almost exclusively about Manhattan and ignores the special needs of the outer boroughs,

activly turns a deaf ear or even undermines local grassroots efforts in Queens,

and finally, to keep us divided and in our place, elevate local do-nothing 'Uncle Toms.'

You are not going to get very far if you have to rely on pro-development politicians for support, or spread the word very far if you have to work with a press that is hostile to preservation.

Anonymous said...

Since the real estate industry supports every newspaper via thousands of classified ads each week, it comes as no surprise that they are hostile toward preservation.

Anonymous said...

Have there ever been any historic districts that have requested to have the designation overturned or collectively said they thought that designation was a bad idea?

Anonymous said...

Scores of communities are designated districts. Thousands of buildings, and 100,000s of people. Not one community has ever said it was a mistake.

The only way that you can get the reality of landmark designation is to talk to someone who lives in one of those neighborhoods and has enjoyed the benefits over time.

This is no secret. It is something that both the preservation community and the press know very well, but just doesn't seem to, oddly, want to broadcast.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Mickeljohn is a 'tweeder.'

BTW, does she get paid for these studies? May go towards explaining her 'one-trick pony' message.

Anonymous said...

Umm, good point. Any bets if the newspapers ever ask that one?

If she was in favor of preservation, you know they would be subjecting her to all kinds of personal innuendos (you know, like she is running for office, etc).

So who is financing her studies, why does she get more interest in the community boards then the needs of their own constituents, and why does she get so much ink?

Anyone want to look into her background?

Anonymous said...

Susan uses students from Hunter College to do her studies. IT's apparently required of students in urban planning schools to do a plan. And since she does the grading, we know what their findings will be! But, as I recall, the Corona study was not done by her, although the findings were similar. One major issue they identified was keeping the pigeons away from Corona Plaza. Frankly, I think Corona residents have more important things to think about, but if they want to scare the birds they could simply play a tape of the anti-landmarking meeting. That would send a buzzard away!

Anonymous said...

STM is very defensive of the rights of immigrants. But where is she when it comes to matters like day laborers facing unsafe conditions, or getting ripped off by contractors who don't pay them for their work? Similarly, what about the schools their kids attend?

There are many immigrants who are pro-preservation. And those who aren't probably have other issues of greater concern than whether their new windows will meet LPC approval if SG is landmarked.

Susan should take her selfless idealism to those who really need it. My Spanish is OK. I volunteer to translate for her. But I want to stand off-stage when the eggs start coming.