Several years ago, a handful of Elmhurst neighbors and volunteers transformed a vacant lot into a community garden. In the coming months, it is slated to transform again, but this time into new apartments.
Winnie Mok, a secretary at Tan Architect P.C., which is designing the planned development, said five two-family buildings are slated for the lot. Owners expect to file construction permits within weeks, Mok said; preliminary work installing a temporary perimeter fence has already begun.
The lot in question sits at the end of Manilla Street at Kneeland Avenue, up against the LIRR tracks. The youth volunteering program Young Governors spearheaded the reclamation of the lot, starting in 2011, with the help of the New Life Development Corporation and other community members.
According to lead garden organizer Jennifer Chu, the group received a “verbal OK” from the lot’s then-owner, a retired attorney now located in Florida, to use the site.
“We figured, he’s not using it, we can just work on it make to it look nice.” Chu said. “He said he intended to sell it and so we said, ‘sure, whenever you need to sell it, we’ll vacate.”
Nevertheless, the lot was sold in early February, according to the City Department of Finance. Chu said she received no notification of the sale.
“I’m just surprised that he didn’t give us any notice,” she said, adding that the Young Governors had made an effort to keep the owner up-to-date on activity at the garden, sending pictures and sometimes harvested produce.
The site’s previous owner could not immediately be reached for comment.