The board voted 22-1 against a plan to turn the historic aluminum house into a museum at the intersection of 39th Avenue and 50th Street, with condos behind it.
“The people in the community worked very hard to get landmarking designation,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris of the neighborhood. “I cannot think of a more precise reason for getting that designation than to stop something like this. It’s completely out of character with the rest of the gardens.”
The site is a former playground that has not been used in years. Residents at the meeting last Thursday instead proposed a park or community garden at the site.
“At least two of our children did play in that park,” said John O’leary, a resident of 46th Street in Sunnyside for 35 years. “It’s an attempt to find a home for a structure that no one wants or wants to be responsible for.”
Residents were also concerned that the museum would be vacant a large portion of the year, which could lead to vandalism or break-ins.
Michael Schwarting, head of the Aluminaire House Foundation, said the foundation chose Sunnyside Gardens because when the house was built in 1931 it was part of a competition to build affordable homes that working-class families could afford.
“We had a good sense that this building would be appreciated in this area,” he said.
But one resident said she didn’t understand how this proposal was even allowed before the community board.
“You’re not alone,” said CB2 chairman Joseph Conley. “We’re kind of scratching our heads and banging our heads against the wall because we don’t understand Landmarks [Preservation Commission].”
Conley said the board has been petitioning the commission to withdraw the application for the Aluminaire House.
“It’s out of character with everything we heard during the landmarking process and since,” Conley said.
But not everyone was against the project. One resident was concerned the owner would build something even bigger than the Aluminaire House, and Jack Freeman, a resident of 46th Street, said there is room for development, even in landmarked neighborhoods.
“This is a development site, and there are in all landmarked districts the possibility of new development,” said Freeman. “I think that the development that is being proposed for the housing is appropriate for Sunnyside.”