Friday, November 20, 2009

Cunningham Park Land Grab: Residents Wait "Decades" for Parks to Act


The DPR recently sent 47 letters to Queens homeowners whose property illegally encroaches Cunningham Park. The property owners were ordered to immediately remove fences and all obstructions. They have thirty days to comply.  This comes almost a year and a half after (see Daily News story below) these revelations were made public.  Fox 5's John Deutzman does a follow up from his story in July.

Parkland Grab, Part 2

Updated: Friday, 20 Nov 2009, 2:29 PM EST

Published : Tuesday, 14 Oct 2008, 8:10 PM EDT

MYFOXNY.COM - Some homeowners are being ordered to give huge chunks of their backyards back to New York City. It's a story Fox 5's John Deutzman broke in July, and he says some people are having a hard time facing the reality that it wasn't their land in the first place. The Parks Department admits it should have noticed this problem sooner. The department received a tip and started an investigation.

Fences make bad neighbors.  City to warn Oakland Gdns. homes that encroach on trai

New York Daily News - July 20, 2008 -  By Barry Paddock 

Caption: Homeowner at Vanderbilt Pkwy. and 217th St. has a backyard fence that may extend out onto a city-owned nature trail. Photo by Frank Koester

HOMEOWNERS in Oakland Gardens lucky enough to have properties that flow into a city-owned nature trail with a colorful history may be forced to rein in their expansive backyards.

The Parks Department believes the yards - some boasting swimming pools, tool sheds and jungle gyms - may cross property lines and encroach on the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway.

Results of a land survey of the area ordered by Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski are due this week.

The parkway, one of the country's first concrete roads, is now a pedestrian and bicycle trail that emerges from Cunningham Park. A narrow strip of woodland runs alongside it.

"Anyone who takes that away takes away natural beauty from the park," said Lewandowski.

The city Law Department will send letters to homeowners found to be over the limit, she said, and they will have 30 days to respond in writing.

Park advocates support the move.

"They've fenced off property that's not theirs," said Marc Haken, president of Friends of Cunningham Park, which has raised money to preserve the parkway.

"They saw what their neighbors did and they took a little more and a little more," Haken said. "You've heard that saying, 'I give you a finger and you take it all the way up to my shoulder?' "

The survey examines some 45 homes along Richland and Kingsbury Aves., tree-lined residential streets next to the parkway.

"I don't know where the [property] lines are," said a homeowner on Kingsbury Ave., who declined to give her name. Her backyard fence extends farther into the parkway than most on her block.

She said she has lived by the parkway for more than 25 years and couldn't remember if the metal fence had already been there when she moved in.

Some residents, confident their yards are within property lines, criticized their neighbors.

"I ride my bike on the path all the time," said Michael Cohen, 55, an advertising creative director. "That someone encroaches on the parkland - that p----- me off."

Community Board 11's district manager has mixed feelings about the survey. Susan Seinfeld said residents call to complain of litter along the parkway, not encroachment. "If these people are keeping it nicer, that's a plus," she said of the homeowners. "Fences are another story."

The parkway is a remnant of the Long Island Motorway, the first highway to use overpasses to avoid intersections. Created by William Vanderbilt Jr.,  it ran 45 miles from Queens into Long Island.

Vanderbilt envisioned an auto raceway and a quick route for wealthy New Yorkers to their Long Island estates. Prohibition-era bootleggers used the route to escape police, earning it the nickname Rum Runners Road.

Robert Moses forced the private toll road out of business in the 1930s by creating the Northern State Parkway, and reopened the motor parkway as a path for pedestrians. In 2002, the Queens portion was added to the New York State Register of Historic Places. It is now part of the 40-mile Brooklyn-Queens Greenway.

After receiving a complaint from an avid user of the parkway this year about intruding fences, Lewandowski, a Queens native and veteran of the Parks Department of more than 25 years, ordered the survey.

"It may be small in terms of acres," she said of the disputed land, "but it's just not a good precedent for people to expand their property."


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