The Klein’s Farm Blues

by

03/04/2002

6406 Fresh Meadow LN, Fresh Meadows, NY

Neighborhood: Outer Boroughs, Queens

Since I wrote my piece about Fresh Meadows a year ago, the sleepy little Klein Farm has exploded into public prominence. In late 2001, word spread that the elder Klein, now happily ensconced out in Jericho, had indeed decided to sell the no-longer profitable farm, despite the younger Klein’s desire to continue the enterprise. (“It’s the only job I’ve had,” Jr. said, adding that “In this area, there’s not much call for farming skills.”) Klein, Sr. refused to say who the buyer was, other than he was a “local Flushing developer” who planned to build 22 two-family houses or an apartment building on the site. In November, the farm and farm stand were shuttered, apparently for good.

But not so fast! Neighbors not wishing to see the city’s last working farm disappear formed a Klein Farm Task Force under the leadership of Councilman David Weprin. The Fresh Meadows Tenants Association, the West Cunningham Park Civic Association, and the Flushing Heights, Hillcrest Estates, Utopia Estates and Utopia Park civic associations, all denounced the development plan. Noting that the farm sat in a 1974-created special preservation district intended to “protect the character and integrity of these unique communities,” they warned they would challenge the project before the City Planning Commission.

Then it was learned that the developer in question was Tommy Huang, notorious for having destroyed part of the city-landmarked RKO Keith’s Theater on Northern Boulevard in Flushing (he stripped its auditorium), and for having allowed 10,000 gallons of oil to leak from an underground tank into the soil beneath the theater, and then lying to the Fire Department about it. Huang was duly convicted for his coverup, placed on probation for five years, forced to clean up the RKO spill, and denied permission to convert the theater into a retail store. On hearing that this convicted environmental criminal was the mover-and-shaker in question, the community went wild, redoubled its efforts, and called for selling the land to the nonprofit Queens County Farm Museum, to run as a working farm, for the edification of visiting school children.

On February 28, 2002, it was reported that Huang had backed out of the deal. On March 6, however, representatives of the developer said they were going to go ahead; Weprin, chair of the Council’s powerful Finance Committee countered he would oppose their initiative; and as of the 11th the issue remained open, but with Huang clearly on the defensive. The Trust for Public Land has announced plans to meet with community leaders to discuss ways to acquire the farm for a fair price (as Huang had offered $4.1 million, this may yet be a sticking point).

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