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City's First Racially Integrated Co-Op Is on Landmark List Pushed by Group

By Katie Honan | December 30, 2015 2:12pm | Updated on January 4, 2016 8:53am
 The Dorie Miller co-ops on 34th Avenue was the first private development to be integrated.
The Dorie Miller co-ops on 34th Avenue was the first private development to be integrated.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

CORONA — A historical society working to landmark the homes of Dizzy Gillespie and scientist Marie Maynard Daly say they plan also to push to landmark the city’s first integrated cooperative apartments.

The Corona-East Elmhurst Historical Preservation Society say they’re compiling information to request an evaluation to the Landmarks Preservation Society for the Dorie Miller co-ops, on 114th Street between Northern Boulevard and 34th Avenue.

The buildings opened in 1953 and were named for Navy hero Dorie Miller, the first African-American awarded the Navy Cross, by Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.

The $2.7 million private development was the city’s first integrated co-ops, according to reports at the time.

“It is fitting that New York’s first unsegregated cooperative housing project should be named after the first hero who fought at Pearl Harbor," Powell Jr., said, according to a 1953 issue of The New York Age. 

The apartments were home to legendary jazz musicians Cannonball Adderly, Clark Terry and Jimmy Heath, who still lives there, the group said.

And they are particularly important to the preservation society’s members, who joined forces earlier this year to save their community’s history.

Many grew up there after they were built in the 1950s, their parents moving from elsewhere in the city to settle in Queens.

“We came into existence and charged with the mission of preserving, protecting, and promoting the character of the Corona and East Elmhurst communities,” board member Deborah Tyson said.

They started with a brick home on 106th Street, where musician Dizzy Gillespie lived for 10 years, they said.

They also appealed to landmark the home of Marie Maynard Daly, a scientist whose research connected high cholesterol with heart disease.

Both requests have been denied an evaluation by the LPC, who wrote in their rejection letters that the locations “do not rise to the level of individual landmarks based on their architecture and our current evaluation of their cultural and historical significance.”

LPC noted that, given the size and history of New York City, they must be “extremely selective” in which buildings they pursue for landmarking.

The members say they’ll keep fighting to show their hometown’s history is important.

“Our parents were very active in the community and in the nation and we were taught well, we were taught how to work from the grassroots up,” member Carol Drew said.

“That's what we're doing.”

The members were upset that the LPC doesn’t seem to respect the history in Queens, a feeling shared with many other historical societies in the borough.

“They act as if everything that you present to them has no significance at all,” member Fearonce La Lande said, adding that he feels the LPC should be more proactive on what it saves.

The agency did suggest submitting the homes to the National Register of Historic Places, which doles out more honors because it’s not as restrictive as full landmarking.

The group plans to submit an application for the Dorie Miller co-op next year.