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Plan to Turn Sunnyside Lot Into City-Run Park Gets $3M, Councilman Says

 The former Phipps playground at 30th Avenue and 50th Street.
The former Phipps playground at 30th Avenue and 50th Street.
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Courtesy JImmy Van Bramer's Office

SUNNYSIDE — The city has allocated $3 million to purchase and renovate a former playground lot and reopen it as a city-run public park, according to Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.

The lawmaker says he and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito secured discretionary funding in a recent budget deal in the hopes of buying the abandoned Phipps playground, located at the corner of 30th Avenue and 50th Street, and restore it as a public space for the community.

"We've been working on this project for years," Van Bramer said in a statement about the plans. "We're now able to turn this dream of a public park into reality."

The $3 million that's been allocated would go toward both buying the land and restoring it as a park space, Van Bramer's office said. There's no timeline for when the project would start, as the city still needs to negotiate the purchase of property from its current owner, a spokeswoman said.

The quarter-acre green space was once a playground for residents of the nearby Phipps Garden Apartments when the complex was built in the 1930s, according to a report from the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

But the site has been shuttered for years, and Phipps Houses sold the land to its current owner, DBH Associates LLC, for $1.45 million in 2007, property records show. Owner Harry Otterman told DNAinfo that he's open to selling the lot, which is part of the Sunnyside Gardens Historic District.

"The devil is in the details," he said. "We certainly would be open to it... if an equitable deal can be worked out."

Locals have been pushing for several years to see the former playground reopened. An online petition calls for the space to become a public garden named Cautley Garden after Marjorie Sewell Cautley, the landscape architect who designed the neighborhood.

In 2013, Otterman worked with a pair of architects on a proposal to relocate a historic pre-fabricated aluminum house — dubbed the Aluminaire House — to the lot, along with plans to build a two-story apartment building there. 

After outcry from neighbors, the LPC rejected the controversial plan, saying it was "not appropriate" for the historic district.