The La Mesa Verde co-op complex in Jackson Heights, located at 34–19, 34–33 and 33–47 90th Street, is in danger of losing its courtyard. (Like many other Jackson Heights co-op buildings, La Mesa Verde boasts a large central courtyard. Unlike some Jackson Heights co-op buildings, La Mesa Verde is not landmark protected.) The complex owner submitted a proposal to use 60 percent of the central courtyard for a parking lot. They are currently asking for the votes of residents on this decision, so nothing is final yet. Here are details of the current courtyard, according to the Division of Housing and Community Renewal application:
Approximately 42% of the backyard is, and has always been, closed off to tenant use. This is land that has been vastly underutilized (not used at all), and which is available for use, as will be set forth below.
Approximately 18% of the backyard is paved and is currently used for parking, by tenants of the subject premises, as a for-fee service.
Approximately 40% of the backyard in unpaved, open, but unimproved space, with no recreational facilities.
The owner is proposing that 40 percent of the courtyard continue to be open for use by La Mesa Verde residents. According to the application “the areas will now be improved, landscaped, with recreational facilities. This space incorporates most of the areas that had previously been enclosed by locked fences, but the amount of land open for tenant use remains the same.” But here’s the kicker: the other 60 percent of the courtyard will be dedicated parking space. The application states that this will be “improved spacing, [with] landscaped areas within the parking areas.” These additional parking spaces will be available to La Mesa Verde tenants for a fee.
The application tries to press that no actual courtyard space will be lost: “Notwithstanding the increase in parking space, the incorporation of previously-unused space into open space results in the same amount of open space available for tenant recreational use. Thus, the change does not adversely impact upon the tenants on the issue of size or quantity of space… In the instant matter, the change is minimal at best. The tenants at the building will still be able to use the rear backyard for recreation… The proposed new parking areas will also be landscaped, creating a pleasant aesthetic effect. Far from being a reduction in service, the owner’s proposal is at least an adequate substitute, and is actually an increased benefit, rendering the proposed backyard area superior to existing conditions.”
We’ve got our hands on both the layout of the existing courtyard as well as the new parking lot proposal. The application proposes two diamond-shaped parking lots for the middle of the courtyard. (Currently, there is one smaller parking area near the north end of the complex.) In the proposal, landscaping and playground equipment will be added at the north and south ends. There will be one driveway added to the existing two. The existing pathway through the courtyard will be taken away.
The Jackson Heights Beautification Group has fought to landmark this building to no avail. Here are some details of the complex, built in 1926, from the “Request for Evaluation” form sent to the LPC back in 2008:
The complex is made up of six detached buildings, connected by sky-bridges, located between 90th and 91st Streets, between 35th and 34th Avenues. The buildings are set at an angle to the street grid, and form a saw-tooth pattern down both blocks. They enclose a large internal garden courtyard, similar to the garden apartments built by the Queensboro Corporation. There are no interior hallways at the La Mesa Verde; all apartments are reached directly from the open stairs. There is only one elevator for these six-story buildings. Tenants on higher floors ride the elevator up to the roof, then walk across the sky-bridges to their buildings, and then walk down the stairs to their apartment.
After the jump, you’ll see both the existing and proposed courtyard layouts.
Existing courtyard layout below. At the left, that’s an existing gated area. The common space with pathways is in the middle, with the existing parking area with two driveways located directly north (to the right). The area north of the parking lot is also gated.
Proposed courtyard layout. As you can see, the two diamond-shaped parking lots will basically dominate the central courtyard. The only “central” garden space will be pushed to the north and south ends. The new playground is on the righthand side, and the open space is on the left hand side.