Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), left, is confronted by Triangle land owner Vinny Oppedisano during a community rally to save green space. Photo - Jacob Fischle
“He is singlehandedly destroying a precious piece of green space in Woodside,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside).
And then he showed up.
Developer Vinny Oppedisano let everyone know what he wanted as he drove up in a black sedan, wearing sunglasses and slicked back hair: money. Oppedisano interrupted Van Bramer’s rally against his planned construction, demanding he be paid for the community’s continuous use of his property.
“When are you guys going to give me a check?” he shouted from the car. “Give me a check and I’ll leave right now.”
The developer had planned to build a one-family home on the island between the intersection of 59th and 60th Streets and 34th Avenue.
He said he offered the lot to the city five years ago for $50,000, but that officials refused to purchase it.
After a lot of back and forth between Oppedisano and a raucous Woodside crowd that broke out in to chants of “Shame on you!” and “You’re out of line!” Oppedisano agreed to wait until July 1 to build, by which time Van Bramer, who did not specify the cost, promised to have enough money from the City Council to buy the land from him. Recent reports and Community Board 2 Chairman Joseph Conley put the price tag of the land at around $300,000.
Van Bramer expects the money will come from a capital appropriations request that he filed several weeks ago.
Oppedisano had removed the trees from his lot a month before the rally.
The crowd berated him, requesting that he replace a 70-year-old tree that he removed.
“When it becomes Christmas, in Rockefeller Center they put up a big tree; I’ll bring it with a crane,” he joked.
Oppedisano, owner of Sano Demolition Company, has held the property for around 10 years but left it mainly untouched.
During this time, the residents said they often brought their children to play in the space, as they have for decades, enjoying the shade of the large trees.
Two years ago, when Oppedisano first put up fences around the triangle, community activist Marion Molno said she wanted it returned to what she was used to.
Since that time she has been speaking with the Oppedisano, trying to sway him against destroying her beloved green space.
“For two years I was on this guy’s back, speaking to him and talking to him, knowing that any day the bomb might explode,” she said.
“I can’t say I’m 100 percent sure,” Van Bramer said regarding his chances of getting Oppedisano the money by his self-proposed deadline, “but I can tell you that it’s at the top of my priority list. I feel good about our chances.”
Oppedisano claimed that after owning the property for around 10 years he decided to start building recently because he thought the city wouldn’t pay him for his land.
“They’re playing me, they’re lying. They want my property for nothing,” he said. “If they come up with the money to buy, I would be very happy to leave.”
The developer said that whatever the final price is, he is not looking for a profit. He merely wants to make back his expenses.
According to Van Bramer, the councilman has a deal with the Parks Department that, once the property is purchased, will turn the land into a city run park “forever.”
Residents stressed to the councilman that when the site is rebuilt, mature trees be planted to provide shade, or they will feel that their cause was lost.
Oppedisano had obtained a variance for building from the Board of Standards and Appeals two years ago but according to Conley, the decision made no sense at all.
“How is this even a buildable lot?” he asked. “The Board of Standards and Appeals listens to somebody without coming to a community and looking at it and seeing the devastating effect that these projects have.”
A spokesperson for Van Bramer said the councilman hopes to have his capital request approved by July 1, in order to start negotiations regarding the purchase of the now barren land known as the Triangle.