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An Open Letter from Phipps About a Sunnyside Opportunity

MHG Architects

The Barnett, MHG Architects

OPINION

Oct. 23, 2015 By Adam Weinstein, president & CEO of Phipps Houses

On Monday night, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and Phipps Houses will host a town hall to foster open dialogue about a new affordable housing development Phipps has proposed for 50-25 Barnett Avenue, a property we have owned since 1953.

We will be there to present, listen and answer questions about the project, which is one we think will be a huge asset to the neighborhood where we have been a quality, affordable landlord since 1930.

Here’s why. First, for those who might not know, Phipps Houses is the nation’s oldest and one of the largest not-for-profit organizations devoted to affordable housing. Affordable housing is our mission, and we’re pleased to stand with Council Member Van Bramer and Mayor de Blasio to help address the crisis of affordability in New York City and in Sunnyside – in this instance, particularly for middle-income families.

Our mission prompted Phipps’ purchase of land in Sunnyside more than 85 years ago to build Phipps Garden Apartments in order to provide an opportunity for middle income households to live and work in New York City.

It prompted us to purchase the lot across Barnett Avenue in 1953 so that today, finally, we might help middle class neighbors afford to live in Sunnyside.

Our current proposal focuses most heavily on family-sized apartments, and for households (of four people) earning between about $86,000 and $116,000. Unfortunately, families at those income levels have been priced out of Sunnyside in recent years.

We believe this building will greatly improve this desolate, uninviting stretch on Barnett Avenue.

In place of a semi-industrial, graffiti-scrawled hodgepodge will be a beautiful, primarily brick building, with more than 560 linear feet of double-wide 15-foot sidewalk lined with an allee of new shade trees.

The entire building is set back between 22 feet and nearly 40 feet from the curb, creating attractive planted “front yard” spaces and a broad, open pedestrian entry plaza with a concierge desk inside, adding to street-level security, much like many of the multi-family buildings nearby.

The sidewalks, plantings, and trees will directly address the frustration many of us share in getting the City to deliver street improvements on Barnett Avenue. Finally, at the building’s western end we propose a Universal Pre-K program open to the entire community, along with a children’s outdoor play area for the participants.

Much has been made about the building’s height.

We believe Barnett Avenue Apartments will fit well within the context and the character of its surroundings. The project relates to Phipps Garden Apartments directly across Barnett Avenue, presenting a street wall that is primarily seven and eight stories, nearly the exact height of the roofs and bulkheads of Phipps Garden Apartments. Because this would comprise the bulk of the street wall, the building will appear to be primarily seven and eight stories to people walking on Barnett Avenue; most of the building’s taller elements are set back farther and therefore entirely obscured from pedestrian view.

To further address any concerns about height, the entire building is set back considerably from the curb, ranging from 22 feet to nearly 40 feet. The building’s ten-story center section is set back farthest, nearly 40 feet from the street, creating the broad, open entry plaza akin to many Sunnyside and Queens apartment buildings.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Barnett Avenue Apartments would be more than 500 feet from 39th Avenue, with Phipps Garden Apartments in between. It would therefore be completely obscured from view from any point to the south of 39th Avenue, including any home in the Gardens.

We are also sensitive to neighborhood concerns about parking, and our project will provide more than adequate parking for the building’s occupants. We do not believe this to be a circumstance to seek relief under the proposed Zoning for Quality and Affordability text amendment.

Indeed, we believe that our management plan for parking will actually provide a large surplus of spaces on site that is nearly sufficient to meet the demand of users that park at the site’s commercial lot currently – in addition to the new occupants. In any event, as part of our ULURP certification, the City’s environmental quality law mandates that we conduct a rigorous and impartial study of impacts, from parking supply, to school seats, to traffic mitigation. We will respect the findings of that study.

We believe Barnett Avenue Apartments will unequivocally enhance the community, both of its own accord and certainly in comparison to the status quo on Barnett Avenue – especially when weighed against what could be built there under the existing manufacturing zoning.

We look forward to addressing each of these more technical points in greater detail on Monday, and also to the open exchange of ideas. We’re still in the listening phase, and hope you will be too. There will also be more than ample opportunity to discuss this project during the official ULURP process.

But let’s also keep our hearts open, and give consideration to the plight of the family trying to find a decent place to live, raise children, and thrive in our increasingly expensive city. Indeed, you may have been that family some years ago.

Looking forward to talking on Monday.

Adam Weinstein is President and CEO of Phipps Houses

These are the views of Mr. Weinstein and do not reflect those of this publication.

Phipps Proposed Development

email the author: [email protected]

49 Comments

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Franky

Change is always good. Those buildings suck. Barnett ave sucks. There is never enough parking anyways. Its dull boring and dangerous. So get ready for change…

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anon

Adam Weinstein sounds completely sincere, and I believe every word he says.
In addition I have 3 lovely East River bridges for sale, best offer and interesting trades considered.

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Bridger

I put first dibs on any of them that lead to Queens. If they put a toll on the QB I’m out of business, unless I own it. Call me.

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FJN

Will it be built using union labor ? You know the middle class blue collard tax paying workers or will the developer decide to go unsafe untrained unorganized non tax paying illegal off the books under the table type of worker. I hope if they build this they build it the right way which supports the middle class and pays a prevailing wage.

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Questioner

On the subject of unions. Phipps had one female maintenance person some 15 to 20 years ago. She spoke to the other people who worked here and they all agreed they would like a union. They presented their ideas to management. They said no and she was fired.

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momoftwo

The building looks fine and the parking is a good idea. That said, I would personally like to see the developer be asked to pay for a school. For example…when we were living in Manhattan, the property next to us was purchased by a developer and the only way they were allowed to build a larger residential building on that lot was if they were to rebuild a larger school next to it. Now, I realize that Phipps owns that property however, it seems reasonable that the community could ask that in order for them to build higher than most of the buildings that they provide a school to the community to accommodate for the over population that not only already exists but that will also be created by new residences.

Also, I would like to add that I don’t claim to understand the affordable housing and what constitutes as such but the last I checked the renovated units in the Sunnyside gardens apartments were hardly what I would consider affordable. They are renovating 1 bedrooms with porches into 2 bedrooms and charging almost $3000 a month for them.

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Sunnyside Gardens people

Sunnyside Gardens people think they are so enlightened, so liberal and so humane.
The second anyone suggests affordable housing nearby, these “enlightened” people express outrage and throw their humane values out the window. Maybe the building is a little big. But I don’t think those “enlightened people” would be ok with it even if were half that size.

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Anonymous visitor

Every inch of Sunnyside Gardens was built as affordable housing. Phipps has an endowment of $4 million. The interest on that was used to keep the rents here low. The rest of Sunnyside Gardens was built by a limited profit corporation, 6%, that went bust in the Great Depression. So, we are affordable housing. We live on former duck hunting grounds that the rail road was built on. Living up against the tracks is by no means luxurious, and it affords very poor freedom of movement. You have to travel five blocks in any direction to get to a road that goes under the tracks. That means putting more traffic in this area will create even longer lines of cars at those approaches. This part of Queens is so cut up by roadways and rail beds that people coming and going from richer places use, that our own ability to travel freely is circumscribed. At some point enough is enough. You are off base.

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JOR

I become suspicious about the credibility of a sales pitch when obvious gratuitous and misleading statements are made. Mr. Weinstein, in an apparent attempt to demonstrate feelings for community concerns, states: “We are also sensitive to neighborhood concerns about parking, and our project will provide more than adequate parking for the building’s occupants. We do not believe this to be a circumstance to seek relief under the proposed Zoning for Quality and Affordability text amendment.” This sensitivity is illusory since there is no basis for “parking relief” under the proposed ZQA text amendment because elimination of the parking requirement under the proposed amendment is for low income and senior affordable housing and not “family-sized apartments, and for households (of four people) earning between about $86,000 and $116,000” which Mr. Weinstein says is the focus of Phipps Barnett Avenue project. Moreover, many Community Boards in Queens have expressed strong opposition to the elimination of the parking requirement for low income and senior affordable housing applications in the proposed ZQA amendment, and my guess is that this provision will be dropped as the review and approval process evolves. It should be noted that Phipps Barnett Avenue is proposed under existing zoning rules which include parking requirements and not under a zoning change that is months if not a year or so away from being enacted.
If Mr. Weinstein wanted to be truly honest with the community , his letter would state that Phipps Houses is a powerful player in New York City’s nonprofit industrial complex, as indicated by the compensation he is paid (more than $770,000 in compensation in 2013, the most current year for which information is publicly available http://www.phippsny.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/PCDC-990.pdf ), that the Phipps Board includes members among the elite of New York’s political class, that Phipps has powerful persons among its benefactors, including the current First Lady of the City of New York, and that any politician who tries to stop this project will be placed in political choke hold for the rest of his life.

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Questioner

Phipps bought that lot back in the 50s expressly to provide parking for the tenants in the 1930s building. Since that time tenants always enjoyed a discounted monthly rate. So, taking away the existing spaces putting many hundreds of people on it and restoring less than half of the spaces there now would a net loss. People here own cars expressly because Phipps has a parking lot. The talk of possibly losing it has driven rates for other parking in the area right through the roof, placing a greater burden on the middle and low income people who live here. Anything Mr. Weinstein says about sensitivity to parking should be judged against those facts.

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????

How is rent of over $3000 affordable for a family making $115,000 a year. How is this affordable?

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Anonymous visitor

It isn’t. But when you take in over $700,000 a year it sounds completely reasonable. And when you donate over $500,000 to the Chirlane McCray’s favorite charity, city politicians who need to keep DeBlasio on their side will turn a blind eye to their constituent’s needs. What is that old saying, “Money talks, poverty walks.” Thank God for rent regulations or most of us would get eviction notices faster than CB2 will vote for a variance.

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OldenDays

i think i would be OK with this if the building were six stories tall like the hundreds of other buildings in this area. it’s extremely rare that someone is actually volunteering to build a building that’s all regulated housing, and i think we should welcome that. all we do on this website is complain about the out-of-control real estate prices, well here’s someone that’s willing to actually do something about it. i live very close to this spot and i don’t think it would change my quality of life very much. in fact maybe it would deflect some of the noise from the LIRR.

BUT…it’s ARROGANT and obnoxious that they want to build to 10 stories. this neighborhood has always had 6 story buildings, it’s a very good density. a shorter building would also mean less people to cram the subways and streets and schools. fewer people to park their cars. i mean why are they trying to cram so many apartments in there? they probably bought that land for $50 back in 1953, there’s no huge investment they need to recoup. it just rubs me the wrong way.

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Sunnyside Local

Oops. Should read “That’s almost 2.5 times it’s original selling price of a few years ago”.

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Sunnyside Local

here’s a little free insight on the real estate bubble that has become Sunnyside. The Astoria Bank, Center Cinema and PJ’s lot is now being quietly shopped to the marketplace at an asking price of $19.2 million. That’s almost 2.5% it’s original selling price. The Wendys lot has been sold and the franchise will be closing in January. The White Castle lot is also being shopped. What happened to this neighborhood is a commercial real estate bubble that is similar to the housing bubble of 2008. Remember when that burst and what it did to the economy? What the bubble is going to do to Sunnyside is leave multiple buildings vacant for years. It is, and will continue to be, the demise of a once vibrant neighborhood. Blame the greedy Landlords, Developers and especially the Local Politicians for allowing this to happen.

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Mayra

I have the misfortune of being Adam Weinstein’s tenant. Not only is adam Weinstein evil to the core, he is also a very powerful evil man. With the help of his many LLC he has purchased Gov Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, Gillibrand, Schumer, and all of the politicians he needs in his pocket including HUD.
These are some of things that have happened to me because I made a complaint to HUD after mold that Henry Phipps / Weinstein had been refusing to eradicate mysteriously “disappeared”:
1. Several attempts to illegally evict me via fraudulent letters that paint me as a non-compliant & difficult.
2. Fraudulent letters that falsely state that I refused to give Henry Phipps access for repairs.
3. Henry Phipps submitted fraudulent HUD financial documents to HUD because they were refusing to reduce my rent.
4. Repeatedly and continue to commit fraud upon the court by initiating court cases based on fraud.
5. Initiated a court case without EVER ONCE serving me with the court papers.
6. On same day that my mailbox was broken into I followed by a gang member and when we were alone in the elevator he threatened me.
7. I have been and continue to be followed/threatened by gang members/FJC Security
8. As can be seen on my NYC Corruption Chronicles videos, thanks to Gov Cuomo/de Blasio I live in a policing state. They send NYC agencies to my home that include NYPD / HPD – on video.
9. Weinstein recruited his contractor, the infamous FJC Security Services to send unannounced mobs and strange men to my apartment.

Are you aware that there is a criminal element amongst Henry Phipps and his contractor FJC “Security” Services hire ex-offenders including felons to work as SECURITY GUARDS! How disturbing is that? Are you aware that there is a criminal element amongst Adam Weinstein, FJC, Gov Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio? Are you aware of Bill de Blasio’s crime ridden SNUG program?

It is well known that FJC Security Services is incompetent yet HOMELAND SECURITY continues to give them lucrative contracts to protect high target area. Are you aware that GOV Cuomo used FJC to help his billionaire friend donor secure the Battery Park Marina?

I am hostage to my home because they enter my house and the fear from the Phipps/FJC employees and gang threats.

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Scared of Harrassment

Who can help this poor woman?

I’ve heard similar, but not as extensive, accusations from other tenants. They are scary people. I know they defy court orders. They did it -and got away with it- to tenants at another property.

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Oldschool Sunnysider

“Indeed, we believe that our management plan for parking will actually provide a large surplus of spaces on site that is nearly sufficient to meet the demand of users that park at the site’s commercial lot currently – in addition to the new occupants.”

DO THE MATH.

THIS IS ALL ABOUT $$$$$$$

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A Neighbor

He thinks we are stupid. Obviously he is lying through his teeth. But if he flashes enough diagrams, wears beautiful suits and smiles, we should believe him.

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Anonymous visitor

can you pop some antidepressants already? your negativity is such a freakin drag to read here.

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A Neighbor

The need CB2 permission. I don’t think for a minute that those people will want to face their neighbors if there is significant, vocal opposition. Opposition persuaded the people on 39th Avenue not to build apartment houses and put the Aluminaire House there.

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Anonymous visitor

I have said this before I’m a little miffed when the people of Sunnyside tried to save the Center Theater The Bank PJs and the Dentist I did not see any official to try to help including …..Jimmy van Bramer stayed silent but he stepped in to save the clock tower building in LIC although nice it did nothing for Sunnyside and its people i see nothing wrong with building over the train tracks they will build new stations under it or take the northern blvd train for the new people there and if they build behind the Phipps the new LIRR train stop will be there between 43rd and 48 streets as well as they are 4 blocks away from the R train I just love this not in my back yard .attitude …Jimmy Van Bramer since he is a home owner in the gardens as for my back yard attitude…. I want the Center and PJS Back and the business and residents that want to stay in Sunnyside to stay and not be forced out by builders and high rents and to stop warehousing vacant store fronts in hope to teardown and build up and speaking of schools If they stopped busing ins so many children we would have room for all sunnyside and woodside kids I have seen upward of 4 busses dropping off at PS150 daily that can br at least 150 seats for local children

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Anonymous visitor

I am not 100% sure but kids who are bused to PS 150 are Gifted and Talented from District 30. When parent applies for TAG program he can select which school in District he wants child to attend. There could be other kids taking bus but I don’t think that they are from outside of our district.

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PsiKahn

No new construction should include parking. There will never be an abatement in traffic when you keep inviting more car owners to move to the neighborhood. Instead how about allocating a portion of that capital to improving public transit infrastructure in the area? Cars are the cities past, not its future.

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A Neighbor

So, I guess the city only wants completely healthy young people who are capable of walking everywhere and carrying everything on their back to move in. Is that what you are saying?

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Mitch

You aren’t very realistic, are you? If you think people are not going to own a vehicle just because they move into a building without parking, you are on some really high cloud.
Other cities like Seattle have had this backwards clueless mindset too. You know what happens? More parking problems all over the place!!!
This is what happens when you have elitist people in power who think they know it all, when they do NOT!

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Anonymous visitor

How will the people who live there get to work? Our transit system in this area operates at capacity and there are no plans for expansion or additional bus service. No one addresses this, ever.

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A Neighbor

That is a bad place to put an apartment building. There is very poor access to and from Barnett. Narrow roads beneath the train trestles, the shopping centers on all three roads to the north, narrow residential streets that go on for long blocks to the south all create a kind of enclosure that is brimming with traffic right now. It is so bad the city saw fit to create a slow zone just to try to keep things safe. Keep that land zoned M1, a new apartment building on a parking lot is not going to get the neighbors to clean up the graffiti, they may let things go even more because they’ll be busy applying for their own zoning variances. No, don’t set such a bad precedent. Build a one story garage with parking on the roof. That will help enormously.

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Mayra

I have the misfortune of being Adam Weinstein’s tenant. Not only is adam Weinstein evil to the core, he is also a very powerful evil man. With the help of his many LLC he has purchased Gov Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, Gillibrand, Schumer, and all of the politicians he needs in his pocket including HUD.

POLICING MY FAMILY:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLZ5FpbIlyI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXwFA8S9IvM

SENATOR GILLIBRAND https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdFKyy6U3UM

Preet Bharara https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tgsx61BP9fE

These are some of things that have happened to me because I made a complaint to HUD after mold that Henry Phipps / Weinstein had been refusing to eradicate mysteriously “disappeared”:
1. Several attempts to illegally evict me via fraudulent letters that paint me as a non-compliant & difficult.
2. Fraudulent letters that falsely state that I refused to give Henry Phipps access for repairs.
3. Henry Phipps submitted fraudulent HUD financial documents to HUD because they were refusing to reduce my rent.
4. Repeatedly and continue to commit fraud upon the court by initiating court cases based on fraud.
5. Initiated a court case without EVER ONCE serving me with the court papers.
6. On same day that my mailbox was broken into I followed by a gang member and when we were alone in the elevator he threatened me.
7. I have been and continue to be followed/threatened by gang members/FJC Security
8. As can be seen on my NYC Corruption Chronicles videos, thanks to Gov Cuomo/de Blasio I live in a policing state. They send NYC agencies to my home that include NYPD / HPD – on video.
9. Weinstein recruited his contractor, the infamous FJC Security Services to send unannounced mobs and strange men to my apartment.

Are you aware that there is a criminal element amongst Henry Phipps and his contractor FJC “Security” Services hire ex-offenders including felons to work as SECURITY GUARDS! How disturbing is that? Are you aware that there is a criminal element amongst Adam Weinstein, FJC, Gov Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio? Are you aware of Bill de Blasio’s crime ridden SNUG program? FYI: I trust Preet BHARARA like I trust CUOMO & DE BLASIO.

It is well known that FJC Security Services is incompetent yet HOMELAND SECURITY continues to give them lucrative contracts to protect high target area. Are you aware that GOV Cuomo used FJC to help his billionaire friend donor secure the Battery Park Marina?

I am hostage to my home because of they enter my apartment. Documents such as our birth certificates and social security cards have been stolen and a foreign substance was left on our table.

Out of fear I am hostage to my home.

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anono

if what you say is true then you are crazy to stay there! why don’t you move? If you have to pay more in rent like the rest of us do, so be it.
Everyone wants to stay for the cheap rent but it does come at a price. If you were paying market rent like the rest of us you would move out in a heartbeat and find a better place to live. that is what is very wrong with rent stabilization.

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Mayra Larios

Anyone who thinks that unions are destroying this country have to be ignored. FYI it is corrupt politicians like Gov Andew “Vendetta” Cuomo, Mayor Billy McCray & Attorney generals like Preet Bharara who hire a bunch of dumb court clerks (for a reason) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tgsx61BP9fE who are destroying this country.

If Preet bharara had any self respect he would not be wasting his time on easy cases like insider trading. He would be investigating why THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY continues give incompetent FJC Security Services lucrative contracts that put the public at risk.

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