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City Council Votes in Favor of Phipps’ Rezoning Plan, 7-Story Development May Proceed

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer while speaking before the Council vote today (screen shot)

March 25, 2021 By Christian Murray

The rezoning application filed by Phipps Houses was passed by the City Council today–making way for a seven-story, 167-affordable housing complex to go up at 50-25 Barnett Ave.

The vote, which passed 49-0, marked the final step in the rezoning process–which officially means the development can proceed. The controversial plan had already been approved by Community Board 2, the Queens Borough President and the City Planning Commission.

The application had the backing of Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer who spoke in favor of it–via Zoom–prior to the vote.

“The project before us today is 100 percent affordable and vastly improved from the one I rejected four years ago,” Van Bramer said. The previous application, filed by Phipps in 2016, called for a 10-story building, with the affordable units designated for people with higher incomes than the current plan.

Van Bramer said that Phipps’ latest proposal is smaller in scale and deeply affordable.

“Affordable levels represent the deepest we’ve seen in Sunnyside, with a set aside for formerly homeless families, and many units at 40 percent Area Median Income with a maximum of 80 percent AMI [$90,960 for a family of four].”

Van Bramer said that the height of the building was lower– at seven stories–than what was proposed five years ago. He said Phipps had also pledged to provide union jobs, which it didn’t do in 2016.

The councilman noted that Phipps had also agreed to upgrade its existing Sunnyside Garden complex on 39th Avenue, which many residents had argued had fallen into disrepair.

“There is a real action plan of immediate improvements that Phipps is complying with,” he told the council today.

Van Bramer also spoke out against those who opposed the plan.

“While some have used disingenuous arguments against this project—I will not deny homeless families and low wage workers a home by allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good,” he said.

“And we who say we are for the Green New Deal should jump at replacing a surface parking lot with affordable housing, and not allow NIMBY arguments to stop truly affordable housing to be built on this site.”

The proposed development would go up at 50-25 Barnett Ave., a site currently used for parking (Queens Post)

The application, despite its smooth passage in the council, was not without controversy.

Opponents argued that Phipps’ application should have been denied, citing the conditions of its Sunnyside Garden complex, which is located across the street from the proposed development.

At a public hearing in November, Phipps was subject to a raft of complaints from tenants who lived at the 472-unit Garden complex. They spoke of garbage, mice and cockroach problems—as well as the garden areas falling into disrepair.

The community board, given the criticism, called on Phipps to fix the apartments and put together a carefully crafted 90-day maintenance plan for it to follow. The community board then approved Phipps’ rezoning application, 28-12, on the condition that it stuck to the maintenance plan.

The plan called on Phipps to hire an additional porter; expand its pest control/extermination services; clean out dry wells; fix the laundry room; investigate what’s needed to address drainage problems; and put in place a tree pruning schedule.

Last week, Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez issued a statement saying that Phipps had not met the conditions of the agreement. She did not, however, come out in opposition to the proposed development.

“Phipps Houses made a commitment to the community that they would promptly address the maintenance issues at Gardens Apartment,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement. “Their failure to do so is upsetting.”

Phipps, however, argued that it had stuck to the maintenance plan and Lisa Deller, Chair of Community Board 2, said that the organization had made a number of upgrades.

Yesterday, Phipps, however, faced heavy criticism yet again after a fire broke out at the Garden complex, leading to at least eight units being severely damaged. Some tenants blamed Phipps, saying that one of its contractors drilled a hole in a wall and hit an electrical wire–sparking the blaze.

Phipps, however, said that it was not to blame for the fire, saying that it started in a tenant’s apartment where a contractor was doing work without its knowledge or permission.

Several candidates running for city council were opposed to the proposal, including Emily Sharpe.

“Council Member Van Bramer’s decision to approve Phipps’ Barnett rezoning is extremely disappointing,” Sharpe said. “This rezoning, while called affordable, will exclude single adults and heads of households earning minimum wage…Additionally, the recent fire only underscores Phipps’ lack of regard for the well-being of its current tenants which is well-documented and has earned them a recurring spot on the city’s Worst Evictors list.”

Steve Madden on Barnett Avenue (Photo: Queens Post)

Steve Madden, the fashion/shoe company that employs more than 400 people at its 52-16 Barnett Ave. location, also opposed the rezoning plan. It said that it would be forced to move out of the neighborhood if the development went ahead, since many of its employees rely on the site for parking.

“Without the public parking lot, Madden will have no reasonable way to maintain its Barnett Avenue presence,” the company said in a letter.

Phipps, however, maintained that many Steve Madden employees would be able to park in its new building, which would have 170 attended spaces, 91 of which would be available to the public.

Van Bramer’s vote today, however, was largely influenced by his desire to see affordable housing go up on the site. He also held the view that Phipps had taken steps to fix its Garden complex.

“We who proclaim ourselves progressives say we want to build housing that is truly affordable. And when we get the chance to do so—we should,” he told the council prior to the vote. “Particularly in expensive neighborhoods like Sunnyside.”

“We who say we are progressive say we want to permanently house the homeless. And when we get the chance to do so we must. Everyone must be welcome in the Sunnyside/Woodside area that I am lucky to call home. And with this vote we have a chance to say that emphatically.”

Meanwhile, Phipps issued a statement following the vote.

“We are pleased the City Council has voted unanimously in the rezoning of Barnett Avenue to allow for the creation of new, 100 percent affordable housing in Sunnyside,” a spokesperson for Phipps said in a statement.

“We appreciate the support and input we received from Councilmember Van Bramer, Queens Community Board Two, and Borough President Donovan Richards, as well as the City Planning Commission/Department of City Planning, in revising and formulating this important project. We look forward to a groundbreaking, and to continuing to work with our residents and neighbors in Sunnyside Gardens.”

Rendering of Phipps’ plan for 50-25 Barnett Ave. (Courtesy of Phipps)

email the author: news@queenspost.com

69 Comments

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Anonymous

Welfare is theft.
Food stamps are theft.
Gov-ment cheese is theft.
Section 8 is theft.
Street parking is paid for by the users.

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PWNED

Wrong.
Wrong.
Wrong.
Wrong.
And wrong again!

You’re really on a roll there, buddy!

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Harriet

Same has happened in Astoria. You have a city council member who was voted in mostly by long-term older residents and families only to endorse the most progressive and socialist candidate who has been vocal about bail reform, community jails and crime reform including releasing criminals from jail and defund the police to take over his seat. The endorsement was done outside of Rikers island to show where her main focus will be. And we all know she will win because of all the socialists and progressives that moved in when AOC was elected.

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Ridiculous

That many “socialist and progressives” moved in after AOC was elected? Did you move to a place because of your political leanings?

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Suncoast

Affordable housing calculation for NYC includes Westchester County,thus there is no affordable housing in NYC.

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LIC Direct

Thanks to Jimmy the neighborhood loses 400 permanent jobs as Steve Madden, contemplates leaving the area and the small restaurants in the neighborhood already hurting due to COVID19 will be done once Steve Madden leaves to an executive park out of NY State. Thanks to Jimmy ‘The Job Killer” another crushing job loss to Queens, just like Amazon which he was instrumental in crushing.

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LIC Direct Drama Queen

Don’t worry LIC Direct : Thanks to Jimmy we have a couple of thousand jobs at Apple TV, a couple of thousand jobs at Kaufman Studios and Silver Cup Studios and even more jobs at American Express, Alphabet (Google), Amazon ( yes Amazon) Johnson and Johnson, Rockaway Brewery, Uber, The worlds largest fortune cookie manufacturer. The list goes on and on and that’s just LIC.

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Crazy but true...

Keep on dreaming…. Thanks to Jimmy? you sound like his smiling errand boy,… You must be a Jimmy lover,… Rode the subway today earlier than normal I thought I walked into a jail cell in central booking. That is the current state of the city and the neighborhood. Now go get your fortune at the cookie factory!

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I love fortune cookies too

Keep dreaming? You’re the one who is obviously dreaming, all those jobs are in LIC whether you want to admit it or not.

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Defund Jimmy

Jimmy has gotten so woke he has forgotten the working class people in this neighborhood. But then maybe it was always for show? How does he afford that big place in Sunnyside Ga dens?

Politicians blame the cops. Yet politicians don’t give people in need decent homes – how easy did the rancid public housing conditions which were headlines last year have been forgotten after politicans got their cheap sound bites.

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Martha

Well the community elected our local politicians. The neighborhood has changed. Conservative and the NIMBY crowd is the minority. You kicked out the long time residents and mom and pop stores for higher rent. Affording housing and the poor will no longer be segregated. This is social and economic diversity. Most voters in western queens want more affordable housing.

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Damaris

Initially i was against this development. But now that it has been approved i would definitely wish i apply for an apartment. I have been laid off for months and living off unemployment. I fear eviction.

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Rats R Us

I love how JVB shames and guilts people who have legitimate concerns. I am just trying to find the rodent mitigation aspect of this rezoning plan, has anyone seen it? After the rat population spread and scattered when the construction on the new school at 48th & Barnett started, I am confident CB2, City Council, and Phipps are prepared to make sure we don’t go through that again.

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Gullible hashtagger was targeted by Fox Propaganda

Like you did to Victor on the Brent O’Leary comment stream?

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Observer

It never makes a dam difference what the neighborhood wants when TPTB seem to want to destroy what were good neighborhoods. I went through this in Brooklyn so we moved to Queens. Now, look at the hold-ups and crime in Astoria, Middle Village, Richmond Hill and Sunnyside/Woodside.

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You've been had

But I thought the democrats were the party of the “little guy” and the republicans were the party of big business! Apparently not.

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Rosa

This is about housing for poor and homeless families. It is about building shelter for those most vulnerable and in need. By the time this built there will be hundreds if not thousands of people applying and we will be under new mayoral leadership. Hopefully a new mayoral administration will focus on making sure these developers maintain their properties or pay enormous fines. With covid 19 sticking around more housing needs to be built.

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Duh

It’s a land grab by faux affordable housing developers who are leading the way for luxury condo towers all along Barnett. Go beyond the headlines. There are no saints in real estate in NYC.

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Concerned Citizen

Hopefully our new mayor will be tough on crime and support the NYPD and reduce homeless shelters where they don’t belong.

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Sunnyside still has a chance

If you’re mad at Jimmy, look at the candidates seeking his old seat. They all have the same agenda. Know who you vote for.

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Anonymous

Rally being held Saturday, March 27th @ 3:00PM on 50th Street between 39th Avenue and Barnett Avenue regarding the betrayal of Jimmy Van Bramer towards the wishes and arguments by the high majority of his Sunnyside voters surrounding the project and the tenants of Phipps Garden Apartments. PLEASE COME AND JOIN! People running for office, such as many Queens Borough President candidates running against JVB, who really care what their voters think will be there to speak against Jimmy Van Bramer’s actions this week. Sunnyside and Woodside voters who are for anyone by Jimmy Van Bramer for any elected office are invited to attend. Remember not to place JVB as any choice on the new rank voting. Leave his bubble completely blank. He stated he did not care if his position cost him votes. Exactly.

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Oh, the irony

when Sunnyside Gardens residents, who live in one of the first affordable housing projects in NYC history, will gather to protest one of the most affordable housing projects in modern city history. All while being led by some of the most ignorant and bigoted residents in Sunnyside Gardens history. You should all be ashamed of yourselves!

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Disgusted at the Sight of You

You are the bigot. And perhaps an ageist. Perhaps you think of yourself as a progressive. What progressives don’t see is the damage they do to lives that are not part of their vision of the future. You see them as the eggs you need to break to make your omelette. But we see ourselves as humans who have fought long and hard for some small measure of peace. Your “disruption” is our “destruction.” I guess we are just not dying off fast enough for you, are we?

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Own your lack of vision

Might want to get those eyes checked. Pointing out the moral bankruptcy of people who benefited from affordable housing protesting affordable housing that would benefit others does not make me a bigot, an ageist, or a progressive wishing death upon you. You are blowing this issue way out of proportion! And that speaks more about you than it does me.

One of the most important things we must do now is accept our new neighbours into the community as they fight long and hard for some small measure of peace. What I am genuinely worried about is the precedent of racial hatred being set by these protests. The building is going to be built. The residents are going to move in. So please accept that fact, and realise that they, too, are human.

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Sue

I would of went but i want to keep my jobs and friends. No way would i want my picture taken when officials like our city council member labeled those opposing this development as NIMBY and may be looked at as another way of saying xenophobic and racist. Did any other candidate running for Sunnyside city council show up? Jimmy is looking at the big picture. He is running for Queen’s borough president and figures it will look good for him to approve it now so he can get the progressive and liberal vote. What he doesn’t understand is that for many voters he is still an old white male politician when people look at him and he is not young enough for most voters to care about his gay struggles in the past.

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Heard You

At least you’re honest, but what neither of you see what I see.progressives are just a small sliver of voters, even if they are quite active. I hope JVB comes in dead last. He’s as slimy as they come, pandering to this neighborhood full of old line Queensers then abandoning them for the latest flavor of the week. That may be good politics but it is the shallowest, callowest and most sickening kind of human to human interaction. May he climb to the highest height of his ambition, but do it as far from here as possible. Preferably Antarctica. P.S. JVB glad handed the very leaders he is shunning now in order to get where he is and stay there.

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LIC Direct

Sue: You hit the Van Bramer Nail on the head. His struggles are old news. Too many other issues, COVID19, children on the border, BLM, mental health, massive unemployment, loss of small businesses, lost income for small landlords with tenants not paying rent, tax base loss, flight out of NYC, high crime, bail reform, political corruption, on and on. Soon enough most people left in NYC won’t look like Jimmy, he’s the minority. He’ll have to leave for his beloved Key West or Provincetown and run for public office there.

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what happened to this guy

vanbramer cares for nobody. he wants to say he got affordable housing in.

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Joe

Too much power for the wrong person, which happens to be out of touch with the residents. This project, as it is, should have never been approved.

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#1 Fan

Obviously, JVB knows best. Just trust him on this. It will be great success for everybody.

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Fearful of Reprisals

No one has greater disingenuity than the councilman himself. He, on his generous city-paid salary, maintains a single family home in the gardens for his husband and himself, and I’ve heard they enjoy spending time at a property somewhere less congested than Sunnyside. We here in Phipps are not so endowed. We have lived in affordable housing for decades, some are fortunate enough to maintain a car for work and trips away from city congestion. We are at the mercy of the owners who have decided falling apart, bug and vermin infested conditions are just fine. That the councilman and CB2 chair, who also has a garden and vacation home, have decided this is good enough for us, and that we should, in our fifth, sixth and seventh decades of life, give up our means to make a living and find a little fresh air and greenery, is hypocritical paternalism at its very worst. You, Mr. Van Bramer may live in a rich neighborhood; I live in deteriorating affordable housing. And you just handed them all they need to continue dis investing in this property so they can expand their portfolio of properties in decline. I do not thank you for this, nor do hundreds and hundreds of your neighbors. Shame on you. Shame. Your cloak of progressivism does not hide all you hope it does.

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Marlon

They want yall to sell your house and get out the neighborhood so they can turn the smaller properties into luxury apartments and housing for the poor.

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Anonymous

I am so disappointed in this unanimous ruling. It seems that none of our legitimate concerns were listened to nor understood. We do not object to “affordable” housing, we do not object to formerly homeless people being given the opportunity to live in actual apartments, we do not reject progress. This has to do with the fact that our infrastructure is already overburdened, it has to do with the poor location for building residences – rammed up against the LIRR and over the Buckeye Pipeline. It has to do with the fact that public transportation in the boroughs is lacking or complicated (multiple conveyances to get anywhere) and whether you agree or disagree – people have cars and need parking and that is not going to change. It has to do with Phipps pathetic attempts to mollify the public by putting on a show of washing floors that hadn’t been washed in two years and other temporary cosmetic changes and not addressing the significant decades of mismanagement and always choosing the cheapest way to put a patch on things. The construction that will occur when this project happens will drive up the noise level in our neighborhood for a long time and it will bring even more rats and mice streaming out and let me tell you – we have enough. Phipps claims they are “not in the parking business” – which is disingenuous at best being as they own the parking lot! The neighborhood would applaud if they built an indoor/outdoor parking structure there (and I guarantee they’d rake the money in) instead of this. But hey, real estate and insurance rule don’t’ they.

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Joe

The title in JVB tweet says it all, “Affordable housing”. Like if that was the only issue with the Phipps. Affordable housing SHOULD NOT be the driver on this approval.

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Heidi R

People need to be more thankful for the help there getting from the government, and take care of there housing and their belongings. Its the tenants fault to that live in these units. Unfortunately some do not care when others are flipping the rent bill and complain about things they caused. For ex, they get the halls cleaned and painted and the next day there is garbage on the floor and graffiti on the wall. Some people do not even clean up after their dog has an accident in the hallway. And the halls smell like marijuana.

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Don’t paint me with your slimy brush

What? You blame people for Phipps renting to pigs? This place was crystal clean and had a sterling reputation before Adam Weinstein took over. For years we had a rental agent who told me he didn’t rent to white people because they ask too many questions. When speaking to my new neighbors they thought nothing of telling me that they had to pay him to get in. They thought it was normal, not against the law. Most of our new neighbors are fine people making their way in a new country. I have no complaints. Some are not. And anyone, white, black and all colors in between have a right to demand clean, sanitary, decently cared for homes from landlords. That is the law. Phipps breaks it all the time, does not clean up after those they chose to rent to and then you blame it on the tenants. Shame on you.

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Alp B

Do you even live in the Phipps to be making such a comment? If so why do you choose to love here?

Who might I ask cleans your halls? Mine have been done twice throughout the entirety of the pandemic and only because of the stipulations imposed.

Repairs? What repairs? Crumbling walls and ceilings in common areas as well as in my apartment haven’t been addressed for over a year.

Who’s flipping the rent bill? As far as I’m aware all of us pay our own rents. Forgive us for having rent stabilized or controlled units.

Sounds like you need to ask your neighbors to share some of that marijuana with you. It might do you some good. Then again personalities are hard to change.

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Anonymous

Millions of Americans still out of work due to the pandemic and your concern is Amnesty for people who don’t belong here. We the people of the USA don’t owe theses people anything. Get real.

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VV

so crime is up, law being doused with water, and now more public houses are being built despite community push back.

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Janice

Getting public housing would be the only way I would be able to stay to live in New York City. Hopefully we can some day move out of our basement apartment.

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Joe

Then you move or find a smaller place that you can afford, that’s the way I did it and many others have done for years, in order to be able to live in where you want. It’s fair and simple.

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Neisha L.

I have been applying for 12 years and nothing. I’m am not giving up on finding Affordable Housing near the area.

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Jessica

I’m praying that I am blessed with the opportunity to get a unit for my family and I. Only thing that gives me anxiety is the wait time ?.

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Here

Then blame Mr. Van Bramer and his real estate pals. They pushed to make this place chic, thus less affordable. You could get an affordable place here 12 years ago. Not now. The tide is against you. If you thinks the prices in Phipps’ new building are affordable, you come from a different class and generation than I do. I couldn’t afford it unless I won Lotto.

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Patricia Dorfman

Jimmy, where was any notice to the public about today’s hearing or a chance for us to speak?

You appear to have jammed through this controversial project, orchestrating its passage with a Svengali-like verve, which opens up Barnett to developers. You have had time to speak to the Sunnyside Post, Phipps Houses, and Council colleagues, but not once to hundreds of your constituents except on Twitter?

You and Lisa say Phipps Houses has made “progress.” So the so-called stipulations per a timeline were fake? Talk about “disingenuous.”

Are you going to hand carry this bill over to the Mayor tonight in this rush for passage? Do you believe this will be the end of the matter?

Today, we heard you spoke at Woodside Houses, even though you announced you tested positive for Covid?

You speak of your concern for the homeless, but where you yesterday when five families were made homeless by the fire a few blocks from your home?

Why is it you want this project so much that they input of the public was suppressed and anyone not in favor is a NIMBY? I think everyone knows.

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On SS and Forced Out

He was at war wi5 all of us who live here before the first election. He just hid it well. He actually has contempt for his constituents because we saw through his schtick after he lied to our faces about the bike lanes. If the city and Phipps had any integrity this could all be worked out. But they don’t, we know it and they decided to run over us for it. Well just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it.

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about those bike lanes...

But: he was right and it’s undeniable

Especially for the #25forSunnyside-rs that know that businesses are riding on the backs of bike delivery, people that have a right to work in a safe environment

Hate him all you want: he was right. And every (electable)#D26 Candidiate in his wake agrees that he was right. The end justifies the means.

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Svengali-like

(Who else had to google “Svengali-like”?)

These facebook bloggers are getting more sophisticated by the minute

#SaferSkillman

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Not an insult, but a reflection

I googled it, too. And at that point I laughed because it is a pitch perfect description of Patricia herself! That’s what they say about insults- they very often reflect the insulted less than they do the insulter. And nowhere could this be more true than of our Svengali-like conspiracy theorist in chief!

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Joe

He’s a politician, he pretends to be more than that and to care, but in the end, he’s just a politician doing a campaign.
It’s no coincidence that he mentions “affordable housing” 300 times and all the other issues with this project are irrelevant for him.

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Red States

Progressives always come through in destroying the cities. There goes Sunnyside. Move while you can.

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Neziah Bliss

This plan fits much better in most areas we should care about. Height/size, affordability, etc. If Steve Madden can also maintain parking that would do the trick for most big issues from the first time. In theory I think this looks like a victory of public pushback. They changed the plans pretty substantially. I’m actually a bit shocked (and that doesn’t exonerate Phipps because it shows how much better they could have tried years ago). I would understand being upset if it took away my view/light exposure, but the remaining arguments against it at this point feel a bit NIMBY-ish and smell of looking for an excuse. I haven’t seen protests against the 7 story buildings going up by my place on the Blvd. from these people, and the affordability factor there is non-existent.

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So Damned Disappointed

We all need to live. Having your own representative lie to your face and turn his back on you the call you disingenuous is scathing, and to have people who don’t live right here tell you what is good for you is enraging. Plan your own protest if you are against the building by you. We are not professionals, just people trying to hang on who are being shut out in favor of people who haven’t contributed to making this a desirable place to live for decades. You kind of look forward to a little peace in your old age, you know? Then people come along and insult you for everything you’ve ever done for the community and tell you how ugly you are for not being part of their vision for the future. Maybe it’ll happen to you, you won’t know how it is to live through it until you live through it. It’s bitter.

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We See Right Through You Now

This was a long-time affordable neighborhood until you and your friends took it up in your slavering jaws. Your hypocrisy is boundless. Your arrogance is gargantuan. You may think you are getting away with this, but you will drag your chains behind you as Marley did in the Dickens story. Not a soul who knows you believes a word out of your mouth. Pity your new marks, wherever they be.

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Anonymous

how much money did JVB get in his pockets this time I am sure alot – shame on him for approving this –

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