Aug. 10, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan
The City Planning Commission unanimously approved Phipps Houses’ plan to construct a 209-unit affordable housing complex on Barnett Avenue, despite the strong opposition against it by Community Board 2, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, many residents and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.
The Commission approved the plan, which proposes to build a 10-story complex on a parking lot at 50-25 Barnett Avenue, by a vote of 12 to zero.
“Today the Commission has the opportunity to vote on land use actions that advance key elements of the Administration’s strategies to address the City’s housing crisis, particularly the ability to create more affordable housing,” said City Planning Commission Chairman Carl Weisbrod in a statement.
“The setting for this proposal could not be more historically apt – Sunnyside Gardens, which was largely developed nearly a century ago as an area where working- and middle-class families could find newly built, well-designed housing within their means,” he added.
Both Community Board 2 and Katz criticized the proposal for its size and scale as well as the income levels for the affordable housing component.
CB 2 and Katz pointed out that the proposal favors those with higher incomes, with only 20 percent of the apartments (42 units) for households at 50 percent Area Median Income. They noted that 30 percent (62 units) of the apartments are for households at 100 percent AMI, and 50 percent (104 units) for households at 130 percent of AMI.
Van Bramer also shared these concerns but said that he was disappointed that Phipps did not make any attempt to amend its plans in the face of strong local opposition.
The plan will now go before the City Council, which is the final step in the process. If the council gives it the green light the complex would be permitted to be built.
“I am disappointed but not surprised that the Administration voted in favor of the Phipps project on Barnett Avenue, despite virtually unanimous community disapproval,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer in a statement, citing a community petition against the project with over 2,000 signatures, as well as the disapproval of CB2, Katz, and Assembly Member Catherine Nolan.
“To continue to push for the Phipps project in the face of such overwhelming local opposition shows a complete disregard for the people of this community and for the many valid concerns we all share about it. This project now comes before the City Council where I will oppose it, vote against it, and encourage my colleagues to do the same,” he added.