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Community Board 2 Land Use Committee Votes in Favor of Phipps Rezoning

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

Nov. 25, 2020 By Christian Murray

A proposal for a seven-story affordable housing complex in Sunnyside is one step closer to getting the approval of Community Board 2.

The Land Use committee for Community Board 2 voted in favor of Phipps Houses’ rezoning application Tuesday, as the non-profit developer seeks to construct a seven story, 167-unit building at 50-25 Barnett Ave.

The vote is significant since the opinion of the Land Use committee typically holds sway over the full board vote—scheduled for Dec. 3.

The committee, by an 8 to 1 margin, voted in favor of the project less than a week after Phipps presented its plan at a public hearing and came under heavy fire.

The developer was criticized at the hearing by tenants who live at the existing Phipps Garden Apartments complex at 51-01 39th Ave. Several tenants argued that the complex was poorly managed and had fallen into disrepair, and that Phipps should not be permitted to build and manage another property in the district.

Other attendees at last week’s hearing wanted Phipps to lower the income eligibility requirements for the affordable units. All 167 units are to be classified as affordable.

The plan presented by Phipps to the committee Tuesday was tweaked in response to the hearing.

The income levels for the affordable units were adjusted, with the top income band reduced from 110 percent of the Area Median Income to 100 percent.

The revised income levels presented at the Land Use Committee Tuesday (Phipps)

Phipps also presented an “improvement plan’ to upgrade its existing Phipps Garden Apartments complex as a means to address its critics.

The improvement plan includes hiring an additional porter within 30 days. The porter would be tasked with managing the trash and cleaning common areas.

Phipps pledged that within 60 days it would make sure that its tree pruning schedule is on track and that it would expand its pest control/extermination services.

Within 90 days, Phipps said it would clean out dry wells and investigate what’s needed to address drainage problems.

Phipps also said that it would adopt a landscaping plan within six months and would paint the lobbies and hallways.

Committee members asked Phipps why it took them so long to put a plan together, since many of the complaints at the 472-unit complex have been known for years.

Phipps Houses plans to develop this Barnett Avenue site (Photo: Queens Post)

“We have been talking about this since 2016. Is there a reason why nothing has been done?” asked Lisa Deller, chair of Community Board 2, at the committee meeting.

Sarah Ellmore, director of planning for Phipps Houses, told the committee that the organization had done significant work since 2016, noting that $3 million had been spent on improvements and repairs since 2017.

But some committee members had doubts whether the improvement plan presented last night went far enough. They questioned whether Phipps was a worthy manager given all of the complaints.

Nicholas Berkowitz, a committee member, suggested that a third party oversee the building should the plans be approved—given Phipps’ current record with residents.

Michael Wadman, vice president for Phipps, dismissed the concept of a third-party manager but said the developer was willing to have a third party consultant to advise on issues.

However, some committee members– while acknowledging the ongoing issues–argued that Phipps was not the slumlord some people suggested.

Stephen Cooper, a long-time Sunnyside Gardens resident and committee member, said it is wrong to characterize Phipps as a poor landlord. He said that he has lived in the area for 50 years and has known many tenants who have lived at the complex without complaint.

He said the committee should focus on the merits of the 167-unit project, as opposed to the existing 80-year-old complex.

Deller said that the Barnett Avenue project has many positive attributes and the affordable housing on offer should not be overlooked.

“This community board has been advocating for affordable housing for a long time and if it not here—then where—and if it is not now—when,” Deller said.

The committee voted to approve the plan, under the condition that Phipps meets monthly with existing Phipps Garden Apartments tenants; adheres to its improvement plan; conducts inspections of the units; and gets a third-party company to conduct a survey that provides meaningful feedback.

Phipps says it has spent more than $3 million on improvements/repairs to its Phipps Garden Apartments complex since 2017. The repairs/improvements are listed above (Source: Phipps)

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22 Comments

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Bench warmer

All the AOC wackos are all for supporting affordable housing when it involves other neighborhoods but when they come into Sunnyside , “ not here ! it will ruin our neighborhood “! Hypocrites

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Vote YES

Vote YES on this, please. The arguments against are either not related to the rezoning, directly related to parking, or are simply flat out lies to manipulate you. See this sorry effort for what it is and consider the vote on the merits of what can best be done with the site.

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David

Vote yes- Your argument in support of this project is the lacking and the arguments against this project are compelling. Examples like Queensbridge Houses, the Mets and relationship to crime and violence, an overcrowded public transportation system etc. You provided absolutely nothing to support your position, nothing.

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Concerned Citizen

We need to be much louder with opposition. Adding developments of this nature to Sunnyside will destroy the area. This will bring pollution, noise, traffic, and unfortunately crime (backed by geospatial statistics that prove crime is concentrated by areas of low income housing).

Preserve Sunnyside! Add green space and shops for small business pop ups!

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Gardens Watcher

“Every project is not necessarily right for every neighborhood.”

JVB, these were your words regarding the last 2016 proposal for this site. They stand true today.

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Joe McMiled

Please do not do any renovations, redevelopments, etc… Because it may create some issues like causing traffic interruptions, noise and heavy dust blowing. Also, that street is narrow.

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Concerned Citizen

I am very much a mid 20’s person and am highly opposed to this development. It will ruin Sunnyside. These developments belong in kew gardens, Flatbush, East NY, ozone park, Eastechster….

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gag

GOOD. We need more housing and this is 100% affordable. The only issue is that the building should be 200ft tall instead.

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Mac

This plan is trouble. Vote no. Low income housing is a failure just look at Queensbridge, Astoria Houses and the development formerly known as the Mets. New market rate housing only then the older housing in the area will become more affordable.

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Concerned Citizen

Thank you!!! It boggles the mind the no one else sees this. Go spend between 10pm and 3am by Queensbridge to get a preview of the future of Sunnyside if this falls through.

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Get real

‘He said the committee should focus on the merits of the 167-unit project, as opposed to the existing 80-year-old complex.”
The merits are the project are nill. It will immediately gentrify Barnett. Barnett is now industrial. No rezoning, please. The public hearing attracted a lot of unhappy Phipps residents. You will hear other objections on December 3. Big problem to fix: Many, many people could not get into the meeting and many did not hear about first or this meeting at all.

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Gardens Watcher

Passing this right before Thanksgiving with very little public notice, and restricted public access smells rotten.

Why rush this through now? The construction phase is at least a two-year process.

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Who are these people?

Shame on committee. AMI is not affordable, Phipps is 11th on eviction landlords in whole city.

Committee member Steve Cooper works in real estate.Cooper admitted he was not at the last meeting & did not hear overwhelming opposition. He admitted he worked with Phipps. He said his son lived there but had to leave because ofr roaches and pests!

Then he & Lisa Dellar pushed hard. They talked new members out of objections. V. Bramer ally Rosamund not even on Land Committee invited by Dellar to give Phipps glowing report. V. Bramer took her on a tour. The land UseCommittee is not listening to community. Only Lauren Springer had stones to vote no. The only people in favor in the Community are Jimmy V. Bramer, Dellar & Cooper.

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ABoondy

bribes are illegal. lobbying is not. both work the same way. its only cheating if you get caught.

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Anonymous

Full Board needs to vote NO! Councilman, please vote NO! The high majority of members on the surrounding blocks do not want this project.

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Gardens Watcher

Why did CB2 schedule the next vote BEFORE listening to public comment? This is getting buried over Thanksgiving weekend, which would be egregious in normal times. Even worse during a pandemic, and as we head into the second wave.

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