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GoFundMe Launched for Phipps Garden Residents Left Homeless After Fire on Tuesday

Firefighters tackling the blaze on Tuesday at the Sunnyside Gardens Complex (Photo provided by Julie Won)

March, 24, 2021 By Michael Dorgan

A GoFundMe page has been set up to aid residents at the Phipps Garden Apartments whose apartments were damaged by a fire Tuesday afternoon.

The blaze broke out inside an apartment in the S section of the complex, located at 51-01 39th Ave., at around 2 p.m. and the FDNY dispatched 25 units consisting of more than 100 firefighters to put it out, officials said.

Firefighters got the fire under control by 3 p.m. and there were no reported injuries, the FDNY said.

Julie Won, a Phipps Garden Apartments resident and a candidate for city council, launched the GoFundMe page yesterday and is looking to raise money for those tenants whose apartments were wrecked in the fire.

Won said that the fire caused damage to six apartments on floors 2 through 4, and that two units on the ground floor were flooded when the FDNY put out the blaze. She said that five families have been forced to leave and find temporary accommodation.

The Red Cross, Won says, has put some of the tenants up in hotels but they will not be able to return to their apartments for at least a month.

Won is looking to raise $25,000 for the impacted tenants to help pay for their accommodation and to cover their property that was destroyed. The GoFundMe has generated more than $6,000 to date from more than 100 donors.

“It is truly miraculous that no lives were lost,” Won said, noting that some of the tenants are seniors and have mobility problems.

“But now my neighbors have had their belongings destroyed, and are displaced for the foreseeable future.”

Fire damage caused to a kitchen wall inside the Phipps Sunnyside Gardens Complex (Photos provided by Thomas Muccioli)

The blaze started in a second-floor apartment in a wall shared with an adjoining apartment, according to Adam Weinstein, the president and CEO of Phipps.

Weinstein said the fire was contained to the second floor but the FDNY had to demolish walls and doors on floors 2 through 4 to put it out. The FDNY also smashed out windows, and there was water damage.

“We are so thankful that no one was hurt or injured,” a spokesperson for Phipps said. “We’re already in touch with each of the households and are beginning to work on the restoration of the units. The Red Cross has offered service to tenants who may need assistance.”

Phipps says it has already replaced the smashed windows–and that the doors are being repaired. Additionally, an electrician is on site and the water is being removed. The organization said that it has already notified its insurance provider about the fire.

The tenants with damaged apartments are also being taken care of, according to Phipps. “Each of the affected tenants is either housed, remaining in their apartment, staying with family, or decamped at a second home out of town.”

Phipps said the cause of the fire remains under investigation. The FDNY confirmed that it is still investigating what sparked the blaze.

However, some tenants say the fire was caused by a contractor carrying out renovation work inside a vacated apartment on the second floor.

A worker, tenants say, was drilling a hole through a kitchen wall and struck a wire which ignited.

Won claims the incident can be attributed to Phipps’ mismanagement of the 432-unit complex, arguing the contractor had been hired by Phipps.

“The management has consistently proven to be incompetent and derelict in their obligations to provide safe, clean, and dignified housing,” Won said.

She said the fire re-enforced her opposition to Phipps’ plans to construct a 167-unit affordable housing building at 50-25 Barnett Ave., which is adjacent to the Garden complex. Phipps needs the Barnett Avenue site rezoned to develop the site.

The fate of the rezoning application will be determined tomorrow when the city council votes on the plan.

“As a Phipps resident and a member of the Community Board, I opposed the rezoning of the Barnett Ave site specifically due to their mistreatment of their tenants.”

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer called on Phipps to repair the wreckage and find accommodation for the displaced families.

“While grateful there was no loss of life or serious injury, it was a traumatic experience that has left people without their home. All damages must be repaired by Phipps ASAP,” Van Bramer said.

“Phipps must accommodate all families affected in every way possible, including housing anyone who requires shelter.”

Fire damage caused to a wall inside the Sunnyside Gardens Complex (Photo provided by Thomas Muccioli)

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So the smoke detectors saved lives?
How quickly did NYFD respond?
How long did it take to safely evacuate and put out?
Phipps says the contractor wasn’t hired by them, that they had no knowledge.

Sara Ross

My heart goes out to all of the tenants! Every time there is a fire someplace, you NEVER hear anybody say “I heard the smoke alarm go off”. ALL city buildings are supposed to have smoke alarm/carbon monoxide detectors (my apartment building has an all in 1 device).


How much will the owners of Phipps contribute? Most likely nothing as they can now renovate and ca$$$h in large on those units as the people who lived there will move out.


And this is who you want to be in charge of building something over the Buckeye Pipeline?????

Could, should do better.

1. The pavement work they’ve performed in the rear part of the complex is like a bandaid over a wound. It covers it for now, but it will not last.
2. The work they did in the same area lifted up so much dirt. The common areas of my building were covered in a thick layer of dust. Days went by without same being cleaned up. I had to bring out my own vacuum and my own wipes to clean it myself – all four floors down to the vestibule.


I’m sure there’s a tech solution to this . The Queens Tech Council says tech can solve all of all our problems.

Patricia Dorfman


Most already know much in this article, due to individual social media and direct contact. What we did learn of momentous importance is the City Council will vote tomorrow on the rezoning to residential of 50-25 Barnett.

If passed, it will change our terrain irreversibly for the worse, displacing small business and opening up a strip of fully occupied light industrial zoning to residential. Elsewhere in NYC that was is signal for big real estate to begin slowly buying up other properties nearby — how gentrification works. Think I am Chicken Little? Look west.


The conditional approvals, from Borough President Donovan Richards, CB2 and City Planning, were contingent on a timeline of completed repairs. Who is on record of stating repairs have occurred per the timeline? Have Community Board 2 (CB2) Chairperson Lisa Deller and Councilperson Jimmy Van Bramer (JVB) deemed repairs satisfactory? Has Ms. Deller informed the community and the media? Is JVB, due to his Covid diagnosis, apparently no longer participating in social media, except with canned Facebook ads about his run for Borough President? But now he is able to shepherd a law through City Council tomorrow?

No firm report on Phipps was announced at the November CB2 public meeting. Long time members of CB2 Board Members are no longer on the Board, including Diane Ballek, Patrick O’Brien, and Dorothy Morehead. Where is that story? Do we even have a Community Board, in the sense of a diverse community represented? Was former CB2 Chairperson Denise Keehan-Smith’s non-reappointment, even though she was unanimously elected, related to this rezoning process?

On March 3, when JVB announced in SP that he was inclined to approve rezoning, I had already spoken to Publisher Christian Murray, who said he would run the story of the possible 400 jobs loss from Steve Madden, Ltd. that morning. It was not run in the morning. The Madden story was run after the JVB announcement, midmorning, surprising us all since he had not responded to pleas to meet. The timing of the announcement effectively killed the Madden story impact, helping JVB cement his intention, rather than report the news.

If Van Bramer is out with Covid, not posting on social media other than canned Facebook ads, how is he able to accomplish the necessary groundwork to pass such an enormous bill? Did he tour remotely? Is he engaged with calls with the Speaker, but not with his constituents, to whom he has not responded, at all? Many hundreds of us have tried to reach or meet with him. We have the documents. Is this orchestrated process designed to disenfranchise us? Here is the most recent letter a group sent to JVB, including major local organizations and concerned locals, progressive and otherwise.


Three apartments at Phipps Apts. were gutted entirely yesterday, creating three homeless families. With some on-the-scene accounts some saying the fire was triggered by Phipps workers working on fixing up a recently vacated rent-regulated apartment, how is Phipps Houses deemed competent enough to handle construction of a new structure?


Opponents of the rezoning have been silenced — speakers were placed, presumably by Ms. Deller, after the official CB2 November 3rd vote. Some of us were unable to get through and some Board members not informed of the Borough Hall hearing. A live link was hard to find. Some had to type out 55 characters. No matter how the vote goes tomorrow in City Council, this Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) suppressed public input and was illegitimate.

And where is the coverage on this topic from the SP? SP without question provided the most coverage of any outlet, but zilch on the most important local story of the decade, that of government assisted gentrification against the will of the majority. Public comment at the earlier hearing, according to Ms. Deller, ran 36 opposed to 4 in favor. The Woodside Herald will not publish any material by me in which Jimmy Van Bramer is not mentioned positively, I am told due to an alarming call from his staff to the Editor. With few newspapers printing, some in the community are not even aware rezoning was proposed.

If the rezoning passes tomorrow, it will be because an expensive, taxpayer-paid government related entity, CB2, was used for an agenda, not for democracy. If rezoning passes, we can deduce that we do not have representation in CB2, or by our Councilmember.

I understand that not all battles result in the way we want them to. But if the rezoning is approved, there has not been fairness or meaningful representation, and a very large rapacious creature, big real estate, is roving in our livingroom.

(See image: doctored image about land grab in Kenya; but a land grab is a land grab. No artist name available.)
Other links of interest;

• Continuing violations at developer/landlord Phipps Houses

• Community health issues and disruption likely for 10 years:

• Phipps Houses Record:
this proposal in 2016 is unchanged, when “you did not see an adequate attempt by Phipps to make any meaningful changes.”

• Timeline:

• Assemblyman Barnwell and Senator Gianaris opposition:

• Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez comments

• Phipps is a bad landlord. Violations, bad record, their actions:

• Phipps Houses’ recent new promises and rushed flurry of repair further reveal that they did not keep their 2016 word. These November 2020 in their 472-unit building, formerly a world famous example of affordable housing.

• Many, many complaints:

• Tenant Leader Perrin’s unequivocal “NO”

• A thriving business to be displaced asked JVB for help on January 14, to save 400 local jobs.

Watching it Fall Apart

They use the cheapest contractors in the city. One they hired to work on sidewalks cut a full-grown London Plane tree root and it fell over. You get what you pay for.


And Jimmy Van Bramer stands behind Phipps. Wants then to build more in Sunnyside. BLAME JVB!


Phipps owners do not vote in this area, it is the tenants who vote in the elections. Phipps tenants will never vote for Van Bramer again for any office and will get everyone else they know in Woodside & Sunnyside to not vote for him either, especially in leaving his name totally blank on our ballots during rank voting on June 22’s Primary for Queens Borough President. Bubble in everyone else on your ballot. Spread the word!


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