Sept. 19, 2016 By Christian Murray
Phipps Houses has withdrawn its Barnett Avenue development proposal and the 10-story, 209-unit affordable housing complex that many Sunnyside residents feared is now dead.
Phipps was expected to go before the City Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises tomorrow as part of the process of getting the property rezoned from manufacturing to residential. However, Phipps notified Councilman Van Bramer this morning that it was pulling its controversial plan.
“It was clear that they didn’t have my support and would lose in the city council,” Van Bramer said. “Given the inevitability of it all they decided to withdraw it and I thank them for that.”
Phipps has yet to provide a reason as to why it withdrew its plans for the site, which is located at 50-24 Barnett Avenue. Adam Weinstein, the president of Phipps, told the Sunnyside Post this afternoon that he did not have time to talk about it when called.
The project had the backing of the City Planning Commission, which approved it on August 10th. Mayor Bill de Blasio also supported it.
But the neighborhood largely resented the plan and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, Community Board 2 and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz opposed it. A petition against it generated more than 2,000 signatures.
“The proposed Phipps project had too many issues associated with it,” Van Bramer said several times as the lengthy rezoning process played out.
Van Bramer came out strongly against the project, citing its large scale and size, as well as its unaffordability.
Van Bramer said the whole process has been a difficult one and “people’s chiming in was not helpful here,” a reference to the mayor who pushed for it.
The project led to a public tiff between de Blasio and Van Bramer.
The two exchanged words indirectly through press interviews and on Twitter.
“Turning down affordable housing, I can’t follow that. I can’t understand that,” said de Blasio at an unrelated event several weeks ago. “I am going to have a polite but firm conversation with the councilman, who I know very well and respect greatly,” he added.
Van Bramer fired back on Twitter, “And he will be met with a polite and even firmer response.”