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Phipps Development “The Barnett” To Get Public Hearing In Sunnyside May 18

MHG Architects

MHG Architects

May 4, 2016 By Christian Murray

A public hearing is scheduled for May 18 where residents can voice their opinions on a 10-story, 200-plus unit development that is planned for 50-25 Barnett Ave.

The developer, Phipps Houses, is seeking a zoning change in order to go ahead with the project, which is now being called “The Barnett.” As part of the rezoning process, the City requires that a public hearing be held.

The hearing is scheduled to take place at 6:30 p.m. on May 18 at Sunnyside Community Services.

The proposal has already garnered plenty of attention. The Sunnyside Gardens Preservation Alliance has generated more than 1,400 signatures against it since July and a new organization–called the Queens Anti Gentrification Group—has formed with the aim of torpedoing it.

However, some residents have expressed support for the development, since the units will be “affordable,” based on City guidelines.

The Board will take a vote on the Phipps plan on June 2 during its monthly meeting that is scheduled be held at Sunnyside Community Services at 7 p.m.

Once the Board has made its decision, the application will then be reviewed by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. Both Katz’s and the Board’s recommendations are advisory.

The plan will then go before the City Planning Commission and the City Council. Both of those bodies have the capacity to nix the project.

The City Council’s decision will essentially be determined by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, since it is Council protocol for members to follow the recommendation of the local representative.

Van Bramer has stated that he has “concerns” about the project.  Van Bramer could reach out to Phipps at any time during the rezoning process and announce that he will block it.

“I’m keenly aware of the quality of life issues—such as the shortage of parking and the scale of the proposal,” Van Bramer said last August. “The height is not consistent with the community and parking is a big issue.”

He said that while he supports affordable housing, “a project has to be appropriate and we are building plenty of it going forward.”

Phipps provided Community board 2’s Land Use Committee with an update on its project last Wednesday, the first update since the Department of City Planning certified developers’ plans on March 28.

Michael Wadman, vice president of Phipps Houses told the Board that Phipps plans to build 209 “affordable” units (208 excluding the superintendent unit) in accordance with the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development Mixed Middle Income program.

Twenty percent (42 units) of the apartments will be for residents who earn at or below 50 percent of Area Media Income. That equates to about $32,000 for a single person or about $45,000 for a family of four, according to 2015 Housing and Urban Development figures.

Thirty percent (62 units) will be for those who earn at or below 100 percent of AMI. The maximum amount an individual applicant can earn is about $64,000, while for a family of four it is $91,000.

Fifty percent (104 units) are for residents who earn up to 130 percent of AMI. The maximum amount for an individual is about $83,000, while it is about $118,000 for a family of four.

Community Board 2 committee members expressed concern about the income gap between the 50 percent of AMI and 100 percent of AMI groups.

Joe Conley, a public member of the Land Use committee, said that there are a lot of people who fall into this income gap and are blocked out of the process.

“This restricts who can live here, severely,” Conley said.

The Board asked Phipps to take another look at its affordable housing plan and see whether the income thresholds could be changed. However, Wadman said that these income thresholds were decided in accordance with a particular City program, and changing them would require restructuring the economics of the whole project.

A Phipps spokeswoman said after the meeting that the company will look at exploring other income levels. However, she added that the company is limited by City programs.

Wadman said that there will be a 200-space attended parking lot.

He said that if the parking spaces are not used by occupants of the building, they will be available to people in the surrounding community to rent.

Wadman estimates that if Phipps is able to get the City to sign off on the zoning change, then the development will likely be completed in the middle of 2019.

“Our goal is to have financing closed June next year and start shortly thereafter,” he said. “It will take two years and then we will start leasing.”

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The building looks alright. The rents are good and if the math “Sunnyside Resident” reports is true, they can’t be faulted for greed. One problem is they have destroyed their sterling reputation with skinflint management. Another is the location, up against the soon to be triple set of LIRR tracks on a substandard road that is already overwhelmed. Trying to put 20 lbs. of potatoes in a 5 lb. bag. The bag breaks and the potatoes are shot. Presumably they are making money on the property or they wouldn’t have kept it for some 60 years. Can they increase profitability by building another floor on top? The neighborhood could use that.


As the MTA president announces yesterday the transit system is operating at maximum capacity and cannot expand any further.


I’m in support of some new construction around here, but the building simply looks bad.

I’m sure they designed using “Queens” materials in mind, but lets give those bricks a rest, already. Note to architects: other materials exist. Red brick + yellow brick = design?

Also, please ask your renderer why he put the unpainted 6-lane highway in front of the building with the magically identical 20′ tall trees.

Sunnyside Resident

Agreed. That’s a reason right there to go to the hearing. The city, at residents’ insistence, can require the sponsor to use certain finishes and make the project fit in architecturally with the community.


The renderings presented at the CPC and the LU committee did not use the rendering that this article uses. They presented photos that were in scale and included the properties across the street for context

Sunnyside Resident

Since nobody here seems very clear on what Phipps is proposing, these are the monthly rent ranges:
44 units at 50% AMI = $670 for a Studio ranging to $1,000 for 3 Bd
66 units at 100% AMI = $1,255 for a Studio to $2,190 for 3 Bd
110 units at 130% AMI = $1,643 for a Studio to $2,863 for 3 Bd

The subsidies from the city will come in the way of tax-exempt construction bonds (lower interest rate first mortgage) and a subordinate construction loan that is 1% interest only – both from the city’s bond issuing agency, HDC. The project will also likely not pay property taxes for about 20 years. This is all public info on HDC’s website under the Mixed Income Program. The income from these affordable rents is just sufficient to cover all of the debt, even at the lower rates.

In exchange for receiving these low interest rate loans from HDC, Phipps will be required to keep these levels of affordability for all units for at least 30 years. And renters will only pay up to 35% of their income, leaving something in their pockets for other living expenses.

I get the discussion of overcrowding and parking, but I’m unclear how this qualifies as gentrification as opposed to an attempt at stabilization.


In addition, any units that are covered by the new MIH program will be regulated indefinitely.


CB2 and CM, vote YES, stay objective, don’t fall for negative, fringe, antagonistic opposition.

Dan Raymond

The opposition is widespread, not fringe. Talk to 100 Sunnyside or Woodside residents and you’ll get 90 unconditional answers of “NO.” Caring about and wanting to preserve a vibrant, working class & immigrant community is not antagonistic.


Caring is good; but try providing a solution. I was at the 4/28 meeting. I thought at some point you were going to say, “…and this is our realistic alternative that will prevent gentrification and enhance the community…” But all I heard was -this is bad, get ready for a fight. Ugh smh. Also, stop speaking for me, your “90 out of 100” is just anecdotal; you represent a MINORITY opinion.


How much are they getting in tax breaks and better street stuff to build this? Anyone know? Gotta be a few mill anyway. How much are they making a year on it? Why so many rich people? Rich people want to live on top of the tracks? Funny, we always felt sorry for anyone who had to live like that. Now they get top dollar. And soon so many more trains are gonna start running. What? Can’t they add more landfill to the East River or the Hudson anymore? Oh, I get it, rich people over there won’t let you steal their view by building between them and it. Got it. Well, good luck, (not).


Which City plan are they talking about when they say restricts the income levels? Is it one about tax breaks? They can’t include a huge income group because there is no tax break for them? That is putting the cart before the horse, isn’t it?

Del Toro

Hopefully all that people who made so much noise on SSpost will actually show up, or do they like to nag only behind the keyboard?

By the way MHG architects, how did you get all that empty space in front of the building, there is barely two car space to pass on that street around that area.. Plus I really hope they make the rest of that street all the way to 39th ave One-Way. People drive like idiots on that street and it should definitely be One-Way West Bound.


I say eliminate that street entirely. Make it into a really wide sidewalk. It is unsafe from one end to the other for the huge cars, vans and trucks we get around here. Let them walk.


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