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.”