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Phipps Houses’ 10-story development plan still very much alive

MHG Architects

MHG Architects

July 26, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan

Phipps Houses’ plan to build a 10-story, 209-unit development on Barnett Avenue is still on the table.

The City Planning Commission is scheduled to vote on the proposal on August 10. If approved, the controversial plan will go before the City Council.

Phipps presented its plan to build on the 50-25 Barnett Avenue site to the City Planning Commission on July 13. The presentation took place just days after Queens Borough President Melinda Katz rejected the plan.

Katz’ rationale for giving the plan the thumbs down was similar to Community Board 2’s. She cited concerns over its size and scale as well as the income levels for the affordable housing component. Her opinion, as with the community board’s, is merely advisory.

Councilman Van Bramer, Adam Weinstein of Phipps

Councilman Van Bramer and Adam Weinstein, CEO of Phipps Houses

Should the controversial plan be approved by the City Planning Commission, negotiations are likely to take place between the City Council and Phipps in order for the developer to proceed.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who holds sway over the council, has already publicly announced his opposition to the plan.

But Phipps has not given up on the development and remains hopeful that it can make the necessary modifications in order for it to be approved.

“We appreciate the feedback we’ve received from the community so far and will decide which modifications we can reasonably accommodate as part of the City Council’s review of the project,” according to Phipps Houses in a statement.

“We remain hopeful that we can work alongside Council Member Van Bramer to address the genuine affordability crisis faced by so many in Sunnyside and its surrounding neighborhoods.”

Van Bramer has been critical of Phipps for not changing its plans, despite the community’s strong opposition to it.

Phipps has resisted reducing the scale of the project, arguing that it would make the project economically unfeasible.

“I am opposed to this project because it is not right for our community,” Van Bramer said in a statement. “I will continue to be opposed to this project.”

Katz’ opinion issued July 5 was in lockstep with the Community Board’s and Van Bramer’s.

She wrote that she would like to see the height of the building lowered.

The Queens Borough President also argued that the income-bands of the affordable housing component were too high, given Community Board 2’s demographics.

She pointed out that as many as 75 percent of Community District 2 residents would not be able to afford to live in the proposed “moderate income” housing.

“The mix of affordability for this project should be adjusted to reflect the incomes earned by the majority of area residents,” she wrote in her recommendation.

Under the current proposal, 20 percent of the apartments (42 units) would be for households at the 50 percent Area Median Income, 30 percent (62 units) for households at 100 percent AMI, and 50 percent (104 units) for households at 130 percent of AMI, skewing the project in favor of those with higher incomes.

Katz added that she would also like to see the inclusion of a larger community facility space than the proposed 4,000 square feet within the development.

Melinda Katz based her assessment of affordability on the Furman Center’s most recent State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods in 2015 study which showed that 13 percent of households in Queens Community District 2 made $20,000 or less; 20 percent made between $20,000 to $40,000; 19 percent made $40,000 to $60,000; 23 percent made $60,000 to $100,000; 21 percent made $100,000 to $250,000; and 3 percent made over $250,000.

The Queens Borough President also pointed out that infrastructure improvements would be necessary to sustain the neighborhood with the new Phipps development.

Finally, Katz raised the issue of hiring union construction workers to ensure the quality, durability and safety of the development and workers at all stages of the project.

KATZ ULURP 160101 ZRQ Barnett Avenue Zoning Text Change MIH by Sunnyside Post on Scribd

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Go Green Sunnysiders

This project brings 100% nuisance and does not address basic neighborhood needs, particularly the terrible parking situation. What is needed there is a parking garage surrounded by greenery and topped with solar panels and a few windmills. Anything else will only destroy an already very fragile ecosystem.


Attempting to use back-channel influence to subvert the public approval process is just the kind of low-minded stuff these people have made themselves infamous for.

They are no champions of the people, the only truth they know is in the figures on the balance sheet. “Nothing is as cold as a developers heart,” to modify an old saying.


This is awful. Clearly underhanded deals are being made. JVB did the right thing and now it doesn’t seem to matter. Corrupted Phipps strikes again.

Patricia Dorfman

reprinted with permission, from the Woodside Herald 7/29/16:


Living On Uneasy Street”

Op Ed by Patricia Dorfman

“The stench of hypocrisy wafts over Sunnyside…a community built as a philanthropic model of low-cost urban living…209 apartments would be homes for low-to-middle-income New Yorkers …Betraying both his progressive label and the neighborhood’s history as an affordable housing lab, Van Bramer declared himself opposed… [He is] guilty of NIMBYism that would deny desperately needed homes to working families.”


The excerpt above from the editorial in the July 22 New York Daily News was probably meant to be insultingly persuasive but seems unduly personal and harsh. It is ironic to read we and our councilman stink of NIMBYism in an editorial in a newspaper published by a billionaire real estate mogul, who could buy us all many times over. If Luke Adams were here, he would be demonstrating for a public apology about our beloved Sunnyside.


Perhaps non-profit developer Phipps Houses may have called in heavy hitters to bash JVB into approving the unattractive 10-story at 50-25 Barnett against the overwhelming opposition of his constituents.


Phipps CEO Adam Weinstein may well not be about profit as some are, and more about adding to his 8000 units, but such a rough editorial, in the absence of informative editorials about recent rezoning, in my view a real estate “land grab,” means an unseen group of power brokers seem to be wanting to run the show as though our elected officials and community boards are of minor concern.

The Daily News attack was not harmful because the attack has no merit. Anyone who gets off here at rush hour may verify we are not wealthy or prejudiced elitists against diversity. This is a progressive bastion. We re-elected our LBGTQ councilman in a landslide. We are the “low-to-middle-income New Yorkers” of Sunnyside and Woodside who can’t afford the “affordable” rents in this odd proposal next to the railroad tracks.


But our real problem is bigger. If this project is approved, against those who have stood by us, our assemblywoman, borough president, the community board, and the majority leader of the city, 50-25 Barnett might important to major players as a stalking horse for the Yards, the area around it, Woodside, and as much territory as can be taken before we voters fully wake up.


Distressing is that the major media, even when considered a progressive venue as the Daily New, has thus far ignored the real story and a real worry we have – the rushed overdevelopment of Western Queens spreading this way – prior to even addressing our lack of parks, grossly strained public transit, schools shortage, aging sewers, lack of parking, hospitals, and severe lack of public green space.


The concerns of the community on the Barnett proposal unite locals like no other: seniors who can now manage the landscape and traffic and fear its loss, those who worry they may run out of money in a city with no cheaper places to go, young anti-gentrification residents who see only displacement and ruined neighborhoods, progressives who seek actual affordable housing for the poor, preservationists who see an eyesore, residents who do not trust a building run by those who they believe mishandled their building, union workers who feel betrayed, business owners whose rents are already skyrocketing, parents who want parks or schools for their children, drivers who already search for an hour to park, even more crowded subways, and those who fear that soon there will be no place to put improved infrastructure if miraculously it is implemented.


The “stench” editorial language shows the forces that were put into play on a relatively discrete proposal, to seemingly force the people’s representative to bend to the will of those we did not elect. Now we understand more what elected officials are up against. They must have been informed that to defy the overall development juggernaut will end their careers.


The strong editorial may demonstrate:

•why the March 22 zoning amendments passed when if media covered with us in mind, most New Yorkers might have opposed

• why the city is rushing to begin work on an unneeded taxpayer funded $2.5 billion streetcar BQX requested by developers

•why Sunnyside Yards will be probably pushed for development despite a majority opposition

•why the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, which would slow speculation, displacement, the closing of mom and pops and save NYC, languishes in Council 

•why the Council gave hard won public land on Water Street back for private profit

•why the preservation law was weakened

•why the 421A tax break is next on the agenda, with coming increase in purchase of new buildings by the city, so development, already in frenzy with low interest rates, can proceed even faster at no risk to developers

There seems only way to proceed since the editorial would not have happened if the big guns did not sense voter pushback. The Planning Commission decides next month on Barnett and then on to the Majority Leader. If we continue to speak out clearly as we did, let our elected officials know that we will stand by them if they stand by us, we may have a chance at a city which takes care of itself and loves new development, even tall buildings.


If this gets approved and developed JVB is a fraud. This place reeks of luxury apartments. W/ JVB and the mayor, “affordable housing” and “union” are just buzzwords to court votes next term.


What nerve! They are totally unresponsive and arrogant. More evidence that this is a terrible idea.

bernie got screwed big time by his own party

liberals love caring about the less fortunate until they want to build affordable housing near their homes. they are so phony


-bgsbtbhop We see you’re a low information blowhard prone to buzz word laced rants who gets his so called news from drug addicted gas bag and a Republican propaganda outlet passing as a cable news station run by and designed by a Republican strategist.

Silent majority

You are so right. JVB does not want it built anywhere near his precious little Sunnyside Gardens. Only the privileged should be able to live there.


Who says it is “very much alive?” Not Van Bramer. Not Katz. City Planning may like it, but they should spend a week watching what happens regularly on Barnett Avenue. Right now there are three abandoned tires and a shiny garbage can up against the fence of Phipps’ parking lot. They have been there for weeks. That is a microcosm of present day Phipps–big names, big money on the upper tiers, and absolute neglect and garbage on the ground. He wouldn’t put up with a landlord like himself, he’d take himself to court in a NY minute!


So, they plant a stupidly uninformed editorial in the News and then AW comes out all nice and accommodating. He is a Trumpian conniver. Disgusting. And, by the way, since he took over the award winning complex on 39th Avenue is falling apart. They can’t fix a leaky faucet properly. They can’t get rid of mice. Or bedbugs. According to them the world has lost its knowledge about how to manufacture a door knob set that works. We had one lock on the door for 60 years. Since they replaced the doors and locks twenty or so years ago, we have had a score. They break with predictable regularity. That guy needs to go into the widget business, where he can’t damage people and their lives in his relentless pursuit of higher profits.


stop building LUXURY… granite no finishing cabinets, no fancy sinks get plain basic stuff from home depot or sears….no on site health club, no pool, no amenities stop the madness.

Paul Ryan

If it gets the go ahead I hope it will be built union.Are you listening Mr Van Bramer.

Mic Drop

Tell Jimmy Van “I’ll make a slut out of LIC to the developers” Bramer that he needs to fall in line with the sentiments of the Sunnyside residents. Drive this Weinstein joke out of town. Tell Weinstein to build a circus in his back yeard. Email/Call here:


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