March 29, 2016 By Christian Murray
Controversial plans to build a 10-story, 220-unit building at 50-25 Barnett Ave. are officially in motion, with the developer Phipps Houses kicking off its rezoning application yesterday.
Phipps is seeking a zoning change in order to build on the site, which only permits the property to be used for manufacturing purposes or as a community facility. The non-profit developer certified its project with the Department of City Planning yesterday – the first step in that process – according to City documents.
“We are happy that the project is certified since the land use process now begins,” said Adam Weinstein, chief executive of Phipps Houses. “We look forward to the back and forth with the community.”
“The plan has not changed since it was presented to the public at a meeting in October,” Weinstein said. “We have heard comments and some of those will be addressed during the land use process and others we will not be able to,” he added.
With certification, Community Board 2 has 60 days to weigh in on the plans. The Board’s decision is merely advisory.
As part of the rezoning process, the project will also go before the Queens Borough President who will provide an advisory opinion, before moving to the Department of City Planning and the City Council.
DCP and the Council both have the power to block it.
The City Council’s decision will be essentially 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. He could not be reached for comment by press time.
Phipps’ plan was panned by many residents when it became public in June. The criticism dealt largely with the scale of the proposed building and how it could lead to parking and other infrastructure problems.
In October, to quell some of those fears, Weinstein held a joint meeting with Van Bramer and CB 2 in Sunnyside.
Van Bramer at that meeting said he had received 1,000 signatures in opposition to the project.
The certified plans call for the construction of 220 units, with room for 101 parking spots. There will be a 4,800-square-foot pre-K on the ground floor. Weinstein, however, said today that Phipps will be building 200 parking spaces.
He said all the apartments would be affordable, which was defined as:
20 percent of the units would be for those earning $28,000 to $44,000; 30 percent would be for those earning $50,000 to $115,000; 50 percent would be for those earning $75,000 to $150,000.
CB 2 chair Pat O’Brien said that the Board has had several discussions with Phipps since the October meeting and that it had asked the developer to see if the height could be lowered or senior housing included.
O’Brien said that Phipps has examined these requests but has not made any changes.
CB 2 has not come to any decision on the matter, O’Brien said, noting that it has only just been certified.
O’Brien added that he was disappointed that he was cited in YIMBY as a supporter of the project. He said that he did not even speak to the reporter and didn’t know where that view came from. He said it is CB 2 protocol for him to speak for the Board, not for himself.