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Phipps Houses Draws Fire From AOC, Says Developer Needs to Fix Garden Apartments Complex

Phipps Garden Apartments, located on 39th Avenue between 50th and 52nd Streets in Sunnyside (Photo: Paul Henderson Creative Commons)

March 18, 2021 By Christian Murray

Phipps Houses has drawn fire from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex who says that the non-profit developer has failed to meet its obligation to fix its 472-unit Garden Apartments complex on 39th Avenue in Sunnyside.

Phipps, which is looking to rezone a parcel on Barnett Avenue in order to build a 167-unit affordable housing complex, had pledged to both Community Board 2 and the Queens Borough President that it would fix the Garden Apartments complex as a condition of being granted the rezoning.

The developer put forward a maintenance plan in November that it said it would adhere to.

“Phipps Houses made a commitment to the community that they would promptly address the maintenance issues at Gardens Apartment,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement. “Their failure to do so is upsetting and they have an obligation to the community to follow through on the required action plan set by Community Board 2.”

The congresswoman said that Phipps had agreed to address the maintenance issues within 90 days of Community Board 2 approving its rezoning application. The deadline, she said, expired March 1 and had not been fulfilled. The board approved the rezoning on Dec. 3 by a vote of 28-12.

Ocasio-Cortez, however, stopped short of saying that the rezoning should not be approved.

Phipps was subject to a barrage of criticism from its existing Garden Apartments tenants during a public hearing in November about its Barnett Avenue proposal.

Several speakers said the organization did not deserve to be granted a rezoning, given the condition of its existing Garden Apartments complex. Some spoke of garbage, mice and cockroach problems—while others talked about the garden areas falling into disrepair and wall damage.

Phipps, as a result, said it would address these issues and put forward a 90-day maintenance plan, which the congresswoman says has not been met.

The improvement plan included hiring an additional porter; expanding its pest control/extermination services; cleaning out dry wells; fixing the laundry room; investigating what’s needed to address drainage problems; and putting in place a tree pruning schedule.

Phipps Houses plans to develop this Barnett Avenue site (Photo: Queens Post)

Phipps also said that it would adopt a landscaping plan within six months and would paint the lobbies and hallways.

The Congresswoman did not address what components of the maintenance plan Phipps failed to meet.

Lisa Deller, chair of Community Board 2, said that Phipps has met some of its obligations– such as hiring staff and cleaning the drywells– and she is waiting for a March update from the tenant association..

“They have made some progress toward satisfying the plan,” Deller said.

Meanwhile, Phipps said that it has stuck to its commitment and strongly disagrees with the congresswoman’s assessment.

Rendering of the proposed development at 50-25 Barnett Avenue (Courtesy of Phipps Houses)

“Phipps developed a plan with the tenant association, and not only do we remain committed to that plan, we are ahead of schedule in fulfilling its agreed-upon 30, 60 and 90-day milestones,” said Adam Weinstein, CEO of Phipps, in a statement.

“We have been keeping tenant leadership apprised of progress and welcome updating the congresswoman if she is interested,” Weinstein said.

“As the largest non-profit affordable housing and social services provider in New York, Phipps takes our relationship with our residents very seriously and we look forward to completing our work at Phipps Garden Apartments, as well as breaking ground on 167 new affordable apartments across the street.”

The rezoning application is now in the hands of the city council. Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer will ultimately determine the fate of the project since the council tends to vote in lockstep with the member who represents the district where a development is proposed.

Van Bramer announced last week that he would approve the application when it comes up for a vote. The vote is likely to take place at the end of next week.

The council member said in a statement this morning that Phipps must follow through on its maintenance plan.

“I agree with our Congresswoman. Phipps does have an obligation to follow through on the Community Board 2 action plan at the existing Phipps Garden Apartments. And I’ve always said so. But I also feel strongly that we should build real affordable housing where we can, including homes for the formerly homeless. We can, and must accomplish all of these goals which are not mutually exclusive.”

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15 Comments

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Joe

I wish the “people in charge” would understand that the issue with the Phipps is not just affordable housing. There is more, such as infrastructure (i.e subway capacity), building size/scale and even aesthetics, because whether you are in favor or not, the building looks horrible and out of context with Sunnyside…
But I guess nothing else counts because all politicians care is the affordable part…

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She is from Queens

How dare she speak up for her community! Trump never made comments on NYC-specific problems. Oh, wait…

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joe

JVB, AOC, what’s the difference? They call themselves “progressive” but they are the typical politicians, nothing different at all

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God is good.

Phipps has done everything in its power to push out tenants ever since Adam took over. Naive me did not know that my 18-year infestation with mice and roaches was coming from a 12” x 7” hole at the base of the wall behind the sink. Phipps sent the exterminator with spray and glue traps as often as I called but they never sought to solve the problem. Now I realize every landlord in the world would know there was a hole, quite likely behind an 80-year-old sink, that needed patching. They didn’t want to solve the problem. At the first meeting to discuss this project several years ago Adam said “only 13 apartments” were converted to market rate. Now, by their own admission, 13%, or 40+ apartments are market rAte. A friend moved in and out real fast because Phipps showed no sign of caring that his brand new place was home to an extended family of them. Phipp’s tactics are working! Get rid of these eminently affordable apartments and build a couple of “so called” new affordable ones (at twice or three times the price) to keep up the mirage of being a good low-income outfit. Please! New Yorkers know a scam when they see one, especially when the big honcho brags of making a million a year and having an incredible view of the Palisades from his home.

Thank God AOC is smarter and far more powerful than he is. Kick him where it hurts right in front of JVB. the display will let him so he know what he might be in for. People don’t easily forgive those who make fools out of them.

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Gardens Watcher

AOC is free to weigh in, but like Amazon HQ2, it’s not her decision to make. It’s in the hands of JVB and City Council, and I don’t think Phipps will withdraw at this point. But they blew right through their deadline, so at the very minimum, the Council should delay the vote until they comply with all the stipulations.

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"No" to 50-25 Barnett Rezoning to Residential Alliance

THANK YOU, U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for listening to constituents and speaking out! Thank you again to State Assemblyman Brian Barnwell, and State Senator Michael Gianaris, who previously did so.

The 90 days are up as of March 4!

Since the timeline has not been met on the “stipulations” that were the basis of conditional approval of Community Board 2, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, NYC City Planning, and City Council Person Jimmy Van Bramer, we ask that Phipps Houses withdraw its application to rezone 50-25 Barnett Avenue, and that the above rescind their conditional approval.

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Fix the building and build the building

Thank you, Representative Ocasio-Cortez for speaking out but not bowing to the bad faith NIMBY organizers and their dog whistle campaign against affordable housing and its residents.

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This one is gonna be hard for the boomers

They have to say the projects are bad, and the have to say AOC is bad. Which side do they choose?!

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I agree, thank you AOC!

Like you said, she made a great decision, thank you for supporting her.

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Marie

Good for AOC! Great way of pleasing both people for more Affordable Housing and the NIMBY crowd. I hope she will run for Gov of NYS. She has a good chance of winning.

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