Oct. 11, 2019 By Christian Murray
Phipps Houses has filed plans to rezone its Barnett Avenue property and build an eight-story, 164-unit building.
The non-profit developer filed plans with the Department of City Planning last month calling for its 50-25 Barnett Avenue property to be rezoned from a manufacturing district to residential. The zoning application comes three years after it pulled similar plans after fierce community opposition.
The plans call for a mixed use building on the north side of Barnett Avenue between 50th and 52nd Streets. The building would consist of 189,000 square feet of residential space, making room for 164 units. All units would be affordable, subject to income restrictions. The site would also include 6,200 square feet for non profit offices and room for 174 parking spaces.
The proposal is smaller than what Phipps put forward in 2016, when it sought a rezoning to build a 10-story, 209-unit building. The units in that plan would have all been affordable.
The affordable units in its latest plan would target households earning less that what was presented in 2016. For instance, half the units in its current application would be for households that make no more than 60 percent of the Area Median Income. A quarter of the units would be for households that make up to 90 percent of AMI with the remaining quarter for households that make up to 110 percent.
In 2016, half the units were for households that made up to 130 percent of the AMI.
The criticism in 2016 largely dealt with the scale of the proposed building and opponents said that the income levels of the affordable units were too high. Other concerns dealt with the loss of parking and pressure on infrastructure.
The property, which is adjacent to the Long Island Railroad, is currently used as a parking lot, and has room for about 220 vehicles. Many residents at the 472-unit Phipps Gardens Apartment complex nearby use it since that complex does not include on-site parking.
There were advocates for the project in 2016 who saw a need for affordable housing, although they were in the minority. Many of the supporters were residents with young children.
But the overwhelming majority were in opposition to it with thousands signing petitions against it.
The plans were rejected by Community Board 2 (by a vote of 38 to 1) and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, when both provided an advisory opinion. The proposal, however, was approved by the City Planning Commission by a vote of 12-0.
Nevertheless, Phipps withdrew its plans when City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer made clear that he would not support it and that it would be nixed by the council. All rezonings need to be approved by the council.
“Ten stories is out of character and inconsistent with the rest of the neighborhood,” Van Bramer said at the time. “It’s across the street from the existing Phipps [Phipps Garden Apartments], which would be dwarfed by this.”
Van Bramer is currently reviewing Phipps’ latest proposal.
“Phipps has submitted a new and altered version of their original plans for the site,” Van Bramer said in a statement. “It will now go before the community for review and comment. And I will be following the process very closely and taking feedback from my neighbors.”
Phipps did not respond for comment.