June 7, 2016 By Christian Murray
Humbled by Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer’s rejection of its 208-unit Barnett Avenue plan last week, representatives of Phipps Houses adopted a more conciliatory approach when they presented their application to Community Board 2 Thursday.
Michael Wadman, vice president of real estate development for Phipps Houses, addressed the Board before its scheduled vote on the development plan. In contrast to previous presentations, he described the plan as flexible and responsive to an ongoing dialogue with the community.
“This is part of a process of several steps with the Community Board voting tonight and [subsequently] the Borough President and the City Council,” Wadman said.
“We are using this proposal to hear a variety of views on the subject,” he said, adding, “we will consider those views…to see whether changes can be made before a final consideration can be made.”
Nevertheless, Phipps’ plan as it stands was overwhelmingly rejected by CB 2, representing another blow for the developer that seeks a zoning change in order for it to build a 10-story, 208-unit development at 50-25 Barnett Ave.
The development, called The Barnett, is adjacent to the LIRR tracks and across from Phipps Garden Apartments. The lot is currently zoned for manufacturing and developers are seeking a rezoning to allow for construction of their project, which requires their plan to pass through several stages of review including CB 2 and ultimately the City Council.
Wadman said that Phipps was aware of the issues dealing with the height and size of the building, the availability of parking as well as the Board’s desire for affordable housing targeting lower income groups, among other issues.
But Phipps has yet to change its plan since it became public nearly 12 months ago. Van Bramer was critical of the developer last week for not making any adjustments in the face of the strong community opposition it has inspired.
Stephen Cooper, a CB 2 member, asked Wadman Thursday whether there had been any changes since the public hearing last month when the majority of attendees pooh-poohed the proposal.
“No,” Wadman said.
The Board was informed that its Land Use Committee had unanimously voted late last month to reject the plan.
Lisa Deller, head of Land Use, said the committee had concerns dealing with the proposed income levels of what was deemed affordable.
Twenty percent (42 units) of the apartments will be for residents who earn at or below 50 percent of Area Media Income ($32,000 for a single person or about $45,000 for a family of four), while 30 percent will be for those who earn at or below 100 percent of AMI ($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 ($83,000 to $118,000).
The committee also had concerns about the size and scale of the buildings and wanted it to be more in line with surrounding buildings, such as the Phipps Garden Apartments.
Deller also said the Board sought a larger community space than the 4,500-square-foot pre-K that was initially proposed. Other items dealt with environment remediation and infrastructure issues.
The Board’s decision is advisory, as is the Queens Borough President’s, who will be reviewing this project next.
The plan can be torpedoed in the City Council. Van Bramer has said he will do just that.