You are reading

Steve Madden, Which Employs 400, Threatens to Leave Sunnyside if Phipps Development Proceeds

Steve Madden Office at 52-16 Barnett Avenue (Google Maps)

March 9, 2021 By Christian Murray

The fashion shoe company Steve Madden is threatening to leave Sunnyside if the seven story, 167-unit building development planned by Phipps Houses on Barnett Avenue goes up.

Steve Madden, which penned a letter to Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer Jan. 14, said that it employs more than 400 people at its 52-16 Barnett Ave. location and it would be forced to relocate if the Phipps development moves forward.

The company says that it rents 120 spaces on the 220-space parking lot where the development is proposed to go. The spaces are used by its personnel and are rented from Phipps. Without the parking spaces for employees, it says it would have to leave.

“Without the public parking lot, Madden will have no reasonable way to maintain its Barnett Avenue presence,” the letter reads.

The letter also notes that its employees help bolster the local economy by patronizing local merchants and eateries.

“In short, Madden and its employees provide substantial economic support for the local community and its retail businesses,” the letter reads.

Phipps needs to get its Barnett Avenue property rezoned in order to develop the site. The application currently rests in the hands of the City Council, having been approved by Community Board 2, the Queens Borough President and the City Planning Commission.

Van Bramer issued a public statement today announcing his support for the project, citing the need for affordable and low-cost housing. He did not address Steve Madden’s concerns in his statement and did not comment for this story.

Steve Madden, however, has done little in the way of outreach to make its concerns known other than the solitary letter to Van Bramer. It did not reach out to Community Board 2 nor did it speak to Queens Borough President Donovan Richards or the City Planning Commission.

The Jan. 14 letter to Van Bramer was also not released publicly but surfaced on social media via the Facebook page Small Town Confidential.

The Queens Post called the attorney representing Steve Madden whose name appeared on the letter. The attorney–Andrew Luskin, of the firm McLaughlin & Stern–confirmed that he wrote it and said the issue was real.

Luskin said that the letter is not just bluster but the issue is a real concern. “They need the parking,” he said.

But Luskin said that the only step taken by Steve Madden to convey its concerns was the letter sent to Van Bramer on Jan. 14. He said as of March 8 he is still waiting for a response.

Luskin, however, said that he had not followed up on the letter. The letter was also written after Community Board 2 voted to approve it and Borough President Richards signed off on the project.

Rendering of Phipps’ current plan for 50-25 Barnett Ave.

Adam Weinstein, CEO and president of Phipps Houses, told the Queens Post yesterday that Steve Madden had not been in contact with him about its parking concerns.

Weinstein said that the new building would contain parking that Steve Madden employees could potentially use.

He said that the new building comes with 170 attended spaces, with 59 set aside for new residents and about 20 for the residents of the existing Phipps Garden Apartments on 39th Avenue who currently use the parking lot. He said that 91 spaces would be available to the public.

“While we’re not committing the operator [of the parking lot] to provide parking to anyone but our own residents, it would seem there’s capacity for members of the public including the Madden folks,” Weinstein said.

Additionally, the 59 spaces set aside for the residents may not be fully utilized–with some potentially available to the public, Weinstein said.

Weinstein said that Steve Madden is not currently using 120 parking spaces on the empty lot–a number cited in the letter. He said the company has an agreement to use about 60 to 80 parking spaces.

“They may have once been licensed [by the parking operator] for that many, but not now.”

Luskin did not expressly say why Steve Madden did not do more outreach to convey its concerns.

He did say that he listened in on the Nov. 18 public hearing held by Community Board 2 on the project but did not speak.

He said that a representative of Steve Madden joined the Dec. 3 online meeting when Community Board 2 voted to approve the plan but was unable to speak. The representative was not blocked by the board in any way, he said, just that they were unable to get through.

He said the company isn’t tapped into local politics so that can partly explain why more was not done. Additionally,”I don’t think my client wanted to adopt a scorched earth approach.”

Lisa Deller, chair of community board 2, said she had heard nothing from Steve Madden. “They never went to a meeting nor did they submit anything.”

“I am surprised that they didn’t share their concerns more widely,” Deller said. “Nobody wants Steve Madden to leave. I’m sure we would have tried to accommodate their needs. I hope they can be accommodated in the new building.”

Phipps Houses plans to develop this Barnett Avenue site, which is currently used for parking (Photo: Queens Post)

email the author: [email protected]

35 Comments

Click for Comments 
Gigi

Why cant these developers leave our neighborhoods alone! We are full to capacity as it is!

Reply
Queens Streets for LOL

I/WE stand with you and your 400 hardworking drivers, Steve. PSA TO ALL 12K OF MY/OUR DRIVERS

Wear your Steve Madden shoes when you move your cars this week. You may take them off in the car because driving in heels is uncomfortable. If you can afford to buy a pair, do it. If I/WE buy 12K pairs, maybe I/WE can keep them in business! And who knows, maybe they’ll buy the property and SAVE OUR/THEIR PARKING! LOL

4
4
Reply
Sunnysider

Lol at the idea that people who drive to work at Steve Madden are supporting local shops. I’m sure they park at Alpha Donuts on their way in from Long Island in the morning. And drive over to Copper Kettle for happy hour after work before driving home drunk. Maybe we should tear down Steve Madden and build even more apartments for people that want to live here and who will actually support local businesses instead of just drive in and out, funding the NYC tax base but not the local community. Because the new Phipps building will actually be full of people that call Sunnyside home and not just a place they drive to for work.

6
8
Reply
Concerned Citizen

Yes. In this neighborhood, parking is more than welcome over low income crime infested housing.

20
5
Reply
You could pay to park your private vehicle

Like you said, the solution to homelessness is not building homes.

Everyone being able to park for free is the top priority.

1
5
Reply
Anon

I would sooner have a landfill or waste transfer station than low income housing. The mayor’s homeless hotels have been devastating to the neighborhood.

Reply
Catherine

We do not need anotherManhattan here. Overcrowding is becoming a
problem. Look at all the high risers in LI City
There was a mass exudus
during the pandemic last
year. Why not make some of those apartments affordable.
Enough of these tall buildings. Open space is disappearing , the green space is too. It is a travesty that the lot next to
St Sebastians is/or will be sold. What a nice area for a park for children to play. Stop all this building- enough is enough.

28
7
Reply
Woodside Resident

At a basic level it’s a supply and demand question – to make it affordable to live in NYC we need to build more.

4
5
Reply
It already IS affordable!

All these so called affordable housing projects cost more rent per month than my apartment costs in mortgage, maintenance and ALL my bills combined!!!

Reply
Luz Rodas

Public interest has priority over private interest. We must support the Phipps Houses project!

3
32
Reply
Anon

Low income housing that will reduce property values (and therefore the tax base) and increase crime are not in the public interest.

Reply
SuperWittySmitty

This address is within walking distance of the 7 train. If they go, I’m pretty sure they can be replaced. They should reconsider and realize that most of us use mass transit to get to work and parking space is better used for housing.

9
21
Reply
Really ?

Business fleeing? Apple TV, Amazon just announced another site opening in LIC, Lyft, Uber, Alphabet and J&J all recently announced job increases in the city…

14
3
Reply
Gardens Watcher

Oh come now. It was no secret that Steve Madden was concerned about the proposed development. It’s disingenuous to publicly claim that we didn’t know, nobody called us.

Any public official paying attention should have reached out to the company, a major employer in the area, located right across the street from the site. JVB should have at a minimum responded to their letter. Richards could have picked up the phone.

New York needs to build back better. That means keeping the jobs we have and attracting new ones. Not too late to try to accommodate their needs.

12
2
Reply
Let them go!

Maybe they’ll be replaced by a more community friendly company with a smaller carbon footprint! It seems odd that “Small Town Confidential” would glom onto this in their tired and desperate whataboutery. It’s honest in that it’s all about parking, but trying to call a multi-billion dollar fast fashion company owned by a mogul worth hundreds of millions of dollars a “small business” and saying this 100% “affordable” development will lead to the “gentrification” of an industrial avenue defies any kind of logic excepting a simple aversion to change. Stop with the buzzwords. Stop with the woke washing and the general dishonesty of these arguments. This is simply not a small town with enough space for small town people making small town arguments. It’s enough.

34
44
Reply
Exhausted by Rude Dupes of Big Real Estate

You are flat out wrong. How dare you insult someone’s opinion rather than address their concerns with facts? You bring public discourse down to the level of nasty laundry room gossips. It’s not all about parking for God’s sake. It’s about the line of properties along the length of Barnett and Big real Estate’s plan to fill in Sunnyside Yards with God knows how many buildings and people that will make this place as crowded as downtown Brooklyn. That may be ok to some but many don’t like the idea of turning a quite neighborhood purposely designed to form a “garden city” into disconnected blocks overwhelmed by regional traffic. Get out of you “wokeness” script of what is desirable and what is not and look at the bigger picture.

50
32
Reply
Opinions are not facts

What is wrong exactly?
If you’re asserting that Steve Madden Inc. are a small business, then the responsibility of bringing the facts does not fall on me.
If you’re asserting that Phipps Houses are big real estate, see above.
If you’re asserting that this is related to the Sunnyside Yards plan, see above.

It is my opinion that these desperate arguments are odd, reductive, and, worse, immensely counterproductive.
It is my opinion that a handful of frivolous arguments asserting a narrative that our neighborhood will be destroyed if this development is approved brings down public discourse to the level of farce.
It is my opinion that the paradigm of building “affordable housing” is completely backwards, but that this development is just about the best that can be gotten under it and is a highly desirable result.
It is my opinion that if it is blocked, Phipps will sell the valuable rezoned lot to actual “big real estate” at which point we won’t be settling for 6 stories down from 10, but 36 down from 45.
It is my opinion that if Steve Madden go because of parking, that they may be replaced by an actual small business, or several(!), in one of the few remaining light industrial areas that “big real estate” has yet to touch, and that further to this it can strengthen arguments to RETAIN the industrial nature of Barnett.

My opinions are not facts, and you are free to disagree. I just don’t at all mind the development, couldn’t care less if Steve Madden goes, and think Small Town Confidential are doing far more harm than good. But I hope you see that we actually agree on most things. Now if you think that I’ve drunk someone else’s Koolaid and don’t see the big picture, then it really begs the question about who is bringing public discourse down to the laundry room, or doesn’t it?

9
6
Reply
fuelgrannie

oh hi josh bowen and john brown smokehouse: you still mad about amazon hq2 and can’t move on, huh?

4
12
Reply
Kenny

The housing development should be required to provide underground (free) parking for local employers and local employers should be provided with parking stickers for their employees.

18
15
Reply
Woodside Resident

Or employees can use the nearby subway, bus, and LIRR like the rest of us. Better yet, local employers can employ some locals who walk or bike to work.

4
5
Reply
GC

That’s odd and the new development would seem to be able to accommodate their parking needs. It feels like that is a front for the real reason for their opposition (which is unknown).

12
6
Reply
Woodside Resident

Right? Two subway stations at that – not a bad walk to either the 7 or the R/M. And no doubt employees who take the subway are more likely to actually patronize local businesses than folks who commute by car.

5
7
Reply
Brenda Breen

This is just one of the many, many community functions that this new development will destroy. Some are obvious to those who live here, traffic for instance, and some are unforeseen. Real estate developers have been accurately portrayed in movie after movie correctly, as heartless, greedy souls bent on making themselves rich no matter what the cost to others. This one has shown his contempt for his current Sunnyside tenants by saying he thinks he does a fine job, despite a boatload of pictures and testimonies to the contrary. People like that are incapable of listening.

32
10
Reply
Jenny from the block

Nobody making minimum wage can afford ‘affordable housing.’ These people need to work 3 months to afford 1 months rent only, and 5 months in order to afford 1 months rent + bills! This is the fight I would appreciate Steve Madden, and their employees bring to the forefront – I would certainly buy a t-shirt highlighting Affordable Housing is not Affordable!

Steve Madden should have voiced their concerns earlier. But, there is no doubt that even with their very own packed parking lot that they have been good neighbors and deserve to be heard.

I can agree the idea of construction (and more rats), along with worse traffic along the bottleneck Woodside Ave to northern blvd is probably a high concern.
However, my highest concern is that affordable housing is not affordable to those who need it, and argue that the idea of rents based on ‘new’ higher income neighbors rather than on the needs of the people of those who helped create a desirable neighborhood through their own hard work and dedication, has created white washed areas, and neo-red-lining districting. Indeed most of the people of color in the neighborhood are those who are hired to look after white people’s children (their egos need to ‘look’ inclusive – they can pay people minimum wage, but don’t dare move next door at minimum wage!)

Because of JVB’s support of this project, even though he knows how bad Phibbs management is, how he knows how Barnett Ave is the only way out of backed up traffic onto northern blvd during peak times (especially when schools are in session), and HE KNOWS this is just a scam for construction companies to get a tax free incentive to create housing for white affluent people, and not really in the interests of anyone but themselves to build these unaffordable housing units, that I will not vote for him in any capacity in the near future.

8
1
Reply
You may want to look at the chart for this project

https://qns.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/phipps-barnett-ave-ami-income.png

A family of 4 making $46,000 can rent a 3BR for under $1000. That makes rent approximately 25% of income. The benchmark for “affordability” is usually considered to be 33% of income, making this project more than affordable.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been many projects over the years where the “affordable for whom” trope has applied. But it does not apply here. This has to get built.

Reply
Anonymous

A family of four making $46,000 first priority should be to stop having kids that they can’t afford in NYC.

Reply
SuperWittySmitty

I’m a regular bike rider and my head feels fine. Actually, I ride past this building regularly. I love its style and if I worked there, I would use my bike to commute.

3
5
Reply

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News