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Sunnyside Residents Start Petition Drive in Opposition to 10-story Building Proposal

Photo of rendering

Photo of rendering

Aug. 26, 2015 By Christian Murray

The developer that plans to construct a 10-story, 220-unit residential building on Barnett Avenue (near 52nd Street) is about to face some heavy resistance from Sunnyside residents who are dead-set against the project.

Phipps Houses, which announced its plan to develop the site at Community Board 2’s Land Use meeting in June, said that it would be seeking a zoning change in order to build the apartment complex on the site, which is currently zoned for manufacturing.

The site, which is next to the Phipps Garden Apartments, is currently used as a parking lot by local businesses and residents, and has about 225 spaces.

All 220-units would be classified as “affordable.” More than half would be two or three bedrooms. Only 5% of the units would be studio apartments.

Since the Land Use meeting, many residents have come together and joined forces with the Sunnyside Gardens Preservation Alliance, a group dedicated to the preservation of the district, in opposition to the developer’s plan.

They have put together a petition calling on Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and Community Board 2 to block the plan. The group has already gathered about 500 signatures on paper—going door-to-door– and has launched an online campaign via change.org, which in two days has generated 130 signatures. (click for petition)

In order for the development to proceed, Phipps will have to go through what’s known as the ULURP process to get the lot rezoned. While Community Board 2 gets to weigh in on the plan during that process, its decision as to whether the site should be rezoned is not binding.

However, the plan would need the approval of the City Council to go into effect. If Van Bramer, the majority leader, were to come out against the development it would be thwarted.

“This [movement] began as something very organic,” said Herbert Reynolds, the president of the Sunnyside Gardens Preservation Alliance. However, he said it has generated a groundswell of support and people are united against the plan.

The group’s campaign, called “Stop The Construction of 10 Story Residential Building in Sunnyside,” claims that the Sunnyside and Woodside neighborhoods are already developed and congested to their limits.

”Phipps Houses, once a model landlord and neighborhood, has shocked our close community with its desire for a major zoning change and a 10 story apartment building on Barnett Avenue,” reads the petition.

Phipps4“The proposed new building would tower at least twice the height of the tallest adjacent buildings, and bring more crowding and congestion of every kind, including increased traffic and parking woes, threats to safety and quiet.”

Reynolds said that residents are concerned since the City’s current infrastructure is struggling to meet the needs of the existing population. He said that the subway is over loaded, local schools are overcrowded and then there is the loss of 225 much-needed parking spaces.

The parking spaces, he said, are needed, since the residents at the 470-unit Phipps Gardens Apartments do not have a parking lot.  Additionally, the historic district does not permit people to have driveways so Sunnyside Gardens residents are required to park on the street or elsewhere.

Reynolds said that the group believes that its opposition will be taken in consideration and that their views will be represented fairly in the process.

“We are confident that we have a councilman that looks out for the best interest of his constituents and that is why we are doing this,” Reynolds said.

The site had been identified by former Community Board 2 Chair Joe Conley to be reviewed by city planning for affordable housing in a letter he wrote to New York City Planning Commissioner in April 2014 (see letter).

Existing lot

Existing lot

Michael Wadman, vice president of Phipps Houses, said at the June meeting that 20% of the units would be for tenants who earn 50% of the Area Median Income (AMI), 30% for those who earn 100% of AMI and the remaining 50% for those who earn up to 130% of AMI.

“We think this is the right kind of affordability for this neighborhood and in general,” Wadman said at the time.

Phipps could not be reached for comment for this story.

Van Bramer, who lives in Sunnyside Gardens, said that he is keeping a close eye on the plans and shares some of the same concerns as residents and will review the application carefully.

“I’m keenly aware of the quality of life issues—such as the shortage of parking and the scale of the proposal,” he said. “The height is not consistent with the community and parking is a big issue.”

He said that while he supports affordable housing, “a project has to be appropriate and we are building plenty of it going forward.”

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Photo of rendering

 

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91 Comments

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Tony

PHIPPS HOUSES CAN’T EVEN RUN THE CURRENT GARDEN APARTMENT COMPLEX COMPTENTLY! HAVING LIVED HERE ALL MY LIFE WHAT A DOWNHILL LANDLORD, ESPECIALLY UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF DOUGLAS HANAU. THE LAST THING PHIPPS HOUSES NEEDS IS TO SUPERVISE ANOTHER COMPLEX IN SUNNYSIDE.

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Anonymous visitor

Sunnyside local….. I agree with you I’m a little miffed when the people of Sunnyside tried to save the Center Theater The Bank PJs and the Dentist I did not see any official to try to help including …..Jimmy van Bramer stayed silent but he stepped in to save the clock tower building in LIC although nice it did nothing for Sunnyside and its people i see nothing wrong with building over the train tracks they will build new stations under it or take the northern blvd train for the new people there and if they build behind the Phipps the new LIRR train stop will be there between 43rd and 48 streets as well as they are 4 blocks away from the R train I just love this not in my back yard .attitude …Jimmy Van Bramer since he is a home owner in the gardens as for my back yard attitude…. I want the Center and PJS Back and the business and residents that want to stay in Sunnyside to stay and not be forced out by builders and high rents

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Rocky Balboa

good point, Anonymous visitor! I miss the theater and Horgans, etc. Why doesn’t Jimmy try to do something for Queens Boulevard?

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king henrik

Build a jail so the people who live on the south side of Queens Blvd don’t have to travel so far to visit their drug dealing relatives

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VelvetKnight

Boy, that’s some nice looking bait you put on your hook there. Is there a Sunnyside tackle shop?

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anon

Yes there is, anywhere on 48th or 47th ave above 45th street. All the bait and tackle you need.

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Love for Skillman

Sophia – I stand corrected. My bad.
P361 will be K-only in 2016, and then in subsequent years K/1, K/1/2, thru 5th.
Sorry.

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Skillman Ave

I like that some said —

There is no middle school for the number of children here now.

– and –

They are building a new school on 39th Avenue and 58th St. because of severe overcrowding.

— in the SAME PARAGRAPH.

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CG

Zinsu, perhaps you live by yourself or in a family where there are no young children or old people. If not, I would suggest that you try to ride the subway with a baby and 2 young children or climb the steps to the 7 train if you are in your late 80’s. Some of us moved to Sunnyside because of how it is now…low density…and some of us would like to keep it that way.

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Zinsu

Low density is good; that part I support. Just not cars. The neighborhood was not designed for them.

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Angelo

How very mature. Shall I call you a poopy head? I will be glad to see people like you priced out and gone sooner rather than later.

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Lightning

Anyone who resorts to excessive capitalization and punctuation loses the argument automatically. Only someone out of facts and insight resorts to that. So, “dope” is completely appropriate. And you, Angelo, evidence a remarkable lack of heart in your statements. God help both of you.

Angelo

Lighting, I used capitalization and punctuation for a very specific reason – to convey the visceral horror that many here spew about any sort of change within the limits of the written word (and well within the standards of online writing). It was not part of an argument, ergo your point is moot. The fact that it went right over your head says a lot about your lack of imagination. I cannot say the neighborhood will be at a loss once your stunning intellect is priced out, since heart doesn’t pay the bills.

Bon voyage! (That’s French, since you would probably think I was making words up)

Zinsu

These arguments always lose me when they turn to parking issues. If you feel the need to have a car, move to Long Island.

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Dana

Everytime I see people fighting on here, I wonder “whatever happened to Mary Caulfield’s law suit?”

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sartke

It makes total sense for any local homeowner to oppose new housing – after all, a lack of supply increases their own housing value – but let’s not pretend these people are anything but self-interested conservatives who are ruining this city.

Keep Sunnyside for Sunnysiders, right? Make sure that only millionaires are left in this city before you cash out and move to Florida.

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Rocky Balboa

“Self-interested conservatives” – honey, it is mostly LIBS living in the Phips and Sunnyside Gardens! they stuck us with Jimmy Van Bramer and the awful Cathy Nolan. The Gardens was started by red diaper doper babies. Do your home work before you attack the wrong people! Read the book Radical Son for more information.

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will smith

oh god, some one actually quoting right wing radio lunatic Michael Savage. lame-ass, got no thoughts of your own?

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Oldster

Well said, Ann. It also reflects the fact that developers don’t care one whit what people want, their greed blinds them, as it did the thieving mayor who put this all in place for his rapacious friends. I hear he is now positioning himself to–in his financial way–rape and pillage London. God help them.

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Sunnyside Local

I miss the days when we could walk down the street and go to the movies. But I guess neighborhood perks aren’t allowed with gentrification. And this leads to a better neighborhood how?

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ann

People are objecting because of the height and scale. It towers over everything else. People accepted the rezoning a few years ago, because taller building were permitted along Queens Boulevard and in return the side streets were to remain zoned for lower-height buildings. This request to build such a massive building does not fit with the rezoning. Plus the trains and buses are already packed; the schools are overcrowded. This mania for growth seems to ignore the fact that people don’t want to live in ugly, overcrowded neighborhoods.

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Dino velvet

If they want to build anywhere in Sunnyside, let them make it pricey and make it nice.
That’s the only way we’ll get upscale shops & eateries around as opposed to nail salons & 99 cent stores.
It’ll also eliminate the riff raff from the neighborhood, hipsters with $ won’t tolerate the drunk latin americans that took over all the public parks etc…

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Dino velvet

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Change is coming, and somebody’s getting scared !!!
Lock your front door, stay inside, and pretend you live in Mayberry…

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OldenDays

I don’t hate the idea of building something there, but I don’t see why it has to be 10 stories tall. I mean this whole neighborhood was “contextually rezoned” just a few years ago to prevent exactly this sort of thing from happening. Make it six stories like every other building in Sunnyside.

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Sunnyside Local

So development adjacent to The Gardens is a big no-no but when everyone starts bitching about sky high development adjacent to the Boulevard and in those neighborhood areas outside The Gardens its perfectly fine and labeled progress? Can you say HYPOCRITES??!!

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Anonymous visitor

If we got rid of all the illegal aliens in Queens there woudl not be all the congestion and over population.

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Messer

Holy crap! Did you let the NSA know where the aliens are hiding?

Or did you just mean undocumented immigrants? Either way – your opinion isn’t factually based, and, if you look closely, you might find a bit of xenophobia/racism there too.

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Feeling attacked

I am frequently surprised by the bald-faced arrogance of people who expect others to completely rearrange their lives for people who have earned absolutely no credibility with them. Read a few articles on the evils of gentrification before you speak with such assurance again if you want anyone at all to listen to you. Your one-sided attitude belies your lack of wisdom.

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Angelo

Actually, illegal aliens is the correct term for those who are nonresident individuals illegally living in the U.S. Sorry, but PC=BS.

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Marilyn S.

Messer is right –cars and parking spaces need not be a concern for Sunnyside residents. Our neighborhood is well-served by public transportation– this is one of its greatest assets. But school overcrowding and strain because of transit overcrowding are significant issues. Allowing QBlvd to gentrify shopping while keeping mom and pop small town feel to Skillman and 43rd Aves could be goals for concerned residents. Years ago, Greenwich Village retained quirky small establishments and smaller community feel within the larger context of big city growth. Maybe we will need express buses to midtown from 52nd and QBlvd?

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VelvetKnight

Unfortunately, that’s caught up to the Village as well.

And at least for rush hour, buses of any kind aren’t much of an answer because they still need to cross the bridge, which barely moves. Maybe if there was a bus-only lane, but could you imagine the outcry among drivers if that happened?

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WoodsideMom

600-800 new seats at IS 125, right across Queens Blvd. from the Gardens. New school on 58th St. and large addition under construction at PS 11. Maybe not enough, but it’s a great start at adding additional public school seats in the immediate area.

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Messer

I am frequently surprised by how out of touch residents appear to be. We all put much emphasis on cars and parking in a very well transit-connected neighborhood positioned incredibly close to the center of New York City. It often seems as though long-time residents forgot that as time marches inexorably onward, cities grow, and what used to be essentially a spread out suburb of the city is now being absorbed into its heart. There is no need for a car in Sunnyside, and if one elect to have a car, they need to understand that free or easy parking is not a right.

Costs will rise, the neighborhood will grow, stores will gentrify, and most of all, more people need places to live. Especially affordable housing. To retain the small town feel, ample parking and mom and pop stores, residents will need to move farther from the city. That is not a bad thing – it’s just a fact.

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Oldster

If you find yourself explaining the absolutely obvious to someone who seems to have even a modicum of intelligence, stop before you go further. Think for just a moment if perhaps It is not the object of your pedantry who is missing something, it could be you.

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Messer

Reading these boards however often I’m not all convinced in the modicum of intelligence you seem to indicate is present. My comment related primarily to cars and the parking being removed in this plan. That isn’t a minor detail here as you say. Also, as I apparently did in fact miss the point, could you please explain it for me?

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WoodsideMom

I think I read a couple of months ago that the new building would have 99 parking spots in the basement.

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A Clue

So refreshing to see a neighborhood of mostly well-to-do older people rail against affordable housing and buildings that don’t look like what they’re used to.

Just tattoo “Get off my lawn” on your foreheads and be done with it.

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Angelo

Welcoming people to the neighborhood is not you prerogative. If someone can afford to be here and wants to, they will be. Now kindly get of the lawn I just bought.

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usedtolivethere

I used to run that property as a property manager for the MTA. Portions of that entire block are owned by the MTA. There is no way that they are going to allow that building to be built. The guy on the corner of 48th applied to build a single extra story on his building in 2005. It’s still not there. Good luck getting the MTA to agree.

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Oldster

Thank God there would be more powerful opposition than mere people. In this day and age, we count as almost nothing, especially if you have been a longtime member of the community who worked for decades to hold it together while the city and developers let us languish with poor roads, poor retail choices, poor

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Messer

Speaking for the longtime members.. could you explain what you were holding together against the city and developers? Was Sunnyside about to drift out to sea? Did you prevent some unmitigated disaster? What did you actually hold together? Or, were you just fighting a losing battle against changes of time? This is just NIMBY nonsense.

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Mujeres Sophia

No one around here was old or bitter until we were invaded by a bunch of rabid people like you who are deaf, dumb and blind to anything but their own ambitious vision of a future that doesn’t include the people whose lives you are battering. You see us all as mere wallpaper you want to change, and that is infuriating. When that fury is diminished, dismissed, spit upon, called names, shoved aside, slandered, stabbed etc., and the person carrying the fury is still not dead, bitterness may be the result. But know that none existed until you and people like you bought into the line of shite that very, very wealthy, powerful and greedy people spent decades developing and polishing. You, contemptuous commenter are nothing but an ignorant pawn on someone else’s chessboard. At least I am aware of the set up. You are under the bright shiny illusion that you are the master of your own fate. Perhaps some day before you die you will see the role you played in this modern day conquest of the masses. But from the tone of your writing, you are decades from any kind of awareness. As my Great Granddad John King used to say when he was telling me something I was way too ignorant yet to understand, “Mark my words.” That is all. Good luck.

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Annomus

Sophia. Maybe you should take a breath and calm down a little. So hostile over some apartments being built.

Angelo

Sophia, you are a speed bump, not wallpaper. Get over your complex and accept that you, like everyone, are subject to market forces. If you can no longer afford Sunnyside, tough.

Theorem Ox

Might be time to move on. I’ve had the privilege of growing up as a kid and living for a good part of my young adult life in the Sunnyside/Woodside area. The neighborhood wasn’t overly pretentious, had a relatively low cost of living, was relatively safe and had great transportation options to Manhattan and Central Queens. It seemed like most people living here were generally content with the way things were with a couple of issues that popped up every now and then. Those who found things unsatisfactory generally moved on to other neighborhoods that fit them better.

Not that changes are bad per se, but I see more and more that the current crop of landowners, politicians and some of the newer residents are pushing for changes without much care or concern for longer term and even unintended immediate consequences. I wouldn’t be nearly as upset if a good bulk of those changes weren’t being pushed if only for the sole purpose of boosting their own net worths or for destructive pandering purposes at the expense of the existing community at large.

Unfortunately, I know all too well that the very same people who are pushing for these changes in blitzkrieg speed are going to end up hating the culture and ultimately the neighborhood that they had a major role in cultivating. (I’ve had an opportunity to live in other cities as well in my lifetime and seen similar processes over there.)

Kramden's Delicious Marshall

Let’s just cram more and more people into the neighborhood while the infrastructure continues to collapse.

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Messer

Where do you want them to go? Population rises. A first come first served attitude doesn’t work in life, and new residents aren’t just going to live on the outskirts so you have a less-crowded neighborhood.

Perhaps you could give up your place and they could live there – no new buildings needed.

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Kramden's Delicious Marshall

I normally don’t respond to incoherent comments such as yours but perhaps you can tell me your plan to expand and improve the infrastructure of the area so that all these new residents will have basic services and utilities?

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Matt

The same way they do in every other neighborhood in NYC? Does Sunnyside have some kind of special force field that doesn’t allow improvements?

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Kramden's Delicious Marshall

Let me know when they build another subway line in the neighborhood.

Rocky Balboa

Yes, because services are worse and worse. Have you seen the empty stores lately?

Messer

I agree with Matt. If your infrastructure complaints were centered around crowed trains, disrepair of sidewalks, roads and platforms, you could have a talking point. Although, an extra building worth of people won’t significantly alter the infrastructure, but new taxes from construction and commerce could provide the needed funds to begin repairs.

Basic services and utilities don’t seem to be a problem, and I haven’t seen it suggested anywhere that new buildings would overload the current service/utility capacities.

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Feeling Attacked

You haven’t been listening then, have you? There is no middle school for the number of children here now. They just paved over the last playground at PS 11 to add a new wing because of existing overcrowding. They are building a new school on 39th Avenue and 58th St. because of severe overcrowding. They have declared war on cars because they plan to add so many more people here the roads will be dangerously overcrowded. They are adding bicycle lanes everywhere so all the young healthy people they want to live here will not try to get around by car or by train. The MTA has reported the most riders on their trains since the late 1940s, before it was common for people to own cars. There is no efficient way to get around Queens because all public transportation was built to bring a workforce into Manhattan and home again to somewhat self-sufficient neighborhoods. That paradigm became outdated decades ago when malls supplanted local shopping districts and even more so since superstores like BJ’s and Costco stole market share. Unless you are Manhattan centric, getting around Queens efficiently requires a car. That is my lived experience. Not a pretty story I read in a hip magazine and swallowed hook, line and sinker.

CG

Most of the new condos put up in the last 10-15 years have had 10-25 year tax abatements meaning the owners don’t pay taxes for that long. I have seen too many neighborhoods in Brooklyn destroyed by rapid development. My friends in Brooklyn Heights are happy for winter because there are no tourist filled sidewalks. If people wanted high density, we’d live in Manhattan.

Oldster

Sarcasm is a poor veil for aggressive covetousness. Examine your conscience and see if you might be guilty of ageism and self-righteousness. It is a possibility.

You are actually suggesting people ruin their lives for your sake, or the sake of other, wealthier people. You are a sick individual.

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Messer

Covetousness?? take it easy fella – that doesn’t even make sense. Also, nothing here mentioned age at all. NIMBY mentalities can effect the old and the young alike, as long they are comfortable with the world being unfair in their favor.
I’m also not suggesting anything of the sort. Who is ruining their lives at all in anything that was suggested or implied here? Are you sure you commented on the right article?

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Oldster

Covetousness is indeed a perfectly formed word. You said if existing residents moved the people coming here wouldn’t need a new building. That is coveting what others have. In many cases the people who have those apartments are older than the people moving in, the ones able to ride bikes. The world is not unfair in my favor. It is what it is, and if you think people should get out of the way so new people can come you are just like the Nazi’s who wanted what the Jews had and so pushed them out. You are the English who wanted the land Irish people lived on so they enslaved, imprisoned and eventually starved them out of their own homes and put them on coffin ships. You are Europeans who came to a “new land” and inadvertently gave diseases to the people to whom the land was ancestral homeland. I use huge examples–far greater in scope than the one taking place in NYC now–to use familiar stories, but the mechanism is the same. Someone covets what another one has, in this case a home in Queens, so they use twisted logic such as yours to justify their aggression. They try to discredit and dehumanize the people. Its one of the oldest tricks in the book. Try to get out of your own point of view and see things from the other side. There are other sides, you know, if you look honestly for them instead of coming in with your mind made up.

Angelo

Fancy that..a Nazi reference as argument in an incoherent internet post. Oldster, let me simplify this. If you own your apartment, you control your costs with a fixed mortgage. If you rent, you are subject to market forces. How exactly is that Naziism?

Rocky Balboa

The number 7 is a disaster. Let’s squeeze more people into it! I heard a rumor that the guy who owns the lots where Dynasty is eventually wants to quick everybody out and put up a condo!

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red diaper doper baby

if you really hate Sunnyside and the ideas of diversity much as your posts show, you should really just leave, you hateful right wing bastard. You can pick up Michael Savage show from just about anywhere in the US. Just leave man. Go where you’ll be happy.

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Rocky Balboa

Stay sweet and show us the love! It’s funny that you hate people because most people feel sorry for you. Who is Michael Savage? I am a Rush fan!

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useyourwords

“The height is not consistent with the community and parking is a big issue.”

First off, the “community” was built before square footage was as much of an issue as it is today. Given the continued growth of this city, building out is no longer a viable option. You have to build up. This is unavoidable.

Secondly, this is NYC, parking is always an issue. An open air lot is a huge waste of space that could be better utilized for affordable housing.

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CG

Have you taken the 7 local during rush hour? The buses are useless and if there is any sort of delay, the platforms fill up until people almost spill off of them. It’s like a can of sardines 50% of the time if you are lucky enough to get in the train.

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Angelo

I take the 7 every day. Compared with trains in Manhattan, it is not crowded. I have not been able to get into the first train in the station maybe twice in the past year, and I get on at Vernon.

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Theorem Ox

You board at Vernon-Jackson? No wonder you have no idea about what people living to the (north)east of you are talking about!

By the time the 7 reaches Vernon, much of the crowd has dissipated out at 33rd, Queensborough and Court Square.

Try boarding the Manhattan-bound 7 at 40th or 46th Street stations during 7-9 am on weekdays. If you want the whole nine yards, do that when schools are in session! I guarantee that you’ll change your tune before a full week has even gone by.

Reply
Elizabeth

All in favor of halting the developmental progress of one of North America’s largest cities to suit Rocky’s commuting challenges say “aye”!

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