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Van Bramer To Block Phipps’ 210-Unit Development Plan, Essentially Kills Proposal

MHG Architects

MHG Architects

May 31, 2016 By Christian Murray

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer has told the Sunnyside Post that he will block Phipps Houses’ proposal to build a 10-story residential development on Barnett Avenue, essentially killing the controversial development plan.

Van Bramer said Phipps’ proposal, which would bring 208 units—all affordable—to 50-25 Barnett Ave., was too big and out of scale with the neighborhood.

“Ten stories is out of character and inconsistent with the rest of the neighborhood,” Van Bramer said. “It’s across the street from the existing Phipps [Phipps Garden Apartments], which would be dwarfed by this.”

Phipps, a non-profit developer, is seeking a zoning change in order to build on the Barnett lot that is currently zoned for manufacturing. As part of the rezoning process, the City Council must approve the change.

Van Bramer essentially decides whether the council will vote it up or down, since it is council protocol for members to follow the recommendation of the local representative.

“They can’t build this building without my approval,” he said.

Van Bramer said that he has had “concerns” with the development from the get-go, but he is making his viewpoint known now since the community has had time to weigh in on the plan and members of Community Board 2’s Land Use committee expressly wanted to know his views.

The full Community Board is scheduled to vote on the development proposal on Thursday. However, the Board’s recommendation—albeit advisory—is largely irrelevant now that Van Bramer has said he will nix the project.

Van Bramer said he was “disappointed” by Phipps since they never appeared to listen to the concerns of the community.

In October when Phipps presented its proposal to the community at a town hall meeting at Phipps Garden Apartments, there was a great deal of opposition in terms of the size of the building, number of units, parking, traffic congestion on Barnett Avenue and even the income levels of what is deemed affordable.

“That town hall meeting did not go well for them,” Van Bramer said.

He said that Phipps then had time to regroup and take the community’s views into consideration.

However, Van Bramer said, Phipps came back in March and started the formal process of getting the lot rezoned and “to my knowledge did not change anything.”

“I asked Phipps at various stages to consider a smaller building and they refused to in any meaningful way,” arguing that it would not be financially feasible, Van Bramer said.

“They have not amended their plan in the face of overwhelming opposition [which] reflects a steamroller approach,” Van Bramer said.

Van Bramer said he also had concerns with the way Phipps maintains its existing Sunnyside complex.

“I always knew there were issues…because I know many people who live there,” he said. “But I was floored by how many people spoke out against Phipps as landlords.”

Van Bramer said the mayor’s office has reached out to him and recommended that he should support the development since it would be 100 percent affordable.

So too has Commissioner Vicki Been of the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

“Just because you are progressive and believe in affordable housing doesn’t mean that every single affordable housing project is right for every single proposed location,” Van Bramer said.

“I can’t ignore 2,000-plus signature petitions, town halls where nearly everyone criticizes it and people who come up to me at events and say ‘I hope you oppose this,’” he added.

Existing lot (June 2015)

Existing lot (June 2015)

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JVB is the Majority Leader of the City Council. I doubt if this project is going anywhere if JVB doesn’t want it to go anywhere (other than back to the drawing board). Agree with Paddy on JVB’s shrewdly observing the chaos engulfing the di Blasio admin & the NYPD leadership ranks – biding his time until he may have a chance to run. Also, he would not want his base riled up against him by allowing the project to be pushed through the City Council without his support. This isn’t going to happen anyway, since he’s the Majority Leader of the City Council.

Other Side of the Blvd

Is there a possibility that “the fix is in?” That JVB properly opposes the Phipps development to placate his constituents but knowing all along that Mayor DeBlasio will rally enough votes in the council to push the project through. It would be a rare occasion that a project is green-lighted in a councilman’s district against his/her opposition, but it is not impossible. Remember, DeBlasio needs more “affordable” units city-wide. He would not be above giving JVB the cover he needs by pushing the project through without him.

Jimmy Van Pooch

Other Side, you are 100% correct. Charline is a big supporter of Phipps and they do a ton of business with the City. JVB will yip and yap, but Bennet Houses ultimately will be approved just like the 17 story hotel/future homeless shelter onQueens Blvd.


Van Bramer is just distancing himself from his pal, the mayor, because he knows de blasio is going down the tubes (thank the lord) and lil jimmy has always had his eye on being mayor one day!

That’s another disaster waiting in the wings!


It’s not hypocritical. The development is gigantic and totally out of scale for the area. Van Bramer said it well:
Just because you are progressive and believe in affordable housing doesn’t mean that every single affordable housing project is right for every single proposed location,” Van Bramer said.

can 200 liberals yell NIMBY all at once?

funny how liberals clain they are for everyone except when its in their own backyard, god forbid affordable housing should be near my precious sunnyside gardens. such phonies… i really cant stand the hypocracy.


Sorry, we all live in affordable housing here. Putting poor people on top of rail road tracks was always a sign of contempt for them. Why is it any different now? Park Avenue folks buried the tracks before they would live there. But people on upper Park Avenue, mostly black and hispanic, have to endure the filth and noise. Get it? Get it? You are the hypocrite. Not us.


Liberals? We all work for a living in Sunnyside and put our kids through school – in this neighborhood. I grew up in this neighborhood – did you? Do you know where Barnett Ave. is? Do you know how Phipps runs their “affordable” housing? Probably not – and learn how to spell – “clain” You’re the one wrapping yourself in a liberal cloak


The upside: it’s good Van Bramer is opposing this. With such quickly raising rents, we don’t need a huge mass of “affordable” tenants in the neighborhood. Then we’re getting the worst of both worlds. The vast majority of current Sunnysiders/Woodsiders would not qualify to move into this building.

The downside: JVB seems to be singularly ineffective at working with city/regional agencies (think continued 7 train mess, his Balto-like trek during Snowpacalypse instead of actually getting something done, the Queens Library fiasco, his opinion on the YMCA hotel overridden) So I’m afraid his condemnation seals the deal and means it will actually happen.

Evelyn Tully Costa, Crown Heights South

PERHAPS there is HOPE that our Councilperson, Laurie Cumbo will see the Bedford Union Armory hand out to developers for what it is: A OUTSIZED, inappropriate LANDGRAB that will benefit 1%ter’s (the ones building it and STEALING President Street instead of using it to benefit the COMMUNITY)
Send Slate/BFC and Not so Marvelous Architects PACKING. We’ve got BETTER plans that will bring REAL jobs, real world class programming, not “three basketball courts and 5 janitor jobs” which is about what the city thinks our community Crown Heights deserves. Van Bramer has GUTS and VISION..let’s see how Ms. CUmbo stacks up.


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