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Van Bramer: We Must Support Real Affordable Housing, Why I’m Voting Yes on Phipps Proposal

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (Photo: jimmyvanbramer.nyc)

March 9, 2021 Op-Ed By: Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer

Four years ago, Phipps Houses withdrew their application to build an affordable housing complex in my Sunnyside neighborhood after I had come out against it.

It was a project that the community board voted against and which faced significant community opposition. I too was opposed, but not because I didn’t want to see affordable housing built here.

As I said then, my opposition focused on four key issues:

1) Phipps’ unwillingness to commit to good jobs, paying good wages, offering real benefits. I have always and will always stand for good union jobs.

2) The “affordable” apartments weren’t truly affordable – income levels were too high.

3) The existing tenants living in the Phipps Garden Apartments across the street complained of serious maintenance issues.

4) The new building would be nearly twice the height of the building across the street

Those were real issues and real concerns. And I wish Phipps had been able to address them then.

They weren’t.

But Phipps maintained ownership of the property, currently a large parking lot. They revised their proposal and came back to me and the community with it.

Some of the same voices opposed to the project four years ago are once again demanding that I block it. They say it’s the same project, with the same flaws, and if I opposed it four years ago, I should do so again. But this is a different, and much improved proposal. Here’s why:

Phipps has changed their tune to hiring and now offers good jobs widely, including both in this newly proposed development and the Phipps Garden Apartments. The affordability levels have been lowered dramatically, with 20% of the units at 40% AMI and the highest income band at 80%. We have never seen such levels of affordability in this area.

The buildings height has been brought in line with the existing Phipps Garden Apartments across the street. And while we have a ways to go to hold Phipps accountable as landlords, working with Community Board 2 (which voted against the plan four year ago but in favor of this plan), Phipps agreed to an improvement plan to address existing tenant complaints and have begun regular meetings with the tenant association. And improvements have begun with the hiring of additional staff and agreements on further steps to address legitimate tenant issues.

In this highly charged and vitriolic space we call politics, the demands and attacks are well underway. Phipps can and must do better by its tenants, but claiming they are slumlords doesn’t bear out. I’ve heard some say this housing isn’t truly affordable, but tell that to the formerly homeless families who will find a home here. Some have genuine concerns. Others spread lies and conspiracy theories about this plan. But truth has to matter again in government.

So let’s be honest about this project. It is deeply affordable. All of this housing is for people who are at, near or below minimum wage earners. We cannot deny these families a home. This is an opportunity to do what we say we want to do, which is build truly affordable housing.

Sunnyside must be a community that is welcoming to all, including the formerly homeless and low income earners. Low wage workers, including those making $15 an hour, need affordable housing. This project provides that.

Leadership requires one to make tough choices, even if you know it will cost you votes. And just as I insisted we build a nearby middle school despite some local opposition, I must do the right thing here as well and support this project.

I cannot in good conscience block a project that has now addressed my prior concerns and will provide genuinely affordable homes to people who desperately need them.

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer represents District 26 in Western Queens 

email the author: [email protected]

36 Comments

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The Future

Let’s face it folks: this is just another step toward destruction of the community. Van Bramer may think this is a conspiracy but in 10 years, this project will change the face of the few surrounding blocks. Don’t forget a school will be opened down the street on 48th. That cute garden will become another construction site no doubt about it. Plus Sunnyside Yards.

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You get what you voted for

Jimmy wanted to make tough decisions despite losing voters. Right. He will get more voters once they move in to the Phipps houses. And will get more once the neighborhood gets worse and people start moving out. I used to live in East side in Manhattan. The area of the Phipps projects in second avenue was and is a crime filled dump. This is what’s coming to our neighborhood.

But what do you expect when you keep voting for progressives? They want to control and exploit the poor, lazy and uneducated. Capitalism is racist to them. Why fight for companies to stay (Steve Madden) or come (Amazon) when you can keep people down and decide where they can live, how much they make, and give them as much social entitlements that others pay for, all for a measly vote.

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Gardens Watcher

JVB is term limited in his current position, and won’t be worrying about getting more voters when he loses the June primary.

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But this is what you wanted

You get what you voted for.
The best and most informed comment here. I grew up on the upper east side and you are absolutely right.

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Tired of people who posts compliments to their own posts.

City council is required to deal with zoning. Nothing new here.

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Tissue for your tears.

Lol. I didn’t compliment my own post. I’ll thumb you up so you can sleep at night. I post for opinion and discussion, so put on your big boy pants little girl. The truth hurts sometimes.

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Victor

I’m a little bit confused about all this. Isn’t there already a Phipps in Sunnyside, and isn’t it “affordable” housing but not low “income housing”? It’s not the projects. I’m looking at pricing and right now one bedrooms are $1875/month. That’s only a like 200/month less than most one bedrooms in Sunnyside. It’s not exactly housing for homeless or minimum wage earners, so why is he saying that? It’s ridiculous to imply that Sunnysiders hate the formerly homeless, and don’t want them moving in.
I also see homeowners complaining that crime will go up, but is the current Phipps a crime hot spot?

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Concerned Citizen

This new one will literally be housing projects. Can’t wait till criminals are sneaking into the yards of people in sunnyside gardens to conduct drug deals or hide bodies from their gang initiations…ONLY THEN will liberals open their eyes and see the lunacy of allowing this into the neighborhood.

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Mary Caulfield

Phipps posted its Bedbug Annual Filing in the last day or two. There are two copies posted that seem to cover the same time period but they report different numbers. One, which is posted under a film that makes it hard to read, looks like 300+ of the 472 units reported bed bug problems from November 2019 to October 2020. Again it’s hard to read but it looks like 26 or 28 infestations were reported, 26 or 28 treated and 9 were reinvested. The other one, perfectly clear, lists bed bug complaints from 128 units, with 2 infestations and two infestations cleared up with no recurrence. In either case at least 25% of the development had bed bugs last year. How good is that? I don’t know city-wide rates.

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Yuck

I would say thats terrible. The peak of the NYC bedbug infestation was apparently back around 2010, and even then, I dont think it was nearly 25% reported. And I say ‘reported’ because many landlords try to blame the tenants, so tenants simply move instead of report.

Btw, bedbugs can also move between buildings without the need for latching onto people’s personal belongings…

Bedbugs bring out the true characteristics of a landlord.

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Joe

Are you serious Jimmy, are you really serious?
Things are different, really? For God sakes, how can you do this to your own neighborhood?

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Your Former Donor and Supporter

If you pulled this kind of baloney with your closest constituents and supporters, what good will you be to Queens in general? None. Your choices are based on how good they will be for you, not for the people who put you into office, the people who make much less than you do who contributed time and again to causes close to your heart.

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Pulling My Hair Out

Well, thanks for the complete betrayal, Councilman. Implying we don’t want formerly homeless people here is a low blow. Many, many tenants here are low income and understand how hard it it’s to find and keep a stable home. You make no mention of the unsuitable environment, the crowed streets and the loss of Steve Madden. You make your position sound reasonable, but Phipps hasn’t changed its colors. They will now completely ignore the garden apartment tenants and the community hoard.

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tdongdre

how about some numbers, Mr Bramer just to get a context of what we are talking about here? what I mean is: how much a 1/2/3 bedrooms would cost to rent these “affordable” apts.

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Sun side

I wondering how much real estate developers has contributed to JVB’s lifestyle? Wining, dining and pocket lining.

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Define "affordable"

Until new infrastructure is built, like a new subway line, there should be no new housing. Basta!

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Wishful thinking

Nah. Common sense is always trumped by “social equality issues.” Much like all progressive ideals where they have no realistic plan on where to find the capital (which will fall on heavy taxation on the middle class) to fund their projects, but still they want to push it down our throats.

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MaryAnn Joyce

As a member of the board of Phipps Tenants Assn., I have been part of the improvement plan meetings. There have only been two & they have not kept to the timeline outlined in their plan. I also need to rebut the comment about Phipps management hiring more staff. They have hired one additional porter bringing the count to 6 porters who are responsible for 29 4-floor walk up buildings and 6 6-floor elevated buildings in addition to monitoring garbage & recyclable waste and cleanliness of interior garden walkways and a 4 block perimeter. They have not replaced a handyman who left last spring leaving only two men to do repairs on 472 apartments. The complex is 86 years old. Employees do get sick and also deserve vacation time. We need more manpower.
I think it’s clear Phipps is not a good landlord and a very poor property manager.

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Seen it all.

But they are doing a great job of moving tenants out. Anyone who can afford to leave is leaving. One apartment on my floor has had four tenants in the past five or six years. Why? Bed bugs.

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Alp Baturay

Funny considering the issues Jimmy listed were not properly addressed and continue to plague the existing Phipps’. The countless emails I’ve sent with written and photographic evidence showing the conditions have been ignored by Jimmy as well. This is nothing more than a push for “affordable housing” to be on his resume prior to a run for Borough President. I challenge Jimmy and those supporting this to actually prove any of these conditions were met. Leaks still exist. Rodents still exist. A lack of cleaning hallways still exists. Slow repairs still exist. Ignoring tenant emails and requests by Douglas Hanau (property manager) still exist. Increasing rents to “market rate” with shotty upgrades still exists. Threatening MCI increases for improper roof repair and pointing still exist. And so on, and so on. So what exactly has improved to changed?

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Rob

You have always stood for good union jobs? How come most of LIC was built non union (with the exception of a handful of buildings)?

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Patricia Dorfman

To: Sunnyside Post…Where is the free press? Did you not receive Emily Sharpe’s press release months ago?

Where are you on this? Are we now up against candidates and elected officials unchecked opinions AS IS?

Why was no article printed as promised first about Madden taking 400 if Jimmy approves?

To: Jimmy Van Bramer, Councilperson

Our long, supported, careful, backed up, “”No to 50-25 Barnett rezonings” went to you on March 3 asking for meet. We sent again early today with more signatures. YOU NEVER responded. Is this his response to these signers? Scroll down. It’s a long list and growing daily. Our letter will be sent to outlets tonight. Why did you speak out before notifying or meeting with your constituents?

ORGANIZATIONS

Access Queens

Justice for All Coalition

Phipps Tenants

Stop Sunnyside Yards

Sunnyside Artists

Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce

Sunnyside Gardens Preservation Alliance

Takeback NYC

Woodside Sunnyside Council

INDIVIDUALS

Elizabeth Crowley for Queens Borough President

Stan Morse for Queens Borough President

Jonathan Bailey for Council District 26

Denise Keehan-Smith for Council District 26

Brent O’Leary for Council District 26

Emily Sharpe for Council District 26
_____

Susanne Acosta, 51-01 39th Ave., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Reynolds Anderson, 51-01 39th Ave., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Sandra Anderson, 51-01 39th Ave., Sunnyside, NY 11104

“Anonymous Phipps tenants who fear reprisals from our landlord but will vote by secret ballot”

Rebecca Barker, 39-62 44th St, Sunnyside, NY 11104

Bob Barnett, 51-18 39th Ave., Woodside, NY 11377

Mark Bing, 39-56 46th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Susan Edwards Bing, 39-56 46th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Maureen Blanke, 3917 50th St., Woodside, NY 11377

Işılay Çabuk, 51-01 39th Ave, Sunnyside, NY 11104

Luther Carpenter, 3943 48th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Vanessa Carreras, 4115 45th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Mary Caulfield Davis, 51-01 39th Ave., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Merry Chang, 47-03 39th Ave., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Pat Chu, 39-18 46th Street Sunnyside, NY 11104

Victor Chu, 39-18 46th Street Sunnyside, NY 11104

Eileen Connolly Goodwin, 48-09 39th Ave., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Jen Crammer, 41-08 43rd St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Elizabeth Crawford, 39-75 46th Street Sunnyside, NY 11104

Anthony Davis, 51-01 39th Ave. Sunnyside, NY 11104

Nilo De La Torre, Sunny Gardens Realty. 45-04 Skillman Ave. Sunnyside, NY 11104

Colleen Detroy, 51-01 39th Ave. Sunnyside, NY 11104

Edward Dinoski 2A, 41-20 46th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Mary Dinoski 2A, 41-20 46th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Bill Doherty, 3917 50th St., Woodside, NY 11377

Patricia Dorfman 39-46 46th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Richard Drake 39-46 46th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Alexa Echavez-Taylor, 5D, 41-20 46th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Silvana Eder, 39-04 48th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Jan Endlich, 4115 45th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Susan Fallon, 48-14 39th Ave., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Deborah Farley, 4120 46th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Keely Farley, 39-52 46th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Erika Feder, 4H, 41-20 46th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

David Feder, 4H, 41-20 46th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Gerry Feder, 4H, 41-20 46th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Anita J. Fisher, 51-01 39th Ave. Sunnyside, NY 11104

Amy FitzGerald 39-34 45th Street, Sunnyside, NY 11104

Sarah Fredericks

Kathy A. Gallagher, 2B, 41-20 46th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Giovanni Garcia-Fenech

Ana Gomez, 5H, 50-05 43rd Ave., Woodside, NY 11377

Manny Gomez, District Leader, 5H, 50-05 43rd Ave., Woodside, NY 11377

Victor Gomez, 2J, 50-05 43rd Ave., Woodside, NY 11377

Florence Gootar, 4910 39th Ave., Woodside, NY 11377

Selvin Gootar, 4910 39th Ave., Woodside, NY 11377

Jeffrey Guyton, 50-07 38th St., Sunnyside, NY 11101

Sabine Heinlein

Meherunnisa Mary Jobaida, 45-46, 21st Street, #4, LIC, 11101

Helen Johnson, 39-19 49th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

MaryAnn Joyce, 51-01 39th Ave, Sunnyside, NY 11104

Mary Kane, 39-64 45th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Jack Keeffe, 51-01 39th Ave., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Berk Koca, 45-06 Sklllman Ave, Sunnyside, NY 11104

Jonathan Ladino, 4M, 50-05 43rd Ave., Woodside, NY 11377

Jose Ladino, 6L, 50-05 43rd Ave., Woodside, NY 11377

Ossana Ladino, 6L, 50-05 43rd Ave., Woodside, NY 11377

Stephanie Ladino, 4M, 50-05 43rd Ave., Woodside, NY 11377

Leena Lam, 45-12 46th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Eric Lane, 51-18 39th Ave., Woodside, NY 11377

Naomi Lehman, 39-60 54th St., Woodside, NY 11377

Rosemarie Libasci, 51-01 39th Ave., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Mark Lilakos, 39-66A 47th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Brandon Lin, 48-01 39th Ave., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Ricky Lizalde, 39-66 47th Street Sunnyside, NY 11104

Jennifer Logan, 41-20 46th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Penelope Lynch, 51-01 39th Ave., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Lindsay Maurer

Hayes Peter Mauro, 41-16 47th Ave., Sunnyside, NY 111d04

Jodie McClintock, 4901 39th Ave. Sunnyside, NY 11104

Mary McKnight, 39-66 46th Street Sunnyside NY 11104

Thomas Mei, 39-59 45th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Robert Mir, 4N, 41-15 46th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Dorothy R. Morehead, 39-08 46th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Marilyn Nelkin, 3943 48th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Mike Novak, 39-12 46th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Melissa Orlando, 43-09 47th Ave., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Joseph Pagano, 3F, 4108 43rd Ave. Sunnyside, NY 11104

David Pawluk 39-52 46th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Arthur Pearson, 4901 39th Ave. Sunnyside, NY 11104

Gerald A. Perrin, 51-01 39th Ave, Sunnyside, NY 11104

Margaret B. Perrin, 51-01 39th Ave, Sunnyside, NY 11104

Nancy Power

Jeannette Remak, 41-41 41st St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Leonora Retsas 39-65 52nd street Woodside

Herbert Reynolds, 4908 39th Ave., Woodside, NY 11377

Liz Reynolds, 4908 39th Ave., Woodside, NY 11377

Alex Rodriguez, 39-10 49th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Irma Rodriguez, 4916 39th Ave., Woodside, 11377

Anthony Rohling

David Rosasco, 41-35 63 Street, Woodside NY 11377

Myron Rosenblum

Oumaya Saab, 39-60 54th Street, Woodside, NY 11377

Regina Shanley, 51-01 39th Ave, Sunnyside, NY 11104

Cathy Sharp, 4D, 48-36 44th St., Woodside, NY 11377

Harvey Simon, 51-01 39th Ave, Sunnyside, NY 11104

Amin Siad, c/o Sunnyside Chamber, PO Box 41-29, Sunnyside, NY 11104

Kirsten Theodos, TakeBack NYC, Manhattan

Tony Tang, 45-12 46th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

James Taylor, 5D, 41-20 46th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Alice Tomanelli, 39-28 60th St., Woodside, NY 11373

Margaret Tomanelli, 39-28 60th St., Woodside, NY 11373

Robert Tomanelli, 39-28 60th St., Woodside, NY 11373

Luke Wagner

Dorothea G. Weber-Duffy

Thomas Whelan, 1C, 45-55 39th St., Sunnyside, NY 11104

Maureen Wiley, 51-01 39th Ave, Sunnyside, NY 11104

John Wojda, 5007 38th St., L.I.C 11101

An earlier notice was signed by the following locals in individual mailers (see att’d) mailed First Class to you, or otherwise submitted, which will be hand delivered wherever desired. Some subsequently also signed the above later formal letter.

Susan Acosta
Nadalene Barry
Susan Edwards Bing
Bernard Blanco
Mayo Boardman
JCP Carpentry, Barnett Avenue
H. Cardan
C. Cavallo
R. Cavallo
Merry Chang
Joanna Chute
Coyne, Phipps Apts.
Elizabeth Crawford
Desmond Crimmins
Mary Caulfield Davis
David Dawson
Elana Dawson
Mary Dinoski
W. Doherty
Patricia Dorfman
Monica Doyle
Richard Drake
Barbara Elliot
Alexa Echavez-Taylor
Deborah Farley
Keely Farley
Erika Feder
Michelle Finnegan
Lois Fusco
C.D. Gioia
J. N. Gioia
Ana Gomez
Manny Gomez
Victor Gomez
Kenneth P. Goodwin
Selvin Gootar
G. Guillotin
A. Hogan
G. Hogan
P. Johnson
Allison Joyce
Lynda Joyce
William J. Keating
D. Keeffe
J. N. Keeffe
Martin Kunik
Jose Ladino
Jonathan Ladino
Ossana Ladino
Stephanie Ladino
Leana Lam
Rosemarie Libasci
Mark Lilakos
Ricky Lizalde
Jennifer Logan
Marilyn Lutzker
Ferdi Mazo
Matthew McGovern
Glenn J. McManus
Thomas Mei
Abigail Melissen
Ken Min
Daniel Moran
Denise Moran
Brian Moriarty
Thomas Muccioli
Marilyn Nelkin
Lisle Noll
Joseph Pagano
James Pan
Patricia Pan
David Pawluk
Devin Reisman
Elizabeth Reynolds
Herbert Reynolds
John Robertson
Sandra Robishaw
Rowland, Phipps Apts.
Santiago, Phipps Apts.
Schneeberg, Phipps Apts.
H. L. Simon
Amy Steinhorn
Margaret Tomanelli
Robert Tomanelli
Rosemary Vislusky
Jack Waddell
Paul Weinstein
Tom Whelan
Maureen Wiley
John Zenko

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Um

Did she really just post the addresses of the who’s who of Sunnyside Gardens NIMBYs and admit she tried to plant the Steve Madden article? WOW! This is completely off the rails and should be deleted. I feel for those cajoled into signing onto this, but you get what you pay for with Pat.

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Reader

Your personal animosity truly undermines any credence you might wish people to give your opinion. No one was cajoled. You are surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of people who disagree with you for very good reasons. You are an ideologue with no room in your head for new information. Stop being so rude.

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Who are you talking to??!

Were you aware when you signed up that your personal information would be publicly shared? Do you agree with this? I certainly do not, consider my reaction justified, and yours excessively rude.

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Concerned Citizen

You lost all credibility when you used the acronym “NIMBY”
People are allowed to defend their communities from abysmal projects such as this one.

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Mac

If you can’t afford to live in a neighborhood then move to a neighborhood you can afford. Simple..That’s why I do did, my family did, and friends did back in the day. We weren’t privileged or arrogant enough to demand taxpayers pay our way.

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Concerned Citizen

I wish I could like this 100 times. If you can’t afford, move out and adapt. No one owes you a dime.

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CGC

There’s value in giving people a second chance and having faith in them, but corporations are not people. Phipps is trying to improve how they deal with their current properties (due to outside pressure and shaming) so we’re going to hope they can manage to do a decent job with a massive new project? This is such weird wishful thinking. I’ve supported Jimmy for years and think the city and people in general are stymied by intense inertia and lack of creative thinking, but some of his plans just don’t make sense for the neighborhood.

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JaimeB

Well, if Western Queens can’t have tens of thousands of high-paying Amazon corporate and union construction and maintenance jobs, at least it can have a glorified homeless shelter. Thanks Jimmy van Bramer!

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sunnysider

bravo. would love to see some folks running for council as progressives explain being opposed to a 100% affordable building on a surface parking lot.

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Concerned Citizen

Bad neighborhoods are part of life. If you have any notion of aspirations, you work hard to escape those areas and buy property in good neighborhoods. It is lunacy to think that our legislators want to systematically import poverty and crime into what was once a good neighborhood. I am fairly progressive.

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Dejected by the Political Maneuvering

Because their affordability is a sham. They calculate AMI based on neighborhoods with much, much higher income than the base of people living here.mist of your Phipps neighbors have experienced a shocking decline in livability under Mr. Weinstein but can’t afford to move. Real estate in general in NYC is gentrifying like mad pushing out people who were born and bred NYers who wouldn’t thrive elsewhere.

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Re: Dejected by the Political Maneuvering

Does that include you? Are you a “born & bred” NYer?

Reply

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