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Fate of 7-Story Development in Sunnyside Now Rests in Van Bramer’s Hands, Planning Commission Approves Plan

Rendering of Phipps’ plan for 50-25 Barnett Ave. (Phipps Houses]

March 3, 2021 By Christian Murray

A proposal for a seven-story affordable housing complex in Sunnyside is one step closer to becoming a reality.

The City Planning Commission voted today to approve a rezoning application that would make way for a seven-story, 167-unit building at 50-25 Barnett Ave. The vote was unanimous, 12-0.

The fate of the rezoning application, filed by Phipps Houses, is now in the hands of Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. The application is about to go before the city council for a vote and if approved the rezoning will go into effect.

The council typically votes in lockstep with the member who represents the district where the rezoning is proposed–in a concept known as member deference.

The plan, which consists of 100 percent affordable housing, was approved by Community Board 2 in December and by Queens Borough President Donovan Richards in January.

Phipps, when it originally put forward the proposal last year, said that 40 percent of the units, or 66 apartments, would be offered at the 90 percent AMI band.

The remaining units would be offered at lower income levels, with 15 percent of the units, equating to 25 apartments, set aside for the formerly homeless at 40 percent AMI.

Phipps Houses plans to develop this Barnett Avenue site (Photo: Queens Post)

The community board’s approval did come with the condition that the top income band be reduced to 80 percent AMI, which would equate to $90,960 for a family of four.

The project is not without controversy. Many residents say that Phipps does not deserve the opportunity to develop the site, arguing that the organization has a poor record of maintaining its 432-unit Phipps Gardens Apartment complex on 39th Avenue.

Community Board 2 and Richards approved the project on the condition that Phipps does a better job of maintaining that complex.

The community board put together a “building improvement plan” that Phipps agreed to meet. The plan set a time line with many of the conditions having to be fulfilled within 90 days.

It is unclear whether Phipps has met those conditions.

Van Bramer has yet to publicly state his position on the project. However, he noted in January that Phipps must meet its obligations pertaining to the building improvement plan before he would consider approving it.

“I’m not going to say whether I will approve this project [or not] until I see them complete and satisfy that plan,” he said.

However, he has indicated that there are many components of the project to his liking.

“I think the opportunity to have deeply affordable housing in a 100 percent affordable housing project –that has a set aside for formerly homeless individuals– is one we should take seriously,” he said.

The unit break down, income levels and monthly rent presented by Phipps (Courtesy of CB2 Member Frank Wu)

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