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Public Review Begins for Controversial Affordable Building in Sunnyside

 The petition argues the proposed Barnett Avenue building is out of character with the rest of the area.
Phipps Houses Renderings
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SUNNYSIDE — A controversial proposal to construct a 10-story affordable apartment building on Barnett Avenue is moving forward, as the city's public review of the plan began this week.

Phipps Houses applied for a zoning change to build the 220-unit dwelling — dubbed a "towering behemoth" by one local group — on a parking lot between 50th and 52nd streets adjacent to the railroad tracks, an area that's currently zoned for manufacturing.

The Department of City Planning certified the developer's plans Monday, records show, marking the start of the city's Land Use Review Procedure, a public review process the proposal needs to go through before it can be built.

"I definitely see problems with it, and I think a lot of people are going to voice those problems," said Pat O'Brien, chair for Queens Community Board 2, which will make a recommendation on the plan sometime during the next two months.

"There are some real problems and concerns with it, both in terms of the height and the density and parking," he added.

The plan drew a number of critics, with more than 300 people signing an online petition against it last year, with many arguing the building would be out of context with the rest of the neighborhood and that it would strain the area's parking, public transit and other infrastructure.

The proposed building would range from seven to 10 stories high, with the highest point set back from the sidewalk in order to make the building seem less obtrusive, Phipps' President Adam Weinstein told DNAinfo New York last year.

All of the 220 apartments would be affordable, filling a need in the area, Weinstein said. The building would also include space for a preschool.

In a statement Wednesday, Weinstein said the developer will try to "address as many concerns as we can" during the public review process.

"We're looking forward to that process, and to providing a beautiful development that will meet a wide array of affordable housing needs in Sunnyside," he said.

Real estate site New York YIMBY first reported on the public review of the proposal.

O'Brien said CB2's Land Use committee expects to meet with Phipps about the plan next month, and the board will likely vote on the proposal at its general meeting in May.

After that, the application will be reviewed by the borough president's office, then the City Planning Commission and City Council.