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City Planning Approves Controversial Plan for Affordable Sunnyside Building

 The Commission voted unanimously to approve the plan for 209 affordable units on Barnett Avenue.
Phipps Houses Renderings
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SUNNYSIDE — The City Planning Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a developer's plan to build 209 units of affordable housing along Barnett Avenue, despite concern from residents and community leaders about the height and affordability of the project.

The Commission voted 12 to zero in favor of Phipps Houses' proposal to build on a parking lot at 50-25 Barnett Ave., where the developer is applying for a zoning change in order to build residential on the manufacturing-zoned block.

City Planning Chairman Carl Weisbrod praised the plan for being fully affordable with no market-rate units, and said it will "advance key elements of the Administration’s strategies to address the City’s housing crisis."

"The setting for this proposal could not be more historically apt — Sunnyside Gardens, which was largely developed nearly a century ago as an area where working- and middle-class families could find newly built, well-designed housing within their means," he said. "The Barnett Avenue project before us, I believe, is an appropriate one on an appropriate site."

Phipps Houses — a longtime affordable housing developer which has owned the site since the 1950s and also manages the Phipps Garden Apartments across the street — will make the apartments available for households earning 50, 100 and 130 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI).


Both Community Board 2 and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz issued recommendations against the proposal, saying more of the units should be reserved for lower-income households.

Many residents and local leaders have also expressed worries over the height of the project, which will reach between seven and 10 stories. A petition with more than 400 signatures launched last year in opposition called the proposed building "enormous and invasive."

"We don't have the infrastructure to support the new tenants moving into this building," it reads, citing concerns about local parking, overcrowded schools and public transportation.

A spokesman for Phipps Houses says the organization has done an environmental assessment of the project and found it would have "no significant adverse impacts" on the surrounding infrastructure.

The developer has also said it will take the public's input into account to see if it can incorporate any changes in response to people's concerns.

The plan will need to be approved by the City Council in order to move forward.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents Sunnyside, says he plans to vote against the proposal — saying in a statement Wednesday that he's "disappointed" at the Planning Commission's approval of the plan "despite virtually unanimous community disapproval."

"To continue to push for the Phipps project in the face of such overwhelming local opposition shows a complete disregard for the people of this community and for the many valid concerns we all share about it," he said.

"This project now comes before the City Council where I will oppose it, vote against it, and encourage my colleagues to do the same."