Contentious affordable housing development in Sunnyside will now enter the public approval process

Rendering by MHG Architects/via Department of City Planning

Updated April 4, 3:11 p.m.

A 10-story affordable housing project in Sunnyside may be one step closer to being constructed.

Phipps Houses, the oldest and largest nonprofit affordable housing developer in New York City, plans to build The Barnett, a 220-unit project at 50-25 Barnett Ave.

The Department of City Planning (DCP) certified the developers zoning application on Monday kicking off a public review process.

The plans also include a 4,800-square-foot pre-K center to be constructed on the ground floor. Developers would also make room for 101 parking spots though under new zoning amendments, no parking is required.

The site is currently a 223-space parking lot bounded by the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and Sunnyside Rail Yards on the north. Sunnyside Gardens Apartments, an apartment complex developed by Phipps Houses in 1932, is across the street.

Currently, the site is in an M1-1 zoning district, which only permits light industrial use or community facility use. Since the City Planning Commission certified the developer’s rezoning application — Phipps Houses is asking for a M1-1/R6 mixed-use zoning change — the developers will now go through a six-month public approval process.

The project will be reviewed by the local community board and Borough President Melinda Katz who would issue recommendations, according to a spokesperson with the DCP. DCP and the City Council, including Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer will also review the plan and make the ultimate vote.

Van Bramer held a meeting in October 2015 in conjunction with the developers.  Many residents who gathered in the Sunnyside Gardens Apartments to learn more about the project spoke out against it.

Concerns were raised about lack of adequate infrastructure such as schools and public transportation. Two Steve Madden employees, whose company uses 100 parking spots out of the 223 in the existing site, said in a previous interview that the retailer may consider moving out of the neighborhood if they lose the space.

Last year, residents started a petition urging Community Board 2 and Van Bramer to oppose the construction.

The building would gradually rise from seven and eight stories along Barnett Avenue and nine and ten stories further from the street. Developers hope to take advantage of public funding and would therefore construct the project under the Housing Preservation and Development’s Mixed Income Program.

About 20 percent of the units would be reserved for households making less than 50 percent Area Median Income (AMI). Approximately 30 percent of units would be set aside for households earning 80 percent AMI or $62,120 for a family of three. A maximum of 50 percent would be rented out to households earning up to 130 percent AMI or $101,010 for a family of three, according to the plans.

The project is expected to generate about 570 new residents on the site and 62 elementary school students and 26 intermediate school students in School District 30.

Pat O’Brien, chairman of Community Board 2, said the board has been very active in terms of outreach to the community and coordinated the October meeting with residents. The board has meet with Phipps Houses three or four times, he said, to discuss the community’s concerns.

The developers will attend CB2’s Land Use Committee at the end of April so that they can discuss and review the final proposal. O’Brien added that residents and the board have several concerns about the project including the size, effects it will have on parking and traffic and the level of affordability.

“We actively solicited feedback from community members and other local stakeholders prior to the formal public review process, and will work to address as many concerns as we can,” said Phipps President & CEO Adam Weinstein. “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 for low, moderate, and middle-income New Yorkers ― plus community facility space and parking for local residents.”

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said he will consider the feedback from his constituents when making his decision.

“Community members have reached out to me with concerns about this building, many of which I share,” Van Bramer said. “During the ULURP process, there will be many more opportunities for people living in the 26th district to offer feedback on the Phipps Houses—and I will weigh this feedback heavily as I consider the proposal.”

Yimby first reported the story.

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