Phipps withdraws zoning application for affordable housing project in Sunnyside

Phipps withdraws zoning application for affordable housing project in Sunnyside
Courtesy of Phipps Houses
By Bill Parry

Phipps Houses withdrew its rezoning application with the city Monday that would have allowed them to build a 10-story, 209-unit affordable housing development on the edge of the Sunnyside Gardens historical district.

The project stirred intense opposition from Sunnyside residents as well as City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who vowed to block the plan. He cited the height of the building, its unaffordability, the developer’s refusal to make changes based on community feedback during the yearlong process and concerns with maintenance at the Phipps Gardens Apartments across Barnett Avenue.

“I welcome this decision,” Van Bramer said Monday. “All along, I’ve asked for Phipps to address issues at the 472-unit complex they own and operate across the street from the proposed new building. Last week, Phipps CEO Adam Weinstein did meet with tenant leaders. I thank Adam for doing so and will continue to work together to make sure these issues are addressed. And I’ll continue to speak with all parties concerned making sure that the voices and concerns of my constituents are paramount as we discuss the future of this community.”

The City Council would likely have voted against the project next week in keeping with protocol to follow the decision of the area’s representative. The de Blasio administration strongly backed the project and the mayor had a “polite but firm” conversation with Van Bramer two weeks ago.

“Let’s not mince words: This is bad for our city and for working families struggling to pay their rent,” de Blasio spokeswoman Melissa Grace said after Phipps Houses pulled out. “No community, certainly not one with 7,000 people wait-listed for affordable housing, should lose a development like this.”

It was a second defeat in two months for de Blasio’s plan to expand below-market-rate housing under the new Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy. Van Bramer, who said he got more feedback from residents and neighbors on the Phipps project than on any other issue in his 6 1/2 years on the City Council, suggested the mayor’s strategy may have backfired in Sunnyside.

“The mayor’s involvement here was not helpful,” Van Bramer said. “His comments about me helped to get my community riled up, and that was not conducive to working out a deal.”

Phipps Houses declined to comment.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.