Building housing, keep developer accountable
Dec 09, 2020 | 6274 views | 0 0 comments | 777 777 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In a city besieged by public health, economic and housing crises, every chance to provide more affordable housing is important.

That’s why Queens Community Board 2 did the right thing last week by voting in favor of a rezoning proposal for a 167-unit, 100 percent affordable housing project at 50-25 Barnett Avenue in Sunnyside.

The development comes with residential amenities, community facility space and outdoor recreation. More importantly, it offers families from a range of income brackets a chance to live in clean, safe and affordable homes.

Though the vote wasn’t all that close in the end, the decision to approve the project by community board members did not come easy. The nonprofit developer behind the Barnett Avenue rezoning, Phipps Houses, was roundly criticized for their lack of repairs, maintenance and overall care of the nearby Phipps Garden Apartments.

Residents have been living with insect and vermin infestations, mold due to leaks and water damage and other longstanding problems. The issues date back several years, and were part of the reason why an earlier iteration of the project was rejected by the community board and local officials four years ago.

To address these concerns, Phipps came back with an improvement plan for the Phipps Garden Apartments, including promises to regularly meet with the tenant association, annual apartment inspections by a third party and the hiring of a new porter.

The nonprofit developer also lowered the proposed building height and deepened affordability levels.

These are all welcome changes that make the project better for the community, and were enough to convince an overwhelming majority of board members to eventually approve the project.

Many members said they could not pass up a chance to add 167 units of affordable housing to the district. We agree that the project on paper is clearly beneficial for the community and the city as a whole.

But should Phipps get the rezoning that are asking for, they will need to keep their promises to be better landlords for not just the tenants of Phipps Garden Apartments, but all of the people who live in their buildings.

They need to be better neighbors and maintain their properties to ensure residents live in safe, dignified homes.

If they break their promise, they should not expect any future projects to receive community approval.
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