It’s not every day a developer comes to the community offering to build 100 percent affordable housing.
So we’re surprised to see such uniform opposition regarding a plan that brings such housing to Sunnyside.
Phipps Houses, a developer that has constructed and managed affordable housing developments all over the city – including Sunnyside – came to Community Board 2 to get approval for an affordable housing project on a vacant lot they own in the community.
The lot is currently an eyesore on what is a rather decrepit block just south of the LIRR/Amtrak tracks near the Sunnyside Yards. This development would include 209 units of affordable housing with below market-rate rent, a 200-space parking lot – most of which will be open to the community – and community space that may house a pre-K, as well as a new sidewalk with beautification for Barnett Avenue.
All over the city, developers are moving into middle class communities and building out-of-character luxury apartments that are not affordable and changing the nature of our neighborhoods. This is not the issue here. Sunnyside is getting affordable housing, beautification and parking.
We are most disappointed in Sunnyside’s representatives, who could have worked with Phipps Houses to alleviate residents’ concerns. Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer himself didn’t even show up to the Community Board 2 land use meeting last week where the committee voted against the proposal citing a “busy schedule” – he sent a representative – and released a statement only AFTER the meeting.
Leadership means solving a problem and encouraging residents to work towards a solution. It also means taking responsibility for the potential negative impact a commercial use will have on the residents if this project fails. By voting NO, the board must accept the owners right to develop the site as of right, with little if any input into its future use.
If the development isn’t built, Phipps Houses will likely sell the site, which is not zoned for residential. That means Sunnyside residents would have traded an apartment complex with storefronts and new sidewalks and trees for a possible storage center, or worse a motel.
We urge the residents of Sunnyside and the local officials to work with Phipps to develop a project that everyone can be happy with and not vote ‘no’ as a final answer when it comes before the full Community Board on June 2. This IS what’s best for the community. Let’s make it work.