Developer Phipps Houses hopes to rezone an industrial area just south of Sunnyside Yards in Queens, in order to build a large affordable rental building. We came across renderings and new details for the 10-story building in zoning documents, which were posted before Phipps pitched their project to the City Planning Commission on Monday.
The complex at 50-25 Barnett Avenue will be one of the first sizable projects shaped by Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, a new affordable development policy ratified by the City Council last week. MIH requires developers to rent 25 to 30 percent of their units at below-market rates if they build on newly rezoned land, but the City Council determines how affordable those units are.
With the rezoning, Phipps could build 220 apartments on the long, narrow site. There would also be a 4,800-square-foot pre-K on the ground floor. The residential portion would rise in a series of stepped towers behind the preschool, and that part of the building would reach up to 100 feet tall.
The development would include an open parking lot with 101 spots. But technically no parking is required, because the new zoning changes waive parking for affordable housing built within half a mile of the subway.
Phipps hopes to rent 30 percent of their units to families who make an average of 80 percent of the Area Median Income, taking advantage of MIH Option 2.
If the city approves public funding, the project will be developed under HPD’s Mixed Middle Income program. Twenty percent of the units would go to households earning up to 50 percent AMI, and 30 percent would be rented to households earning between 80 and 100 percent AMI. The other half would be set aside for renters who make 130 to 165 percent AMI.
The development would rise on a lot sandwiched between the rail yards, Barnett Avenue, and 50th and 52nd streets. The site is currently a 64,000-square-foot, 223-space parking lot. It sits across the street from the Sunnyside Gardens apartment complex, a series of four- and six-story brick buildings developed by Phipps back in the 1930s.
Like most of the lots next to the rail yards, the parking lot is zoned for low-density manufacturing and commercial uses. The rezoning would allow mixed-use residential and commercial development without a height limit (M1-1/R6).
The chairman of Queens Community Board 2 told DNAinfo that Phipps was a reputable developer, but there were issues with the project, including the size, density and location next to the rail yards. A couple hundred neighbors signed a petition opposing it last October, saying the building was too large. Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents this district, will be the deciding factor in whether the rezoning goes through and what income levels the affordable housing will meet.
The City Planning Commission certified Phipps’ rezoning application yesterday, kicking off the six-month public approval process for the development. In the coming weeks, the developers will need approvals from the local community board, the borough president, the City Planning Commission, and the City Council.
Update: This post has been corrected to accurately reflect the views of Queens Community Board 2 chair Pat O’Brien. We previously said he supports the project.
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