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Van Bramer: We Must Support Real Affordable Housing, Why I’m Voting Yes on Phipps Proposal

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (Photo: jimmyvanbramer.nyc)

March 9, 2021 Op-Ed By: Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer

Four years ago, Phipps Houses withdrew their application to build an affordable housing complex in my Sunnyside neighborhood after I had come out against it.

It was a project that the community board voted against and which faced significant community opposition. I too was opposed, but not because I didn’t want to see affordable housing built here.

As I said then, my opposition focused on four key issues:

1) Phipps’ unwillingness to commit to good jobs, paying good wages, offering real benefits. I have always and will always stand for good union jobs.

2) The “affordable” apartments weren’t truly affordable – income levels were too high.

3) The existing tenants living in the Phipps Garden Apartments across the street complained of serious maintenance issues.

4) The new building would be nearly twice the height of the building across the street

Those were real issues and real concerns. And I wish Phipps had been able to address them then.

They weren’t.

But Phipps maintained ownership of the property, currently a large parking lot. They revised their proposal and came back to me and the community with it.

Some of the same voices opposed to the project four years ago are once again demanding that I block it. They say it’s the same project, with the same flaws, and if I opposed it four years ago, I should do so again. But this is a different, and much improved proposal. Here’s why:

Phipps has changed their tune to hiring and now offers good jobs widely, including both in this newly proposed development and the Phipps Garden Apartments. The affordability levels have been lowered dramatically, with 20% of the units at 40% AMI and the highest income band at 80%. We have never seen such levels of affordability in this area.

The buildings height has been brought in line with the existing Phipps Garden Apartments across the street. And while we have a ways to go to hold Phipps accountable as landlords, working with Community Board 2 (which voted against the plan four year ago but in favor of this plan), Phipps agreed to an improvement plan to address existing tenant complaints and have begun regular meetings with the tenant association. And improvements have begun with the hiring of additional staff and agreements on further steps to address legitimate tenant issues.

In this highly charged and vitriolic space we call politics, the demands and attacks are well underway. Phipps can and must do better by its tenants, but claiming they are slumlords doesn’t bear out. I’ve heard some say this housing isn’t truly affordable, but tell that to the formerly homeless families who will find a home here. Some have genuine concerns. Others spread lies and conspiracy theories about this plan. But truth has to matter again in government.

So let’s be honest about this project. It is deeply affordable. All of this housing is for people who are at, near or below minimum wage earners. We cannot deny these families a home. This is an opportunity to do what we say we want to do, which is build truly affordable housing.

Sunnyside must be a community that is welcoming to all, including the formerly homeless and low income earners. Low wage workers, including those making $15 an hour, need affordable housing. This project provides that.

Leadership requires one to make tough choices, even if you know it will cost you votes. And just as I insisted we build a nearby middle school despite some local opposition, I must do the right thing here as well and support this project.

I cannot in good conscience block a project that has now addressed my prior concerns and will provide genuinely affordable homes to people who desperately need them.

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer represents District 26 in Western Queens 

email the author: [email protected]

4 Comments

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Jenny from the block

Dear Jimmy,
The people who desperately need this housing CANNOT AFFORD to live in ‘affordable housing’

Let that sink in!
Talk to people who went through this process, but had to take themselves off the list because they could not afford to live in the units!

Reply
LIC Direct

Jimmy Says you can’t deny the poor a home, but that is what he has done repeatedly his entire career – deny them decent housing, by being in the pockets of RE developers throughout the largest building boom in LIC and Western Queens during his tenure on the city council!!! And remember he’s running for Queens Borough President so there you go — he wants your votes — don’t be fooled. He’s responsible for the Amazon fiasco – he could have taken the side of good paying jobs when Amazon wanted to come to LIC, he screwed LaGuardia Community College who would have benefited from Amazon coming to the area, the thousands of immigrants students that attend classes could have aspired for those jobs in tech and other services . Jobs, yes the jobs, from constructions to other services and collaboration with LaGuardia CC that could have helped lift thousands out of poverty in our community. Former Head of LaGuardia CC does not support JVB in the least. He’s persona non-grata to many in all circles in this community. The residents/tenants in the Projects can’t stand him, he’s abandoned them and does not represent them. He stabbed Brown, Black, Latino’s in the back in this community by turning his back on us when he opposed Amazon and this same Affordable Housing project several years ago as he did not want Phipps to build in his backyard. A so called man of the people — worried about the less fortunate — remember he’s running for another public office all of a sudden he’s for the Phipps Project, not because it matters, but because he wants you to believe he’s honest. Such a phony.

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MRLIC

Vam Framer is on his way out and this is a. Spiteful parting gift to the community he served. What scares me is who will replace him
Probably a progressive leftistDem who wants to defund police and promote. 50 different genders and is offended by Mr. Potato Head.

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