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Queens Chronicle

Pols criticize Con Edison over $3.3M

Rosenthal, Stavisky call out company for burden on Phipps housing project

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Posted: Thursday, July 25, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:50 pm, Thu Aug 1, 2019.

Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal (D-Flushing) and state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) are calling out Con Edison as the company attempts to charge $3.3 million in construction expenses to a nonprofit.

Phipps Houses is constructing three new buildings which will bring 442 new affordable apartment units to Queens. The site, to be called Apex Place, will be located on part of a “superblock” bounded by 62nd and Colonial avenues, 62nd Drive and 108th Street.

According to Rosenthal, the construction of a project of this size typically constitutes a new power access point that Con Edison is supposed to provide but the company wants Phipps to connect to an existing source more than 500 feet away.

The process would require the Phipps construction team to go across the Forest Hills Cooperative, an unassociated property, at an estimated cost of more than $3 million.

“This is a blatant attempt by Con Edison to divert from their own expenses onto a nonprofit that is trying to help with the affordable housing crisis that we’ve seen in this city,” Rosenthal said.

The site of the project was previously under the management of the New York City Housing Authority.

“First the shareholders of the co-op had to deal with NYCHA. And we all know what it’s like to deal with NYCHA,” Stavisky said. “And now they have to deal with Con Edison.”

Stavisky said her office, as well as Rosenthal’s, sent a letter to Con Edison in April, believing it is a violation of their franchise agreement.

The two politicians and Phipps Houses have not heard back from the company. According to Rosenthal, there is currently an open case to review the matter with the New York State Public Service Commission.

“Con Edison has to understand that there are people involved in addition to properties,” Stavisky said.

Adam Weinstein, president and CEO of Phipps Houses, also took aim at the major power company.

“The one thing you should be able to count on, a utility, a monopoly to provide power, is getting in the way,” he said.

Weinstein called it a “small miracle that we’re here building affordable housing in a rapidly unaffordable neighborhood.”

The Forest Hills Co-op Houses were built in 1975 and a clause in the deed said that after 40 years, NYCHA would give up the property to the tenants and the tenants could vote to remain or have the deed conveyed to them, Michael Cohen, a spokesman for Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), told the Chronicle two years ago.

In 2017 the residents of the Forest Hills Co-op Houses voted to leave NYCHA, opting to become its own entity — the Forest Hills Mutual Housing Association.

A NYCHA spokesperson told the Chronicle at the time that 72 percent of the residents voted in favor of leaving NYCHA.

Joseph Hennessy, president of the Forest Hills Co-op Association, approached Phipps to discuss buying the property.

But this issue with Con Edison was unforeseen. “If they cannot do it then they should give up their responsibility to the city altogether,” Hennessy said.

Con Edison couldn’t immediately comment for this story.

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