March 31, 2019 By Christian Murray
Hundreds of residents packed out P.S. 166 in Astoria last Tuesday to provide their feedback on what they would like to see—or not see—on the 180-acre Sunnyside Yard.
The three-hour meeting was organized by the NYC Economic Development Corporation and Amtrak as they look to seek the public’s input as they create a masterplan for the massive site.
They presented the development of the yard as a generational opportunity, where the site could be used for open space, affordable housing, community facilities and commercial industry. Meanwhile, as the meeting began, members of the anti-gentrification group Queens Neighborhoods United were handing out flyers entitled, “Raising Questions About Sunnyside Yard.”
The masterplan, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year, will result in a framework that details all aspects of the development for decades to come, including the various phases and timelines. About 80 percent of the site can be developed, according to the EDC’s 2017 feasibility study.
Despite fears of imminent development among the skeptics, the EDC tried to reduce those anxieties by saying that the plan is for future generations and nothing was happening soon.
“At this point we are focused on creating a collaborative vision, a master planning process through the end of the year,” said Cali Williams, director of Sunnyside Yard for the EDC. “Any future development is not imminent. There is no set plan. We are working on developing a plan together and before any development happens there would need to be approvals…so we are years away from construction.”
Statements like these didn’t placate many attendees’ fears. The fact, according to some, that the EDC is working on a master plan is indicative that something big is coming. One attendee from Sunnyside asked the EDC why the city wasn’t investing in existing neighborhoods that lacked infrastructure as opposed to creating a new one.
Williams shot back.
“I think it’s important while planning for improvements in existing infrastructure to also be thinking long-term,” she said. “Sunnyside Yards provides an opportunity to think about what local stakeholders … need in the near-term as well as future generations.”
Vishaan Chakrabarti, the leader of the project’s master planning consulting team and the founder of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, gave a run-down of the possibilities that could be done with the site.
Chakrabarti said that the yard has enormous potential.
“It’s the largest available site in New York and in the center of the region. It is well connected to the airports, right for world class institutions…but on a local level could provide major public space, jobs and affordable housing.”
He discussed some of the challenges. For instance, to deck over the yards, a platform would have to be built over the tracks that would need to be 30 to 35 feet in height in order for the trains to clear—equating to at three stories. Connections would then have to be made from the platform to surrounding streets and done so in a way to integrate them with adjacent neighborhoods.
Any project would be done in phases, Chakrabarti said, and it is difficult to tell what areas of the Yard would be built up first.
He said from an urban planning and design standpoint it would make sense to start at the Long Island City core, but from a rail engineering standpoint the eastern section of the yard would be less complex.
The development may not involve a series of 30 to 40 story towers, as was presented in the 2017 feasibility study. Chakrabarti said that they are looking to explore buildings that would rise 6 to 15 stories in a more tabletop layout.
Chakrabarti said they have had a lot of positive feedback since May 2018 when the master plan process began, with a strong focus being on affordable housing, public space and added infrastructure.
“To be fair there are people who have said don’t do anything with the yard–but we have many people who have said: ‘We need affordable housing, we need fixes to our infrastructure, we need jobs, we need open space.”
The EDC plans to host four public workshops on the masterplan in April and May, with more to be held in over the summer. There will also be two more public meets scheduled this year.
Sunnyside Yardmaster Plan 2 by on Scribd
Affordable housing in NYC means keeping price per sq ft under 200$. The median income in this city is 50K p.a. Lol!
To save time, adjoining each subsidized luxury tower build a homeless shelter to accommodate those who could afford only increasingly scarce middle class or lower rate housing.
Inevitably it’s a cash cow for the usual moneyed interests. The only question is whether sufficient adept public resistance emerges to wrest modest concessions in the public interest.
Can we just point out the utter absurdity of the claim that capping this site would cost $19 billion? The capping should cost $2 billion. Build market-rate high rise housing along the north and west edges near transit and a HUGE park with grass along the rest of it. Everyone wins.
More people on the trains that can’t handle the amount that travel already. Just another reason to move out of NYC
Be very clear: This is not about new transportation, that has nothing to do with is and isn’t the key to oreserving the neighborhood. In fact, the neighborhood will continue to gentrify until it is so full of temporary New Yorkerd that there will be no objects to building additional luxury housing, as occurred in Brooklyn and the Hudson Yards.
Incredible, the local political class was gifted a position on the one yard line to transform the neighborhood, and fumbled it away. Now, they want to spend untold taxpayers dollars on a multi-year boondoggle where they’ll conclude exactly nothing..
Building building building! Is there a crevice of space left in our area?!
Well, the city is losing a lot land to the ocean and climate change, and more people keep moving in. So, no. There aren’t any pockets of empty space left in America’s densest city.
Keep blindly voting for Democrats. Clearly, it’s a recipe for success.
“surely our billionaire republican talk show host and real estate developer will reign in these real restate developers”
Trumptards are gullible enough to actually believe this ?
I’d like an incomplete library, 17 dry cleaners, 14 dog parlors, 1 prefab school, 4 dentists, 3 indoor kid afternoon spaces, 2 Subways, a Coffeed, 2 Starbucks and no ATM’s or parks. That would be perfect.
Make another homeless shelter , put tents up and let the low life who thinks they deserve free rent from city
live there like filthy animals . They have NO RESPECT for our block , Van Bremer has done nothing , our block is filled with sleazy weed smoking bums. But yet they have $ to get expensive hair weave !! &b etc.
It’s like your actively talking about black people but making yourself feel better without having to say it
Anable basin doesn’t require a platform and zillions in tax giveaways. Hudson Yards shows the priorities that get these projects built. If the power balance doesn’t shift, neither will the priorities.
We’re all just a bunch of boxcar children.
This is a Friggin JOKE. What they call affordable housing is NOT AFFORDABLE, we all know that. LIC/Sunnyside residents know you need more transportation in the LIC area. Not ferries and trolleys but real access to Subways trains. Build a tunnel to connect with other lines, extend the Astoria El to LA Guardia Airport and beyond. Where would all these people fit on the trains. The EDC does what the MTA does. It starts multiple projects without proper funding and takes forever to finish them and claims they are BROKE. Fare hikes and toll raises every 2 years built in is a JOKE also. Now we have congestion pricing along with MTA toll hikes and fare increases and a plastic bag ban with a fee for paper baags. Cuomo that are as Corrupt and Dumb as they come. Shame on people for voting for thee 2 LOSERS and DeBlasio are LOSERS .People want change and elect the same people which is INSANE. If you want change VOTE THEM OUT. Cuomo is gearing up for a 4th term and DeBlasio wants to run for President when he can’t even run NYC. Now you know why 100,000 people leave NY STATE every year, more than any other STATE in the country. These Stupid Politicians have made NY more anti-business than it was before. It was already too expensive. The state is 2.3 Billion in the RED but we have money for Illegal Immigrants to go to college and health care and regular schooling for them How about regular citizen Taxpayers MR. Cuomo?
Agreed, the massive tax breaks Trump gave the rich are unamerican.
Luckily a working class person like you would never be gullible enough to vote for him.
One thing we don’t need is anymore Luxury Towers Development. There is quite a difference to what is being touted as “Affordable Housing” and what is actually affordable.
What is currently being built, isn’t affordable to most.
Amazing opportunity for long term planning for future generations. The MTA should be a perfect example of what happens when we DON’T plan long term.
As history shows, the MTA does have a long term plan–to keep it’s books closed, increase fares, limit repairs to most inefficient alternatives.