Dec. 3, 2019 By Michael Dorgan and Christian Murray
Officials will be releasing a draft of the Sunnyside Yard master plan Wednesday—although they won’t be unveiling it at a traditional town hall meeting.
The preliminary draft will be showcased online via a digital town hall that will take place on Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. Participants, who are required to register, will learn about the plan via their computer screens and speakers—as opposed to going to a traditional meeting hall.
The Economic Development Corp, which is organizing the online meeting and is quarterbacking the massive development plan, said that the webinar would provide the public with a greater opportunity to learn about the plans and provide feedback.
The overarching plan for the 180-acre site will involve decking over the yards– and potentially constructing tens of thousands of apartments, office space, green space and a transportation network.
The masterplan is expected to be completed before the end of winter and will provide a framework that underpins all aspects of the development for decades to come, including the various phases and timeline.
The webinar will be the fourth public meeting dealing with massive site this year and will be the first to be held online. The last meeting on Sept. 16 at Aviation High School in Long Island City was temporarily disrupted when dozens of protesters turned up to blast the plans.
But the EDC did not cite the protesters as to why the meeting is being held online.
“We are hosting a Digital Town Hall webinar on Dec. 4 to reach community stakeholders who were not able to participate in our previous events,” according to the EDC in a statement.
“We wanted to use another platform to engage with even more people and we figured this webinar would offer another helpful way for community members to ask more questions about the master planning process and provide the team with even more feedback.”
To date, the EDC has held three public meetings and approximately 100 community stakeholder in-person interviews. A steering committee—comprised of a 35-member panel that includes a medley of community leaders, local elected officials, and planning experts—has met every quarter since June 2018.
Vishaan Chakrabarti, the leader of the project’s master planning consulting team, told attendees at the Sept. 16 meeting that the plan is likely to include a sprawling 60-acre parks system; residential and business districts; roads and bikes lanes; and a new Sunnyside train station, which would serve as a transport hub connecting western Queens with the wider region
The majority of buildings in Sunnyside Yard, he said, would be mid-rise, between eight and 18 stories. Some of the plans displayed at the meeting, however, did note that buildings of 30-50 stories are being planned.
But a vocal groundswell of people have come out against the development of the yards.
Just last week, a boisterous crowd of about 80 protestors, representing over 40 organizations, assembled in front of the Sunnyside Yard site on Skillman Avenue between 32 and 33rd Street to protest the EDC’s plan to develop it.
They held signs that read: “Queens is not for sale”, “Stop Sunnyside Yards” and “We Can’t Afford Your Affordable Housing.”
They said the funds needed to deck the yards would be better spent elsewhere. They said the money should be spent on restoring public housing, repairing the city’s infrastructure and saving small businesses.
Dannelly Rodriguez from Justice for All Coalition spoke about rising rents and gentrification. He also pointed to Queensbridge Houses, the largest public housing complex in the country. “It is literally crumbling…, there are people who are literally living without heat and water, living in morbid conditions with vermin in their apartments.”
“IF WE DONT GET IT – SHUT IT DOWN!!”
Opponents of #NYC‘s #EDC #SunnysideYard Plan demanded Billions $$ to be invested in #affordablehousing, repairing #subways #infrastructure & save small businesses yesterday.@queenspost @sunnysidepost @LICPOST #Queens #Queenspost #Sunnyside pic.twitter.com/LJITBDOhyD
— Michael Dorgan (@MDorganNYC) November 26, 2019
The EDC has also been criticized by some elected officials who also say the plans could lead to residents being priced out of western Queens in years to come.
Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez penned a letter to Adam Meagher, Senior Vice President New York City Economic Development Corporation, last month voicing these concerns. It read in part:
“The proposed high-rise and mid-rise residential buildings would further exacerbate a housing crisis that displaces communities of color and parcels off public land to private real estate developers. No one wishes to see the specter of luxury development that is Hudson Yards duplicated in Sunnyside.”
But the EDC sees the large swath of land as providing solutions to many of the city’s problems—including a shortage of housing and green space in western Queens.
“Sunnyside Yard presents an opportunity to build a stronger New York and meet the needs for more open space, transit, housing, jobs and green infrastructure in western Queens,” said a spokesperson for the EDC. “We recognize that in any long-term planning process there will be questions and concerns. We look forward to continuing to engage the community to discuss the goals and impact with them.”
For meeting details on how to be part of the Dec. 4 webinar click here