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EDC to Hold ‘Digital Town Hall Meeting’ On Sunnyside Yard Masterplan Wednesday, Plan Faces Heavy Opposition

Sunnyside Yard (Photo: EDC)

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.

Proesters at the Sept. 16 meeting (Photo: Queens Post)

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.

Concept Put Forward by the EDC at Sept. 16 meeting

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.”

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

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11 Comments

LIC Direct

Here’s an idea,free,free, free, free,free, free and free, free, free, free, free, free, freeeeee…. We have an element that wants everything for free. Confront you own politicians like Jimmy Van Bramer who has opposed affordable housing by the Phipps organization on Barnett Ave for years. Affordable housing for the working poor as long as it’s not in his backyard.

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Queen’s resident

I am getting very sick and tired of the “protest everything” brigade in Queens. Of course this land should be developed for the future needs of our city. The job of the left wing politicians should be to ensure there are decent jobs and affordable homes in the mix. Not to say no to everything. It’s pathetic.

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josh

The only one looking for “free handouts” here are the Sunnyside Yard developers who will make a windfall of profit on public land in exchange for piecemeal concessions like “adding green space” or whatever nonsense. Maybe if the commenters here weren’t so busy accusing everyone they disagree with as being “socialist” they would wake up and see the grift that’s plainly before out eyes. Look a mile west of Sunnyside Yard at what the developers have done to Long Island City. The towers being built in LIC are a blight on the working class and a gift to the wealthy. This has nothing to do with “free handouts” or “socialism” and shouting out these phrases is the mark of someone who hasn’t given the topic any intellectual thought.

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Intellectual thought

The problem with LIC right now is that it’s a commuter ghost town… no one stays to do business so small business owners and the working class are struggling to get by. You help the working class here by creating jobs and building a local economy that is independent from Manhattan. This project would result in the creation of a mega transit hub for Queens. Think of people getting off the LIRR and Amtrak one stop before Penn Station to avoid the midtown madness… and spending time and money in our neighborhood instead. Look at the history of Hunters Point… it was thriving when the LIRR ended here and people had to get off and take the ferry. Restaurants, hotels, shops… you name it. It was a boom town. Your note about piecemeal concessions like green space is short sighted and uninformed. This is a much bigger opportunity for Queens if you are willing to take a moment for intellectual thought. Or you can just follow JVB and AOC in protesting everything without proposing alternative plans because it’s the trendy thing to do.

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RationalPerson

Of course it faces heavy opposition, because ‘Hey, lets fight progress!’ (while also looking for handouts). This land is ripe for development: housing, retail, public space…JOBS.

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Transit Hub

“Sunnyside train station” – this might be the most significant piece here… we’re talking about a modern Penn Station that allows Queens to stand on its own. Amtrak-LIRR-subways. Crazy thought… maybe we could even get a NJ Transit extension? If you really want to help small businesses and encourage local economic development this is exactly how to do it.

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Same old, Same old

Strong opposition by who? Not anyone that matters. The majority of people didn’t want the jails, but we got them anyway. Keep voting D

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Free Stuff

Well done EDC- now we can have an uninterrupted meeting that well grounded people can discuss the topic. As for the “Give me everything for Free” crowd, well they will just have to watch it on their laptops while sitting in Starbucks drinking ~$7 dollar coffees.

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