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TF Cornerstone Puts Together Plan to Rezone a Large Chunk of Hunters Point, Involves a Deck Over Rail Yard

TF Cornerstone’s 2-02 54th Ave. site–which also has the address of 55-01 Second St.–is bound in black. The rail yard is in red. Both would be rezoned under proposed plan (Google)

April 23, 2019 By Christian Murray

TF Cornerstone is looking to rezone a significant portion of the southern tip of Hunters Point—between 2nd Street and 5th street—that would incorporate a large piece of property that it recently bought by Newtown Creek.

The company is proposing to rezone the district behind the Hunters Point South megadevelopment. It involves rezoning some manufacturing space surrounding the LIRR tracks and decking over a 3 1/8 acre section of the Yard between 2nd and 5th Streets. The rezoning area would roughly go from Newtown Creek to Borden Avenue—between 2nd Street and 5th Street.

TF Cornerstone revealed its plan to Community Board 2’s Landuse Committee last week.

Jon McMillan, senior vice president for TF Cornerstone, told the committee that the rezoning plan was “just an idea” and that it would bring several amenities to the area and help reduce the noise and fumes of trains idling in the Yard.

The new district would include about 8 acres of public greenspace, although it would bring significantly more residential units and commercial space.

For TF Cornerstone, the plan would provide it with the ability to build an extra 300 units on its 2-02 54th Avenue site. The company is currently permitted to build 1,500 units on that parcel (which covers two sites)—since the property was included as part of the Special Hunters Point District that was created in 2008. That district was put together with the Hunters Point South affordable housing development in mind.

TF Cornerstone bought a parcel last year that incorporates the two sites on the bottom right (Source: City Planning)

However, according to McMillan, the rezoning concept is also about making its buildings and the area more desirable.

TF Cornerstone’s 54th Avenue property is in a section of Long Island City tucked away behind the rail yard and is adjacent to a manufacturing district on 54th Avenue and 2nd Street. Access to the north side—such as 5th Street–is cut off by the railway tracks.

Additionally, TF Cornerstone is in the process of building 1,100 units on Parcel C of Hunters Point South. The back of the building will face 2nd Street and the yard, currently a gritty space.

“We are coming to you all for advice…I want to see if this makes sense to you guys,” McMillan told the committee.

McMillan said that if the company doesn’t move forward with the rezoning plan it would just build its 1,500 as-of-right units.

The rezoning plan is centered on building a platform over a 3 1/8 acre section of rail yard between 2nd Street and 5th Street. By doing so, TF Cornerstone would be able to offer its future tenants—and the community at large– easier access to 5th Street and it would move the idling, noisy trains away from the sites. The area on top of the deck would be dedicated green space—perhaps a soccer field, McMillan said.

“We want to reconnect the grids because the railroads create an area to the south of the rail yards that is disjointed from the area to the north—ideally we want to get 5th street as some sort of extension,” McMillan said.

The plan would make provision for other residential development—where manufacturing is currently located–and add retail space along 2nd street. The details were not fleshed out at the committee meeting.

McMillian said that 2nd Street would become a commercial strip that would serve the Hunters Point South community. The company would consider subsidizing retail tenants to make it work.

The cost of building a platform over the yard would be about $140 million, according to McMillan, who said that TF Cornerstone has been in consultation with the MTA who support the overall concept. The $140 million equates to about $1,200 a square foot, he said.

The TF Cornerstone site is in blue and is zoned for residential. Residential development is not permitted in M1-4 district. (Source: City Planning)

TF Cornerstone is proposing that the MTA offer a developer the right to build a large structure in return for covering the $140 million cost. The building would probably consist of about 900 units to make the plan cost effective and would go up on the northern side of the yard, McMillan said.

There would be mixed-use development along the south side of the platform as well as up past 5th Street.

TF Cornerstone as part of the plan would provide 3.6 acres of public space adjacent to Newtown Creek. The space, while remaining in the hands of TF Cornerstone, would essentially be an extension of Hunters Point South Park.

The reaction of the Community Board 2 committee was mixed. Some liked the concept of creating green space where the yard is and seeing the north and south sides connect.

But there was concern about the influx or residents that the plan might bring, even if it brings affordable housing that now come with all rezonings.

The proposed rezoning. Orange is residential, green is open space. Where the deck would go is in green. (Photo was taken during committee meeting and is of poor quality)

McMillan said that TF Cornerstone is open to making provisions for schools and other infrastructure requirements in rezoning the district.

Lisa Deller, the chair of the Landuse committee, told McMillan that any rezoning would be a long protracted process and that there would be a lot of push back.

“If you have an urgency around building this and you want to get going you should build the as-of-right scenario,” Deller said.

If TF Cornerstone moves ahead with the plan it would most likely be involved in two rezonings in Hunters Point at the same time.

The company has been working with the New York City Economic Development Corp. to rezone two city-owned lots where 44th Drive meets the East River.

The plan was shelved when Amazon was going to take over the property. There is no word as to whether it will be resurrected.

A platform would be built over the rail yard. The top of it would be used as greenspace and as a pedestrian connection (Photo was taken during committee meeting and is of poor quality)

Correction: The initial story incorrectly referred to the rail yard by 2nd Street as the Sunnyside Yard. It is in fact the Long Island City Yard/Terminal.

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29 Comments

Lisa Daglian

The LIC stop/terminal is going to be vital to bringing more transit to the community – but only once clean diesel trains that can be shut down and restarted are in place. There’s a reason the trains idle all day, hence the agreement between the LIRR and community. The key to cleaner air and more service is cleaner engines.

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Chatter

She might be referring to an agreement the MTA made to move the locomotives farther (south) from the buildings.

The locomotives idle with their engines running because of the practicality of following FRA rules. Apparently, if they shut the engines down, they will have to do a whole series of checks upon restart, which I heard can take a couple of hours at least. So, it’s more practical for the MTA to let the engines idle in the yard. As for how insane this is, well, go speak to the FRA about this. This has been standard practice for decades, long before you guys moved in. It’s not their fault you didn’t do your research about the rail yard in plain sight.

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Ray J.

Shouldn’t we wait to see if van Brammer, Gianaris, AOC, or O’LEARY say no????
#AmazonwasaLOSS

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Jimmy

The LIRR idles it’s diesel trains at LIC Terminal/Yard and anyone who is in the neighborhood 9-5 M-F knows the noise is terrible. It’s a constant complaint I hear from friends who live near there. I hope TF Cornerstone can expand its proposal and deck the whole yard from 5th St to Vernon and in the process add a ton of open green space.

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Anonymous

Even if the railyard isn’t decked, something, anything, should be done to mitigate the noise and pollution from those trains. I don’t understand how the MTA has avoided any effort at being a better neighbor for many, many years

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Anonymous

Hey Jimmy VB, do something about this. This is probably the biggest environmental, safety and quality of life issue for most people in this part of LIC and no one has ever done anything to address complaints.

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Anonymous

The all day long idling trains, beeping trucks, noise, and smells that come from this train yard has been a huge issue since living on Borden the last 4 years. Whether this new rezoning plan is executed or not, anything to help reduce this air and sound pollution to a growing neighborhood would be a step in the right direction.

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LIC resident

I’m really excited about this plan! We moved to LIC from Manhattan 10 years ago, and we love the development that’s taken place in our growing, wonderful community. Still mourning the huuuuuge loss of Amazon HC, though. On the bright side, though, elections will soon be here soon, so we can send those clueless politicians packing.

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DB

I’m not a fan of the development that is taking place on Parcel F of Hunter’s Point South (directly on the brand new park space) but I really like this project. The railyard is just dead space so covering over it and making the whole neighborhood feel more open while increasing the amount of housing in the area is big. There are already lots of dedicated bikes lanes and complete sidewalks that lead nowhere so creating this will be very helpful.

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Anonymous

Good idea. But they should extend the decked over area from Vernon Blvd to 2nd Street.

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P

Hideous idea only the billionaire class would approve.
1. Air and light. Open space such as the current yards and the area of the land grab through rezoning serves more than one purpose. Circulation of air affects everyone in Queens further inland. And the shadows. Amd: Leave it to TF cornerstone to bait and switch again and again, to grab more light and air. )
2. Deller is correct. Go ahead and build what you’ve got, as promised, bad as it is that one company was given this right. Mega glass towers drive people away. Oh, and kill migrating birds.

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Jack Doe

Circulation of air? Are you effing serious? Get out of town you atmospherically illiterate NIMBY. Calling an open air train yard “open space” is the height of comedy. We get it, you feel claustrophobic around big buildings. The solution is to move, not to obstruct the growth of New York City. Realize that abuse of this type WILL lead to removal of all neighborhood oversight over development.

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Frank

Huh? They are talking about a lot of open space over the yard. Did you read the article?

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Steve S.

That’s Long Island City Terminal, a diesel yard. Decking over it won’t get rid of the fumes, they have to vent somewhere. I like how they conveniently made the Queens Midtown Tunnel ventilation tower disappear in that drawing. TF Cornerstone blowing smoke.

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Elephant

If only there were a solution! Come on, you really think this is an impossible engineering challenge to solve on a billion dollar project? It’s relatively trivial.

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P

The elephant in the room is the Real Estate Board of New York, the P.R. juggernaut that pays large for placing towers anywhere they want. Our Mayor bends over backwards to please them. And their P.R. is ruthless. Letters in support of TF Cornerstone’s “plan” here, for instance, offer a vivid defense of overbuilding, as well as closing out real zoning law enforcement. Notes of abuse predominate in REBNY letters.

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Chas

I wish I had their money to pay everyone off for this project .
Good for them.
Everyone to The Cayman Islands.
Peace.

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MRLIC

Better a wasteland than a waste of money. Where will these people fit on the TRAINS, remember ? People have been saying this all along. Why is no one paying attention at TF Cornerstone or the city or anyone but the people.

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gaggag

The advantage of mixed-use development is that it encourages living and working in the same neighborhood, thus reducing congestion on both trains and roadways.

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Otto

There is manufacturing which means jobs.
Oh wait, they aren’t tax payer subsidized jobs so an asskiseer like yourself doesn’t acknowledge them.

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