By Bill Parry
The mayor’s vaunted plan to build affordable housing atop Sunnyside Yards has been in the dark for nearly two years since its proposal, but that could finally change soon.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his “game-changer” of a plan nearly two years ago to build a deck over a portion of the Sunnyside Yards rail complex to support a massive 11,250-unit affordable housing complex, but not much has been heard about it since
The multi-billion-dollar proposal sent tremors through the neighborhoods that surround the 180-acre rail yard used by Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Rail Road, despite an immediate rejection of the project by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The ambitious project’s feasibility study — examining the state of local infrastructure, geotechnical conditions, how to reconfigure the rail yards while maintaining service, the limitations of the proposed deck structures, and of course, financial feasibility — has dragged on for a year and a half.
When the report missed its deadline this summer, critics suggested the project was quietly shelved because of its potentially exorbitant cost, but the mayor rejected that notion during a press briefing last week.
“I wouldn’t say we moved it to the back burner because it’s too costly. I’d say, right now, there would have to be more work done to get it where we want it to be,” de Blasio said. “There obviously were real differences with the state of New York. We think our proposal made a lot of sense and could be very good for everyone. We also know it would create a huge amount of affordable housing.”
De Blasio said that a combination of opposition from both near and far made it difficult to move forward on the project.
“Fair neighborhood concerns have been raised about potential congestion, and about amenities and transportation, things the community would need. But I think it could all be put together and be an incredible thing for the people of Queens. But we’re going to have to have more work done with the community, and more work done with the state to get it to be a more immediate opportunity.”
Following the briefing, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen told TimesLedger Newspapers that some of the mystery surrounding the proposal will be lifted in the next few weeks.
“We’re going to be sharing with people some of the results of the feasibility study that has been undertaken, and that is something we committed to do,” Glen said. “We’re continuing to evaluate the work that has been done by all the consultants and have conversations with multiple stakeholders at what is a very complex site.”
While the deputy mayor has not shared any details of the feasibility study yet, she did mention that a project of this magnitude is not easy to execute.
“It is neither on the back burner per se nor is it the game-changer,” Glen said. “Nor is it the No. 1 thing that we are working on. Any major project which is of infrastructure and a neighborhood building effort transcends administrations, and it’s going to be a decades-long effort, but we are committed to continuing to evaluate it and see where we can make concrete progress.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr