By Bill Parry
Elected officials in western Queens are united in staunch opposition to the de Blasio administration’s plan to build a deck over much of the 180-acre Sunnyside Yard and construct a small city with 24,000 apartments at a cost of $19 billion.
They were annoyed the city and Amtrak announced their agreement May 1 to formalize their collaboration and select a consulting team to lead master planning beginning this summer without having input in the process.
“I am opposed to the mega-development being proposed for Sunnyside Yards,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. “Sunnyside, Long Island City and Astoria are already underserved by transit and this proposal does nothing to assure me that transit infrastructure is being taken into consideration here. As the population of Long Island City continues to grow exponentially, the city is not doing enough to meet the needs of the residents and now the administration wants to add another 24,000 units with this proposal. Once again, this administration is imposing their vision for this community on us and it is not our vision. Moving forward with a plan to deck and develop Sunnyside Yards is outrageous and I will not support it.”
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) has watched the unprecedented development in Long Island City and is concerned with the lack of infrastructure.
“Western Queens is home to New York’s fastest growing neighborhoods and our infrastructure is already stretched to its limits,” Gianaris said. “I will not endorse any proposal for development at Sunnyside Yards that is not supported by the community and fails to include improvements for mass transit, schools parks, and other community needs.”
U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) also objected to the process that included little or no community feedback.
“Many of my constituents’ concerns about the impact this development would have on their lives and communities have not been heard or addressed,” Crowley said. “That must happen before the project could move forward.”
State Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Long Island City) was angered that the city and Amtrak announced the creation of a Steering Committee comprised of 28 community leaders that will spend 18 months hosting public meetings and workshops, attending civic meetings and canvassing to better understand the needs of individuals in western Queens. Nolan was not consulted on the makeup of the group.
“I am incredibly disappointed that Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen did not reach out to get my input as the elected representative of this district for over 30 years,” Nolan said. “I have worked closely with the mayor on many issues and it is shocking to me to see community voices denied in this process at the very beginning. I commend the many talented leaders on this group, but it must be more diverse and reflective of our western Queens community. I must insist that locally elected officials be able to recommend community leaders to this panel, that it be expanded to include more voices and that more residents and businesses, not just nonprofit groups, be included.”
Nolan announced she would be introducing legislation to give Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature more input into the planning process. Meanwhile, the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which is overseeing the master planning effort, maintains that elected representatives will have a seat at the table.
“All local elected officials have been invited to participate in the Sunnyside Yard Steering Committee,” a NYCEDC spokeswoman said. “The master planning process will include many opportunities for elected and stakeholder engagement. It’s our goal to ensure that the many diverse communities surrounding Sunnyside Yard have a seat at the table in the planning and visioning process.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr