By Bill Parry
The de Blasio administration is pushing forward with its plan to build a deck over much of the 180-acre Sunnyside Yard in order to construct as many as 24,000 apartments with parkland, schools, commercial, retail and cultural venues at a cost of $19 billion.
Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen and Amtrak Chairman Anthony Coscia announced Wednesday an agreement that master planning for Sunnyside Yard will begin this summer, after the city and Amtrak, which owns much of the land in the rail yard, signed a letter of intent to formalize collaboration on the process.
“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for civic groups, public officials and residents to create a vision for their borough, one that delivers on the central challenges Queens faces like affordable housing, open space, more school seats and better public transit,” Glen said. “We are ready to listen and to work with all our partners to develop a plan that Queens can be proud of.”
Over the next 20 years, New York City is expected to add more than a half million people — including over 80,000 in Queens alone — growth that will put additional strain on schools, parks, mass transit and housing that current residents rely upon, according to city officials. The master planning process will help create a vision for building an innovative, equitable and tech-enabled neighborhood from the ground up. The city and Amtrak selected the Practice for Architecture and Urbanism as the lead consultant to develop the plan.
“The Sunnyside Yard project has long been a priority for Amtrak as it represents a great opportunity to invest in our rail infrastructure, as well as the local and state economies and the quality of life in Western Queens,” Coscia said. “We will continue to work closely with the NYCEDC, Deputy Mayor Glen, other members of the Steering Committee and other key stakeholders and elected officials to evaluate the potential for future development at Sunnyside Yard.”
In February 2017, the city Economic Development Corporation released the Sunnyside Yard Feasibility Study, which found that building a deck is feasible in 80 percent to 85 percent of the 180-acre site, with potential for up to 24,000 homes, up to 19 schools, 52 acres of public parks and open space and other much-needed community amenities.
“Sunnyside Yard represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring good jobs, affordable homes, open space and improved public transit to western Queens,” NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett said. “We look forward to working closely with Amtrak, the Sunnyside Yard Steering Committee and community leaders to deliver this transformational investment.”
The Steering Committee will represent the neighborhoods surrounding the Yard which includes Long Island City, Sunnyside and Astoria. Notable community leaders include April Simpson, the president of the Queensbridge Houses Tenants Association; Dr. Gail Mellow, the president of LaGuardia Community College; Community Board 2 Chairwoman Denise Keehan-Smith; and Elizabeth Lusskin, the president of the Long Island City Partnership.
“Sunnyside Yard is an untapped resource, situated within and across LIC, the geographic center of New York City,” Lusskin said. “The yard has great potential as a regional and locally significant transportation hub. This planning effort provides an opportunity to provide employment, recreational, educational and housing prospects for the next century for the people of Sunnyside, LIC, the borough of Queens and New York City.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr