Just as thoughts of Amazon’s HQ2 campus in Long Island City are beginning to recede, the specter of the massive Sunnyside Yard development project comes drifting back to western Queens.
The city and Amtrak will host the second of four public meetings later this month, marking the halfway point of the 18-month master planning process and it will allow the brain trust behind the project to clear up some misconceptions that are shared by many residents living in neighborhoods surrounding the 180-acre train yard.
“We want folks to know that this is still a visioning process and there is nothing set in stone,” Director of Sunnyside Yard Cali Williams said. “People aren’t familiar with what a master plan is and they are convinced that a plan is already in place. We want people to understand that this is a long-term process and we are working with community members on a collaborative effort to come up with a long-term vision on what will happen at the Sunnyside Yard.”
The first public meeting drew nearly 400 community members in October. Williams has been doing community outreach several times a week in the seven neighborhoods that surround the train yard.
“It’s intriguing to think of what can be done in this massive space,” Williams said. “Remember this is seven times bigger than the Hudson Yards, nearly the same size as Governors Island and for sports fans it’s nearly the size of 136 football fields. When you consider the city’s population will reach 9 million people by 2040, meaning an estimated 80,000 more residents in Queens, you have to start thinking about growing in a smart and equitable way.”
The city’s Economic Development Corporation believes the Sunnyside Yard development would meet the challenge brought on by the increase in population according to its feasibility study released in 2017. It concluded that nearly 85 percent of the busiest rail yard in the country could be decked over allowing for 24,000 new housing units, new schools, retail, community and cultural facilities and parks and open space.
“There is no set plan. We are developing a collaborative vision of what can be created in phases in the years to come,” Williams said. “This is the moment for us to hear the community’s thoughts and feedback.”
Williams said the three-hour meeting will take place on March 26 at P.S. 166 in Astoria beginning at 6 p.m. with an update from Vishaan Chakrabarti, who leads the team working on the master plan.
“He will give a presentation on where we are at the halfway mark, what we have learned so far. Their will be a brief Q&A and then the bulk of the time will be spent in three workshops,” Williams said. “There will be one on what will be done with all of the open space, another will be on transportation and mobility, and the third will be on urban design. That will focus on the look and feel of Sunnyside Yard. We want to know what people want to see there.”
P.S. 166 is located at 33-09 35th Ave. in Astoria. For more information, visit www.sunnysideyard.nyc.