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Photo courtesy of NYCEDC
Photo courtesy of NYCEDC
Sunnyside Railyards Aerials; Queens New York; Architect: FX Fowle Architects

Early last week, the Sunnyside Yard Steering Committee had its first meeting to commence planning for the much-anticipated project.

The 35-member steering committee, which is co-chaired by President of the LIC Partnership Elizabeth Lusskin and President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater NY Sharon Greenberger, gathered on June 28 to begin the 18-month master planning process. A spokesperson from the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) said that the details of the meeting were closed to the press.

Members of the project’s steering committee include local stakeholders, technical experts and regional thinkers whose purpose is to help draft the plan for the project, while surveying the needs of the surrounding community. According to the NYCEDC, the committee will specifically establish priorities for a long-term comprehensive plan and phase one project.

“We are excited to have officially kicked off the Sunnyside Yard Steering Committee earlier this week, said Cali Williams, director of Sunnyside Yard, NYCEDC. “We are confident that the Steering Committee will help create an inclusive plan that could deliver on good jobs, affordable housing, open space and improved public transit in western Queens. This is just the start of a conversation and we look forward to engaging New Yorkers in envisioning this unique site.”

The steering committee is slated to meet quarterly over the 18-month process. They will also be responsible for hosting public meetings and workshops, attending civic meetings and canvassing western Queens to understand the wants and needs of people who live and work there.

In May of this year, Deputy Mayor of Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen and Amtrak Chairman Anthony Coscia announced the agreement for The Sunnyside Yard project master planning process, in which the city of New York and Amtrak signed a letter of intent to formalize their collaboration.

The lead consultant for the project is the New York City-based Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU), which will develop the master plan. Other members of the planning team include HNTB, Nelson Byrd Woltz and Thornton Tomasetti, who are part of a group of world-renowned engineering, futurist, technical and community engagement experts.

Though the steering committee’s purpose is to gauge the community’s needs, elected officials have expressed their concerns that adequate community input had not been sought before going forward. Congressman Joe Crowley, New York State Senator Michael Gianaris, New York State Assembly members Catherine Nolan, Aravella Simotas and Brian Barnwell, and New York City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer issued a joint statement in May voicing their concerns.

“We are deeply alarmed by the city’s decision to move forward with plans to build a massive residential and commercial development in Sunnyside Yard without seeking adequate community input or establishing sufficient infrastructure and transit options for local residents who will be impacted by the project,” according to the joint statement. They also asked that plans for the project be halted until “our voices and concerns have been fully considered.”

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