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City Presents Sunnyside Yards as An ‘Enormous Opportunity’, Many Remain Unconvinced

80 percent of the 180-acre Sunnyside Yard can be developed, according to the EDC (Source: EDC)

March 31, 2019 By Christian Murray

Hundreds of residents packed out P.S. 166 in Astoria last Tuesday to provide their feedback on what they would like to see—or not see—on the 180-acre Sunnyside Yard.

The three-hour meeting was organized by the NYC Economic Development Corporation and Amtrak as they look to seek the public’s input as they create a masterplan for the massive site.

They presented the development of the yard as a generational opportunity, where the site could be used for open space, affordable housing, community facilities and commercial industry. Meanwhile, as the meeting began, members of the anti-gentrification group Queens Neighborhoods United were handing out flyers entitled, “Raising Questions About Sunnyside Yard.”

The masterplan, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year, will result in a framework that details all aspects of the development for decades to come, including the various phases and timelines. About 80 percent of the site can be developed, according to the EDC’s 2017 feasibility study.

Despite fears of imminent development among the skeptics, the EDC tried to reduce those anxieties by saying that the plan is for future generations and nothing was happening soon.

“At this point we are focused on creating a collaborative vision, a master planning process through the end of the year,” said Cali Williams, director of Sunnyside Yard for the EDC. “Any future development is not imminent. There is no set plan. We are working on developing a plan together and before any development happens there would need to be approvals…so we are years away from construction.”

Statements like these didn’t placate many attendees’ fears. The fact, according to some, that the EDC is working on a master plan is indicative that something big is coming. One attendee from Sunnyside asked the EDC why the city wasn’t investing in existing neighborhoods that lacked infrastructure as opposed to creating a new one.

Cali Williams and Vishaan Chakrabarti (Photo: QueensPost)

Williams shot back.

“I think it’s important while planning for improvements in existing infrastructure to also be thinking long-term,” she said. “Sunnyside Yards provides an opportunity to think about what local stakeholders … need in the near-term as well as future generations.”

Vishaan Chakrabarti, the leader of the project’s master planning consulting team and the founder of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, gave a run-down of the possibilities that could be done with the site.

Chakrabarti said that the yard has enormous potential.

“It’s the largest available site in New York and in the center of the region. It is well connected to the airports, right for world class institutions…but on a local level could provide major public space, jobs and affordable housing.”

He discussed some of the challenges. For instance, to deck over the yards, a platform would have to be built over the tracks that would need to be 30 to 35 feet in height in order for the trains to clear—equating to at three stories. Connections would then have to be made from the platform to surrounding streets and done so in a way to integrate them with adjacent neighborhoods.

Any project would be done in phases, Chakrabarti said, and it is difficult to tell what areas of the Yard would be built up first.

He said from an urban planning and design standpoint it would make sense to start at the Long Island City core, but from a rail engineering standpoint the eastern section of the yard would be less complex.

The development may not involve a series of 30 to 40 story towers, as was presented in the 2017 feasibility study. Chakrabarti said that they are looking to explore buildings that would rise 6 to 15 stories in a more tabletop layout.

Chakrabarti said they have had a lot of positive feedback since May 2018 when the master plan process began, with a strong focus being on affordable housing, public space and added infrastructure.

“To be fair there are people who have said don’t do anything with the yard–but we have many people who have said: ‘We need affordable housing, we need fixes to our infrastructure, we need jobs, we need open space.”

The EDC plans to host four public workshops on the masterplan in April and May, with more to be held in over the summer. There will also be two more public meets scheduled this year.

Sunnyside Yardmaster Plan 2 by on Scribd

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19 Comments

VOTER in Sunnyside

The trainyard from 39th Street to 43rd Street. should ALL be a PARK just like Brooklyn Bridge Park and LIC Park.

We have ZERO significant sized parks in he area.

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VelvetKnight

“…a generational opportunity, where the site COULD BE used for…”

“Could be” are the key words there. If I actually believed they’d use it to create significant park space (which we badly need) or low-cost housing with a chance of reducing rents in the whole area, I MIGHT be willing to support it.

But we all know the reality is they’ll give a token amount of those and then huge handouts to luxury high-rises that will sit empty as overseas billionaires park their money in them. Have we still not learned anything after Robert Moses?

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A.Bundy

i for one would enjoy loud thumping and screeching from trains at 3 am and blaring their horns right under me from the 7 train to lirr. its pure bliss and serenity.

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Anonymous

The urban planning is more than housing. We need parks, schools, better transportation. cultural institution, big idea project. Please do not build more apartment buildings. The quality of the life in this area is already hardly bearable.

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Jack Doe

Can we address the absurd and ridiculous claim that it would cost $19 billion to tap this site? That’s a $2 billion job.

Build market-rate high rise housing along the north and west sides near transit and then put a huge park with grass in the rest of it. Everyone wins.

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Jessica

No more housing. Too many people here already. When are going to realize that more and more people here mean a decrease in the quality of life?

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How old have you gotten Jimmy

Maybe Amazon may want to return have it’s headquarters within the Yards and offer employment to the thousands of new workers who would live withjin walking distance to the headqaurters.

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Amazontard

Maybe you shouldn’t have brought that Queens property the day after Scamazon made the announcement

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George Jetson

Are they hoping that flying cars will be en vogue @ the time to get all these people to work? You can’t drop a city within a neighborhood without having the ability to get them to work. The 7 train is beyond capacity as it is. Plan will fail without adding a rail line and a LIRR stop in Sunnyside will not be enough. Before anything happens this issue will need to be addressed, failure to do so will make this a complete clusterf*ck.

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Jack Doe

I take the 7 train every day and frequently have a seat. This idea that we’re at transit capacity is absurd – even more considering that the housing on this site will be using the EMR line, not the 7. Do you think people will be walking all the way down to Queens BLVD? This kind of short-sighted idiocy is why “community input” is vastly overrated.

Demand we get a large urban greenspace out of this – it’s your only shot. It will also mitigate nearly every other concern – give them room to build market rate high rise housing where it makes sense and put a park over the rest where building structures on top of it will be more complicated. The entire thing is extremely feasible if you have any imagination at all and can get out of your own way.

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43rd & 43rd

It all depends on what time you take the 7. If you take it midday, sure, you probably can take a seat. If you take it during rush hour, it’s very rare to get a seat — it’s very rare even to get on the first train you’ve been waiting for. Rush hour is just murder. The difference is night and day.

And yes, depending on where the housing is, people would definitely want to walk down and take the 7. If you live at 39th St. and Skillman, or 33rd St. & 43rd Ave., of course you’ll want to take the 40th or 33rd St. stops on the 7. The whole south half of the development will.

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Princess Vespa

I have had to wait and wait and wait for SPACE in a 7 car because it is butts to windows sometimes before 6am! I understand in spring, summer, (maybe people have jobs where they just have to put in a certain amount of hours and the earlier they get in the earlier they can leave) or during a snowstorm, get in early but otherwise… It’s just unnecessary.

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bxgrl

Please, not more housing for people who have the $$$$$ to live anywhere they want, taking over working-class neighborhoods to leave the rest of us with housing “lotteries”.

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Jack Doe

Where is the sign that says “This is a working class neighborhood?” I must have missed it. Did you construct those buildings in the 1930’s? No, you did not. What exactly entitles you, a BXgrl at that, to low-cost housing in a high demand area? There are plenty of parts of the city, such as the BRONX, which are much cheaper and you are welcome to live there if rent stabilization isn’t holding your rents down fast enough for minimum wage to rise.

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unrealistic timeline

Attended a few of the meetings. This project really needs to be handed to big time developers or the army corp of engineers. the pyramids were built faster that what the city timeline is. we are going to be listening to jackhammers for the next 5-7 decades. ridiculous

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Unaffordable Housing

By “affordable housing” , they probably mean $4k per month. Affordable to Google hipsters maybe.

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Jack Doe

There is plenty of cheap housing throughout the city – what exactly entitles you to live in a high demand area without paying what all of your neighbors are willing to pay? You didn’t build this neighborhood, you occupied it years ago like the new people are about to. Accept life – it comes at you fast! Rent stabilization already protects most of the marginal residents.

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Monneyside

Its an enormous opportunity for real estate developers and their kickbacks to the politicians! Say NO to these sell outs!

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