Feb. 3, 2015 By Christian Murray
The city has plans to develop thousands of affordable apartments over the Sunnyside Yards.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, during his state of the city address today, said that he aims to build 11,250 affordable units over the yards and said that the housing could cater to more than 30,000 people.
However, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office issued a statement that made it clear that such development would not happen soon.
“The MTA uses Sunnyside Yards as an important facility for our transportation system, and it is not available for any other use in the near term,” the statement read. It noted that the “State and the MTA are studying several potential future uses of the site from a long term planning perspective.”
The concept of building on the Yards has caused quite a stir among western Queens residents in recent months. When it was first suggested in October by Joe Conley, the former chair of Community Board 2, it was panned.
However, the drumbeat for building on the Yards grew when Dan Doctoroff, the former deputy mayor, published an op-ed in the New York Times calling for its development. Furthermore, the Amtrak chair Anthony Coscia said at a real estate conference later that month that it was looking at selling or developing a section of the Yards to raise funds.
These suggestions were dismissed by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer at the time, who said the area didn’t have the infrastructure to handle such development, and Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan also expressed concerns. She discussed putting together a group to evaluate the concept.
De Blasio said the city will work with Amtrak and the MTA on the project, and the housing would be built above the tracks.
“Right now there are 200 acres of land in the heart of queens in the form of a rail yard…this could be a real game changer,” he said.
“We know that this site has different parts of it. Some parts could easily handle larger buildings being built there, other parts of this site could not,” de Blasio said. “We’ll work closely with elected officials and community leaders to determine what makes sense and how to build this the right way.”
Van Bramer said in a statement that he spoke to the Mayor at some length before his State of the City speech. “I share his vision [for affordable housing], but I also shared my concerns about his Sunnyside Yards proposal. He was respectful of the issues I raised, and we agreed to continue to dialogue on this critical piece of his agenda.”
Meanwhile, State Sen. Mike Gianaris said he is open to the concept but emphasized that he would not support any proposal with out the backing of the community.
“Mayor de Blasio is right that western Queens needs more affordable middle class housing so we can maintain the character of our growing neighborhoods,” Gianaris said in a statement.
Gianaris added that “Any future development must bring with it more and better schools, new parks and open spaces, and vastly improved mass transit, particularly on the 7 line.” He noted that “It is critical that the discussion regarding Sunnyside Yards includes the community and focuses on providing the additional infrastructure we desperately need. I look forward to working with the Mayor to ensure our existing community is consulted and protected as this process unfolds.”