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Doctoroff, Who Calls For Developing Sunnyside Yards, Doesn’t Understand Western Queens, Van Bramer and Residents Say

Photo Courtesy: NYCEDC

Dec. 2, 2014 By Christian Murray

The drum beat to develop the Sunnyside Yards continues with the latest call to build on it coming from the former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff.

Doctoroff, in a New York Times op-ed piece that ran Sunday, said that the city needs to build a 3.1 million square foot convention center and that Sunnyside Yards would be the ideal place for it. The center could also be accompanied, he wrote, by nearly 14,000 residential units of which 50 percent would be affordable.

The op-ed stated that Long Island City is a great location for this development since it is “one of the most convenient, transit-friendly areas in the city, served by eight subway lines.” The idea is that the new convention center would replace the Javits Center, which he deemed too small.

However, residents and local officials argue that the concept just doesn’t make sense and that the neighborhood’s infrastructure in terms of schools, parks and subways are already stretched. Many are unsure how the neighborhood will absorb all the new residents coming to the area, with 5,000-10,000 units coming online in the next few years.

“I found some of [Doctoroff’s op-ed] patronizing,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer who opposes decking over the yards. “It revealed to me somewhat of a Manhattan elitist view of Queens.”

Van Bramer said that Doctoroff might find the neighborhood transit friendly when he looks at the area on a map. However, he said, people who live here know that the No. 7 train is not reliable and there are a lot of delays. During morning rush hour, people often struggle to get on at the Jackson Ave/Vernon Blvd. Station, he said.

At the October Community Board 2 meeting, when the idea of studying the yards was raised, several board members wanted to know how the area will cope with all the Court Square/Queens Plaza development coming online—let alone the yards.

Meanwhile, a petition has just been formed, calling on the city not to allow the site to be developed.

Van Bramer viewed Doctoroff’s push for avoidable housing to be disingenuous—arguing that this an argument used to buttress his case to “plop a mega convention in our neighborhood.”

“I am incredibly supportive of affordable housing,” Van Bramer said, but using affordable housing as a tool is “offensive.”

Councilman Van Bramer

Councilman Van Bramer

Furthermore, Doctoroff in his op-ed, said that the Yards represented a “nasty scar through the heart of Queens.”
Van Bramer took exception to this viewpoint. “I have lived in these neighborhoods my entire life and it is not a scar. It’s a patronizing to say we have this awful thing and that they have to come here and make it better.”-

However, Doctoroff is not alone in suggesting the Yards should be developed.

In October, the chairman of Amtrak, Anthony Coscia, said that the company was considering developing sections of the Yards. The company said it could turn to investors as early as spring and that it had been in talks with the mayor’s office over its use.

Representatives for the mayor said at the time that the site could be used to advance the mayor’s affordable housing goals.

Meanwhile, the Daily News reported that the Department of City Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod said at a meeting Monday that the he and the Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen are studying the site.

However, nothing is planned at this point, Van Bramer said. However,” I think we need to remain vigilant because it is in the minds of some wealthy and powerful people,” he said. “We need to watch out and be careful.”

“What we really need are more schools, green space and better transportation—not a convention center,” Van Bramer said.

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I think that it would be a spectacular idea. The convention center would make Queens the new Brooklyn. Let’s do it.

Rachel Gordon

Why does every section of the city have to be hign density, generic development? The “need” for a bigger better convention center is whose need? The “need” for affordable housing might be eased if the very same developers stopped wiping out neighborhoods that contain affordable housing. Announcing a need and then demanding a particular solution is how those with a bully pulpit get their vision created. Those of us who have differing visions remain invisible.

Mike Kenny

We need more green and less high rise concrete.
This area is already congested, How about a New Specialized High School for Queens and a New Large TAG middle School, both with outdoor areas. This would actually benefit our area. A convention center would just add to the traffic chaos. Don’t fall for the affordable housing snake oil.

C Glackin

i worked in a building for ten years that overlooked the yards. Wasn’t some of that area a toxic superfund site?
When Doctoroff was Deputy Mayor under Bloomberg, he was pushing for a stadium to be built on the Sunnyside yards to host the 2012 Olympics. This “new” plan isn’t new. Same players, same greed, same HUGE burden to NYC taxpayers for infrastructure. Private developers do not pay for roads, transit, schools, parks. We do.
I proposed a referendum on the ballot. Let us decide. We pay the bills but are never invited to the party.

Jimmy Van Moron

It’s so simple , Van Bramer isn’t getting any pay offs from the project. So now he’s crying wolf. Doesn’t the rest of queens see how this queen operates. Smiling with his hand in their pocket. Except not everyone does dirty laundry.


Doctoroff does come off as “Manhattan Elitist” in his opinion piece. Manhattan puts up 20% of its new development for affordable housing while Queens will put up 50%. Queens is at least two and a half times as awful as Manhattan in his view. It’s just that awful. He’d be the first to pounce on an administration for spending billions on a subway expansion for the sole purpose of expanding a subway line to bring people to the very convention center he wants to close up and sell just as that subway line is about to make its arrival to that very same convention center. He obviously has never seen how crowded the subways, buses, Long Island rail road and roads in the area are. He neglects to mention those affordable hotel rooms in LIC will become even less affordable as is the historic fact involving projects of this nature. Not a very well thought out proposal but I have a funny feeling it’s already been decided. Why else would major hotel chains like Marriott and Hilton build huge hotels like they’re in the process of building not to mention the ones that were built in the last few years like Wyndam, Sheraton, Hotel Z and Holiday Inn just to name a few. Somebody was already promised something.


This is a tragedy that we can do nothing to prevent. They say 50% of the units will be affordable, but they always say that. There will be a lot of testy community board meetings and chest-thumping by local pols like Van Bramer but it will happen anyway, and over time that 50% affordable number will be whittled down to more like 15-20%. And remember “affordable” in their eyes is at least $1,600 for a studio apartment — I’m not joking. I just moved here last year, but even I can tell our peaceful neighborhood would be eviscerated by a 3.1 million square foot “convention center” and 14,000 more apartments. What a shame.

Sunnyside Resident

LoveableNewbie – are you a psychic? You say nothing can be done to prevent this. Be careful with your words, useless you can actually see into the future. There are people who are motivated to fight overdevelopment of the Sunnyside Yards. A better response would be to help cheer them on.

Anonymous visitor

Oh, I’m no psychic, but I’ve been in this city long enough to see countless such efforts fail. People mobilize to fight every destructive development, and the best they can do is push it back a few years, maybe eke out a few more yards of green space. Do you remember what Penn Station used to look like?

blame airbnb

Lucky Lu – there were a few Twitter responses – negative – to Doctoroff’s article, which was posted online last Friday. Most of those tweets asked him to look at what happened to Hudson Yards and mocked the idea of a no cost to taxpayer expenditure.
He says that the profit from selling the Javits Center land will pay for the decking of SY.
I believe the Amtrak guy and Doctoroff are working together and will try very hard to make this happen.

Lucky Lu

By the way, I noticed that Doctoroff’s Op-Ed piece in the Sunday NYT does not provide an option to leave a comment, whereas you can leave comments for every other Op-Ed recently published. Does Doctoroff, the current CEO of Bloomberg LLP, also control the “free” press? The fact that he got such a platform to push for this project and we the people are forbidden from commenting, and are not told about private meetings where this project is being discussed is abhorrent. We need to fully expose what is happening here.


Yeh, genius let’s build a free stadium for a team owned by the Yankees and some Arabian prince.

Mike Novak

Everyone needs to understand that this IS NOT ABOUT PROVIDING AFFORDABLE HOUSING…
Forget all the altruistic noises being made….this is about BIG PAYDAYS AND BIG PAYOFFS.

Lucky Lu

This is a horrible idea. First, we can’t afford more development without the improved and added infrastructure FIRST! And ADDITIONAL transportation needs to be the foundation of that. Van Bramer is spot on when he says that Doctoroff “sees” good transportation when he looks at the subway map, but he is completely unaware of the day to day reality of the overcrowded trains in Queens. He wants a convention center on the Sunnyside Yards? Well, then he needs to put in NEW subway lines leading there first!

50% affordable units? Now Doctoroff is out and out lying. Please point to ANY housing development in NYC where the city has negotiated a 50% affordable housing rate. The minimum required by the city, IF the developer receives subsidies, is 20%. The city has negotiated as high as 27% for the Astoria Cove project, but 50% is not realistic. We are going to get screwed if we don’t stand up and start screaming. This area of Queens needs better transportation and more green space for those of us who already live here.



I’m not trying to be rude, but how is ANYTHING in New York City small, local? It’s not that I don’t support better infrastructure, but that mindset is very bad urban planning in an urban core of 8M+ people.


supportive and unsupportive…
forget a convention center. GREEN SPACE for kids to run around. Soccer Fields, schools, better 7 train service. this is what matters. not more shiny glass, and poorly built, over-priced condos to block my sweet Sunnyside view. The open space that is there should be reconsidered, but not for capitalist development. The Amtrak yards are pretty ugly, can’t they just do better to clean it up, organize it, maybe grow some grass on the hills adjacent to tracks, etc? lets think small, and local. Lets not clutter Queens more than it already is.


I’m supportive of this plan, provided they can build the necessary supporting infrastructure to accommodate a project at this scale — namely schools, parks, community services, affordable housing, etc.

Anonymous visitor

The city is moving ahead in terms of infrastructure – the fact that we have a practically dead section of city 10 min to Midtown Manhattan that is not being used is a travesty.

More schools, green space, better transportation are all wonderful ideas but they have to have MONEY to support them. The taxes a center like this along with all the businesses that would benefit from this would be plenty to help our schools and parks and so on.

Celtic Bark

No, 50% of the units would be market rate which would be exactly what is supporting the “affordable” units. That being said, I assume the “affordable” housings would be 421-As which are rarely if ever affordable to the middle and working classes. I mean, if these politicians are going to lobby on affordable housing at least make it ACTUALLY affordable for the people who need it most.

Dennis P. Farley

The whole concept of “Decking” Sunnyside Yards is preposterous. The network of infrastructure, both “Road and Rail” are overburdened right now, it is quicker to walk over the “Ed Koch”(59th Street Bridge) than to ride a Bus during “Rush Hours”, which now are almost “All Day”, the existing Subway lines are overtaxed as well. Forget about The area Local Streets, and the Electrical Grid in the area is totally unprepared for a “Grandiose Project” that will destroy the “Quality of Life” for the existing neighborhoods to do what? Enhance the “Profit” of the already too influential “Real Estate Developers” in this area, who rarely even use “Local Contractors”?
Forget about this kind of nonsense!

Lucky Lu

I agree, Dennis. And you’re right, rush hour between Sunnyside and Manhattan now lasts all day, 5 days a week and often on weekends when there is construction or when the 7 train is shut down due to the increase in road traffic.

celtic bark

“…he wrote, by nearly 14,000 residential units of which 50 percent would be affordable.”

So, basically half the residential units will be unaffordable.



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