Feb. 12, 2019 By Nathaly Pesantez
A group of Queens politicians and community leaders renewed calls on Monday for a Long Island Rail Road station in Sunnyside, promised two decades ago as part of the massive East Side Access project, to come to fruition in light of the area’s significant growth and changes.
Congresswomen Carolyn Maloney, joined by groups like the Hunters Point Civic Association, the LIC Partnership, and members of Community Boards 1 and 2, urged the Metropolitan Transportation Authority at a press conference yesterday to appropriate funds at last toward the proposed Sunnyside station to keep up with western Queens’ population boom.
“Nearly 20 years have passed since Long Island City was promised a new station in Sunnyside Yards and it is way past time for the state to deliver,” Maloney said. “We need a transportation system that recognizes and accommodates the growing number of riders on our railways and one that recognizes our city’s changing commuting patterns.”
The Sunnyside station had been ushered in with the $11 billion East Side Access project, which will bring LIRR service to Grand Central Station, but has been in limbo given the years of delays the public works project has undergone.
The MTA had last set aside nearly $77 million toward the Sunnyside Station in the 2015-2019 MTA Capital Program, but reallocated funding meant for the station and other projects in a 2018 amendment. The agency noted at the time that funding for the station, then planned at Queens Boulevard and Skillman Avenue, is “anticipated to be included in future capital programs.”
“We need this station. We were promised this station. And we are calling on the MTA to put to use the resources needed to build it,” Maloney said, noting that there is no concrete plan for the project.
While the MTA did not specifically comment on whether the station would come to be, it noted that a new LIRR station at Sunnyside could only be built after the completion of East Side Access, anticipated to wrap up at the end of 2022.
Even then, the LIRR would have to work closely with the city’s Economic Development Corporation and Amtrak for any additional work at Sunnyside Yard, given ongoing efforts to produce a master plan for a sprawling development at the 180-acre site.
“As NYCEDC and Amtrak develop a master plan for a potential overbuild of Sunnyside Yards, the MTA is working with them to ensure that options for a station can be pursued without compromising future LIRR service or operations,” said Aaron Donovan, an MTA spokesperson.
Since 2006, roughly 17,000 residential units have been built in Long Island City, with an additional 11,800 expected to open by 2020, according to the LIC BID.
The Long Island City “core” population, made up of the 11101, 11109 and 11106 zipcodes, is also projected to be over 90,000 by 2020, the BID said. In 2016, the population in these areas was recorded at 70,000.
“Plans for the growth of LIC laid out 30 years ago are now being exceeded beyond anyone’s expectations, dreams or fears,” said Elizabeth Lusskin, executive director of the LIC BID. This is now the fastest growing neighborhood in the United States, and this is before major projects currently in the works take shape.”
She added: “We now have the opportunity not only to fulfill a 20 year promise to the people of Western Queens, but also to create a visionary intermodal station to knit together the entire region and make this the most sustainable urban center of the future.”
The proposed station, according to the 2001 final environmental impact statement for the East Side Access project, would also offer LIRR service to Penn Station, and was planned to permit expansion for possible use by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains.