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NYC Releases Sunnyside Yard Master Plan; 12,000 Affordable Housing Units, 60-Acres of Park Space

Sunnyside Yards, via EDC.

March 3, 2020 By Christian Murray and Michael Dorgan

City officials released the long-awaited Sunnyside Yard Master Plan today that calls for the construction of 12,000 affordable housing units, 60-acres of public space and a Sunnyside station that would be served by the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North and potentially Amtrak.

The plan, put together by Amtrak and New York City, would be rolled out over several decades and involves decking over 115 acres of the 180-acre Sunnyside Yard. The cost to build the deck would be about $5.4 billion– with the total cost of the entire project about $14.4 billion.

Masterplan

The plan calls for between 10-12 new schools; approximately 1.7 million square feet of office space; 1.4 million square feet of commercial/industrial space; a major educational institution; and about 12,000 housing units—all to be affordable.

The plan also includes a new subway line, although it notes that it would be decades before that came to fruition.

The area toward Long Island City will feature larger-scale buildings, with the scale diminishing as development gets closer to Sunnyside Gardens.

The city plans to build the project in phases, with the development of the western section of Sunnyside Yard—the Long Island City end– to be built first.

City officials say that the masterplan is not a shovel ready plan, but rather a long-term framework to guide decisions. Additionally, it notes that it is also subject to change.

The first phase would involve building a train station that would be served by the Long Island Rail Road, Metro North and Amtrak. The station would be built in the yard by Queens Boulevard, near Queens Plaza.

The early phases would also see about 3,800 affordable housing units; a 1.3 million square foot research and education facility; 750,000 square feet of office space and 7.2 acres of park space. The open space would include a 6.5 acre park that would go between Thomson Avenue and Queens Boulevard adjacent to the Court Square neighborhood of Long Island City and a linear park up Skillman Avenue.

Sunnyside Master Plan

The city says that there is a need for the development of the 180-acre yard given the shortage of housing and the influx of 30,000 people to New York City each year. It notes that the Yard is in an ideal location and offers a relief valve for such pressure.

The masterplan follows about 18 months of public outreach and the city says that the feedback it generated during that period has shaped the plan. The city put together a 35-member steering committee, held three public meetings and put on several workshops to get community input.

The public meetings were heated at times, with protesters handing out fliers panning the proposed plan. At one meeting, held in Long Island City on Sept. 16, dozens of protesters from activist groups such as Queens Neighborhood United turned up and caused a disruption.

Then in November–separate from the meetings– about 80 protestors assembled on Skillman Avenue by the Yard holding signs that read: Queens is not for sale and Stop Sunnyside Yards. They said the funds needed to deck the yard would be better spent on restoring public housing.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez resigned from the steering committee in January. She said that the New York City Economic Development Corp., the lead agency for the city that worked on the plan, was not listening to the concerns of her constitutions.

The city’s focus on affordable housing stemmed from the feedback. The 12,000 housing units will be targeted for low income earners—with half being rentals and the other half owner-occupied.

The 6,000 rentals will be for people who earn up to 50 percent of the Area Media Income (approximately $48,000 for a family of three), with 3,000 of those units specifically for families earning less than 30 percent of the Area Median Income (about $29,000).

The owner-occupied units would be for residents who earn up to 100 percent of the AMI. They would be offered in a similar fashion of the Mitchell-Lama Housing Program.

The city received a lot of pushback at many of the meetings from people who feared that the development of the yard would lead to gentrification—where residents of the neighboring communities of Astoria, Sunnyside and Long Island City would be priced out.

The city, when it released a 2017 feasibility study, entertained building 24,000 housing units on the Yard, with only 30 percent of them being “affordable.”

Ocasio-Cortez and Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer wrote a joint letter to the EDC last year concerned that the plan would lead to people being priced out of Queens. State Sen. Mike Gianaris wrote a similar letter.

Greenspace and the Master Plan

The masterplan also aims to bring jobs and industry to the area.

The plan would see a major research and education institution come to the Yard, as well as office and commercial space. The city anticipates that such development would bring 6,000 permanent new jobs.

The city plans on building a linear park through the middle of the yard—called a central greenway—as well as a linear park on much of Skillman Avenue. Lou Lodati Park in Sunnyside would be expanded and park space would be created near Queens Boulevard in Long Island City.

The plan has already received some feedback from elected officials.

“The first step in this decades-long plan must prioritize infrastructure investments, and I am encouraged that the Master Plan includes the Sunnyside Station in its first phase,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney in a statement.

Maloney said she was pleased that the plan includes schools, two libraries, park space and is 100 percent affordable housing.

The city aims to enter into a formal agreement with Amtrak that recognizes the Master Plan as the primary planning document for decking over the Yard.

The city and Amtrak will then establish a non-profit planning entity that is comprised of City, Amtrak, elected officials, and other key public stakeholders to oversee future efforts to realize the plan.

The plans, however, would have to go through an extensive public review process before becoming a reality. Furthermore, they are likely to be rolled out over several decades.

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27 Comments

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gag

It’s “affordable” not affordable.

These units will mostly be filled with wealthy people.

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LIC Direct

Patricia Dorfman — you will be long gone when this project takes off and begins the build. A 14 billion dollar deck is obscene. Jimmy will be an old man living in the quaint Key West Florida when the first shovel of dirt is moved – having sold his house in Sunnyside for top dollar. Gianaris will be shuffling between Stamatis and his favorite Greek diner racing for that senior citizen special. AOC will be representing the Bronx/Qns making noise as always. Our neighborhood has changed, crime is up, surrounded by homeless shelters, aggressive beggers asking for change all because Jimmy Van Bramer did nothing for this community other than fund his library and its transvestite story hour, and pose for every photo-op possible. Remember his proudest moment – installation of $150,000 toilets at P.S. 199.

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Larry Penner

Few remember that in 1998, as part of the proposed MTA LIRR Eastside Access project, construction of a passenger station was considered for Sunnyside Yard. It would have provided access to the growing Long Island City business and residential district. Fast forward twenty one years. The MTA has still not advertised and awarded a contract for the new Sunnyside Yard LIRR Station (that was to be built at Queens Blvd. & Skillman Avenue). There is no significant funding included for this project within the current $51 billion MTA 2020 – 2024 Five Year Capital Plan. The next opportunity for funding would be under the upcoming MTA 2025 – 2029 Five Year Capital Plan. The same is true for the proposed new City Hall and Albany budgets. No one has promised any funding to support any planning feasibility studies for “a new Rapid Transit Bus Line connecting Queens with Midtown Manattan or a future new subway line as promised in the master plan..

Can the existing sewer, water and utility systems support such a huge development project? There is also the challenge of expanding fire, police, sanitation, schools and other critical municipal services to support the thousands of new residents and commercial development that would come with this project..

(Larry Penner — transportation historian, advocate and writer who previously worked 31 years for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for grants supporting billions in capital projects and programs on behalf of the MTA, NYC Transit, LIRR, Metro North, MTA Bus, NYC DOT along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ).

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Cicero

Shut this circus down. Call your city council and simply toss this trash in the garbage. Make it into a park! Better than Central and Prospect Park!

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Hannah

Love this plan! New Transit station, parks, educational facility. And affordable home ownership and mid-scale buildings. Makes a lot of sense for this community.

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Count Fugula

The infrastructure is not in place to service this kind of project. Why not just “Deck Over Calvary Cemetery” everyone there is dead and likely won’t object.

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rikki

There is no such thing as affordable housing in anyone minds….like$800-900 a month for 3 rooms sears appliances NO granite nothing luxury….a kitchen you can eat in, 600-650 sq ft 2 or 3 closets basic housing for a couple.

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Patricia Dorfman

It’s 115 acres of decking for $14+ billion. The entirety of the Yard, 180 acres+, will be subject to new roads to get there. Congestion will skyrocket.

Decking is just the elevated portion, and would be five stories higher than the streets here BEFORE the height of the up to 50-story buildings in plan. This money does not include the billions needed to make this work, sewers, power, new transit, hospital, civic services.
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There will be decades of noise and pollution in an area with already inadequate infrastructure, as others have noted here. Is this good for Queens. No.
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Why is the Sunnyside Station always been available only as part of this? It was promised to us as part of East Side Access.
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If the city is interested in affordable housing, why are allowing NYCHA to be privatized?

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Why are our tax dollars and leaders related to pay to play? This is like a license to make money for big developers and to take the land and sky and this project was not generated by grassroots desire.

Just because we can build, does not mean we should. Such enormous, life-changing projects for all should be generated from the community, working with local electeds, to then make proposals, not the topdown. For instance, a community land trust.
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This appears to be a Trojan Horse (so as to be able to charge naysayers with NIMBY) to get things started to develop this giant tract — vastly bigger than Hudson or Atlantic Yards — with public money resulting in profits for private firms. The project is not necessarily good for the city or its people or our future. To give the go ahead is like a blank check.
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Let’s start using city-owned land right now to build smaller shelters and low income housing first. What is going to go, for instance into the city-owned Ravenswood hangar? It’s HUGE.
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There will doubtless be union members brought in to the CB2 meeting Thursday night at SCS at 6:30 (public) to show support their for this decades-long construction boon. But if the city would start repairing and replacing the inadequate infrastructure needed city wide, there is enough work for generations to come.

(If there are typos, please forgive. Wrote in a rush. And for personal attacks, please leave your name.)

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David

Ronny- People have said the very same thing since the 60’s.They haven’t been right yet.,

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Reggie

I wonder what kind of tax breaks and credits the involved parties are getting. I’m willing to bet you won’t find these things in the Master Plan.

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Mac

We will regret the 12,000 unit affordable housing component of this project. We always do. All new housing should be market rate housing and the older housing stock will “rotate “ into less expensive (more affordable) housing. Haven’t we learned our lesson with clustering low income housing in one place with places like Queensbridge, Astoria Houses, Woodside Houses and Ravenswood? It’s always disastrous.

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Bernie

How is everyone going to get the only train the 7 which is overcrowded already. We need better transport

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Guest

Why not just buy Sunnyside and tear down the eyesore jiuses and build a new town?
This is the problem with NY. These people and the city don’t want to help community, they want to fill their own pockets. How do you allow more people in such small footprint.

Amazon Bad, Developing new city within city is Good????

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Been there done that

This is going to be a dung show like Atlantic Yards. Promises made and years later still no housing that’s affordable near the Barclay Center. In addition, absolutely no follow thru daily by Empire State Development, as they continue to have a revolving door of CEO’s and staff. Community agreements ignored, and political hacks in charge of community affairs like the sr. vp of community relations who you can tell someone is giving him talking points, as he continues to give the community no answers.

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JOR

The adopted Master Plan must have an iron-clad provision that Jimmy Van Bramer has nothing to do with the construction of any new libraries.

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ABoondy

well, at least there’s a real park. sunnyside has no green space parks except for the graveyard.

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enough already

western queens already has the largest affordable public housing in the nation approx 3000 units (queensbridge housing) now we are going to be adding 12000 more units?? what this, send all your shit to queens. look at the % of affordable housing in Hudson yards. this is total bullshit. its time the law abiding tax paying home owners of western queens had a say with whats going on here not the bloody spoiled little transients that show up for a year or 2. I hope there is never a shovel put in the ground

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Anonymous

Nice. Start building already. It’s long overdue. This city needs more housing. No one is benefitting from the rails just sitting there. They need to be buried out of sight.

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Anon

All housing should be market rate. You can’t gentrify a rail yard. The city can do better than building yet another vertical ghetto.

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UnaffordableHousingUnits

Global recession is coming due to coronavirus outbreak. Good luck renting out those units. Maybe they could build a quarantine facility for the thousands that will become infected.

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