March 6, 2019 By Nathaly Pesantez
The Sunnyside Yard master planning process continues on, as another meeting is scheduled to take place this month for the public to get involved in envisioning the possibilities over the expansive yard site.
The three-hour meeting will take place at 6 p.m. on March 26 at P.S. 166 in Astoria, and is the second in a series of public meetings organized by the city and Amtrak (which owns the majority of the yard) as a master plan—a long-term planning document describing a conceptual layout for the 180-acre site’s development—is currently being formulated.
The approximately 18-month master planning process, when concluded, will result in a framework that details aspects like housing and affordability, transportation, community facilities, parks and schools in the yard’s potential overbuild, along with development phases and timelines.
Work on the master plan began last summer, and is being developed by a team of architects, engineers, urban experts and more, who are also working with the Sunnyside Yard Steering Committee on devising the plan.
The committee, made up of dozens of local leaders and stakeholders that together help inform the site’s potential development and vision, also held its first of a series of quarterly meeting last summer, and will continue to meet until the master planning process wraps up.
These efforts toward laying the groundwork for the yard’s possible development, which have already met some opposition, are the latest in overbuild concepts first dating back to nearly a century ago for the site.
The second meeting, according to the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which is managing the yard’s potential design and buildout, will be an opportunity for the public to learn more about the master plan and contribute to the process, similar to the first meeting in October, which saw more than 375 people attend.
Some topics to be brainstormed at the March 26 event build on the general subjects seen in the first meeting, but are also more specific.
The event will have workshops, for example, ranging from subjects like open space at the yard, how the yard could be connected “to complement adjacent neighborhoods,” and even getting onto the yard and around it—all fundamental items to consider for the site’s potential development.
The night will begin with introductory remarks and a presentation, and will break out into two sessions, where attendees will be able to go around the many workshops to learn and contribute ideas.
The yard’s master planning process was briefly touched on during last month’s Community Board 2 land use committee meeting, headed by Lisa Deller, who is also a member of the Sunnyside Yard Steering Committee.
“It’s really interesting to think futuristically—to think 20, 30, 40 years from now what anyone’s life is going to be like,” she said, referring to the master plan that is likely to describe possible development phases for the yard over the course of several decades.
The steering committee has had to think of, among other topics, what waste disposal and energy consumption might look like in the future, and how that will inform the framework for the yard.
“That’s why to participate in the study is really fascinating, because you have a chance to think about the future in ways you don’t really get to,” Deller said.
Alexis Wheeler, deputy director for the Queens Borough office of the Department of City Planning, also gave some insight into the site’s unique features and accommodating for them during the land use meeting.
“We’re not talking about something that’s the same as Hudson Yards,” Wheeler said, referring to the Manhattan megaproject also built above an active rail yard. “In this case a lot of the deck is going to be elevated over the surrounding context,” she said, meaning that development over the yard, if ultimately pursued, will make for a project site at a higher point than the neighborhoods adjacent to it, like Sunnyside and Astoria.
Some points along the yard could see height differences of 30 to 50-feet from surrounding areas—a challenge for the planning team to sort when thinking of how to provide transportation and access to the overbuild site.
“If you want to walk to that, then there are certain points where you have to think about what it would be to go up five stories worth of ramp,” Wheeler said.
Making these neighborhoods feel “connected” to the overbuild, as well as accessing the site from outside, is a subject referred to in planning terms as “edge conditions.”
“The two things to really crack here are the edge conditions and the transportation,” Wheeler said. “If they can crack those things, then this site has a lot of potential.”
The second public meeting of the Sunnyside Yard Master Plan will take place on Tuesday, March 26 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at P.S. 166 Henry Gradstein Elementary School, located at 33-09 35th Ave. To RSVP, visit the meeting’s eventbrite page.
Light food and refreshments will be served. Activities for children ages 10 and under will also be available.
The venue is wheelchair accessible. Interpretation services can be accommodated upon request by contacting Eleni Bourinaris, NYCEDC, at [email protected] at least one week prior to the meeting.