Amid Skepticism, Massive Sunnyside Yard Project Holds First Public Meeting

 Aerial view of Sunnyside Yard, proposed site of a massive development project. Photo courtesy of NYCEDC

Aerial view of Sunnyside Yard, proposed site of a massive development project. Photo courtesy of NYCEDC

By David Brand

Plans for the latest massive development project in Queens have begun to take shape above the train tracks at Sunnyside Yard and the agency spearheading the vast proposal is asking for community input, amid concerns over congestion and displacement.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) will host the first Sunnyside Yard project public meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 24 at 6 p.m. at CUNY’s LaGuardia Community College’s atrium in Long Island City.

“As this is the first public meeting we mostly want to hear from the members of the public that live and work in the area,” said Shavone Williams, a spokeswoman for NYCEDC. “Participants will learn about key aspects of the Master Planning process, they’ll have the opportunity to voice their ideas about the neighborhood and be part of a growing community that will inform the Sunnyside Yard Master Plan.”

The proposed project would cover the the 180-acre train yard with platforms, where developers would build an entirely new neighborhood, akin to the Hudson Yard project in Western Manhattan.

The Sunnyside Yard master planning process officially began in the summer with the formation of a 41-member steering committee that includes community leaders, businesspeople and planning experts — not all of whom support the project.

“I haven’t come across anyone in Queens who thinks this is a good idea,” steering committee member Melissa Orlando, executive director of Access Queens told The New York Times in August.

Orlando, whose organization advocates for better public transportation, said the project could increase congestion.

In May, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer told the Sunnyside Post he would “never” support the project because he did not expect it to honor community input.

“I think, once again, this is part of the problem with this administration where they have a vision of what they want our community to look like, but it’s not our vision,” Van Bramer said. “The fact that they are moving forward in the way that they’re moving forward is outrageous, and I am not going to support a plan to build massive towers over Sunnyside Yards.”

The rail yard, one of the busiest in the United States, is used as a train storage yard and maintenance hub for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, New Jersey Transit and Long Island Rail Road.

Urban planners, developers and city officials have sought to build over the yard since the property first opened in 1910, NYCEDC said.

The event will feature six stations designed to solicit input from community members on specific issues like community character, quality of life and open space.