By Emily Sharpe
Special to the Eagle
We’ve probably all seen a movie where the public defender in a trial instructs the dubious jurors to close their eyes, relax and do their best to envision what it would be like to walk in the shoes of the accused.
Well, if you have roots in Sunnyside, Astoria, Long Island City or anywhere nearby, you should close your eyes and imagine this:
Imagine looking at a wall three stories high, cordoning off the Sunnyside Yards rail yards along its borders.
Glance up higher — up to 10 stories — as you walk along Skillman Avenue, Northern Boulevard or 43rd Street to see large, high-density buildings of varying heights and shapes, including pencil-shaped glass towers with 70 floors, 13-story behemoths and everything in between.
If you’ve seen Hudson Yards, LIC or the Williamsburg waterfront, you know exactly how this new, walled-off enclave of 25,000 to 60,000 residents will look and feel.
Though planners claim they will take pains to account for the historic low-rise district of Sunnyside Gardens and the high-rises of LIC for purposes of determining where to place certain buildings, there is no doubt that any building sitting on a platform will cast shadows over the coveted garden homes, actual gardens and adjacent areas, robbing everyone below of sun, sky and clouds.
Moreover, any new neighborhood built over a rail yard that slopes upward from a perimeter wall could never connect the neighborhoods of Sunnyside and Astoria — as the master planner of the Sunnyside Yards project will tell you.
The new enclave will feature limited access for cars — due to impossible grades — and a new boulevard that traverses the length of the yards. Pedestrian entrances will only be reached via escalators and ramps in switch-back patterns. Thus, residents will witness a new gated Oz in their midst.
It will be a modern, high-tech, luxury-land looming over the rest of us with estimated rents ranging from $5,500 for a modest 1-bedroom to $7,600 for a 2-bedroom within 10 years.
Also imagine 10, 20, 50 years’ worth of construction noise, dust, and traffic congestion.
We should learn from another mega-railyard project occurring right now: Atlantic Yards, where a 10-year plan to build has become a 25-year plan.
Where accounts of jack-hammering every single night during a five-week period between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. were described as torture; where construction that begins at 7 a.m. six days a week is the norm.
Did you know that building a platform over the busiest rail yard in the U.S. will require endless overnight weekend work at Sunnyside Yards to avoid disruption to train traffic?
Learn from Atlantic Yards about the lack of accountability from the agencies in charge and from the original developers who have sold their rights and are, by now, long gone.
Fast forward to the reality of Atlantic Yard’s privately-owned public spaces, which are open to all, except when they aren’t. There, a promised seasonal running track and ice-skating rink on top of Barclays Center instead became a “green roof” installed to absorb concert noises. Twelve-foot-high parking garage vents are planned to be placed in a park meant for relaxation and fresh air.
Fast forward to unreliable, part-time employment, with no health insurance. Union jobs were promised by developers at Atlantic Yards, but they never materialized. And of course, the promised “affordable” housing promised levels has not become a reality.
Now open your eyes, and come to Sunnyside on Monday to hear the Economic Development Corporation present this ill-conceived project.
Emily Sharpe is an attorney and the founder of Stop Sunnyside Yards. The New York City Economic Development Corporation will host a forum on the project Monday in Long Island City.