BY BENJAMIN FANG
After 18 months of planning, community engagement and technical analysis, the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has finally released its master plan for Sunnyside Yard. Last month, the city agency and Amtrak unveiled their framework to deck over the 180-acre railyard to build a new neighborhood in western Queens in the coming decades.
The master plan first calls for the creation of Sunnyside Station, a regional rail hub that would connect the area to other parts of New York City and other cities in the northeast. Tom Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said Sunnyside Yard is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that presents achievable goals,” including the new rail hub.
“As a member of the steering committee, I clearly heard the adamant request for a Sunnyside Station to connect with multiple transit lines,” Grech said, “something that has been discussed for years and will come to fruition under the master plan.”
The plan also calls for 12,000 units of affordable housing, 60 acres of open space, and other “social infrastructure” and amenities.
“Sunnyside Yard presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a new model for affordable housing and equitable development,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “We are fighting for a New York that New Yorkers can afford.”
Half of the affordable homes built in Sunnyside Yard will be for low-income New Yorkers. At least half of those units, roughly 3,000 apartments, will be restricted for families earning below 50 percent of the area median income (AMI), which is currently $48,050 for a family of three. The other 3,000 apartments will be for families earning 30 percent of the AMI, or $28,830 for a family of three. All rental units will be rent-stabilized, according to EDC.
The remaining 6,000 homes in the plan will be part of an affordable homeownership program that helps families build wealth through a financing mechanism based on the Mitchell-Lama Housing Program. This program will target families making around 100 percent of the AMI, which is about $96,000 for a family of three.
According to EDC, the 12,000 new homes would make Sunnyside Yard the largest planned affordable community in the city since Co-Op City in the Bronx was built in the 1970s. The plan offers more affordable homes than Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village combined.
Adam Grossman Meagher, EDC’s senior vice president and director of Sunnyside Yard, said in an interview that the Sunnyside Yard plan is a long-term, generational vision. It would essentially create new public land to build affordable housing, open space and other resources necessary for a neighborhood.
“This is a really exceptional and one-of-a-kind civic asset,” he said. “We should use that asset wisely.”
In theory, Meagher said, the project could have maximized density and had more private development. But what EDC and project consultants heard from residents was a desire for more affordable housing and mid-rise development that was “reflective of the character” of western Queens.
“This is an example of one of the ways the community planning process we went through shaped the plan,” he said. “It’s an intense need that continues.”