City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer on Sunnyside Yards

Jim Henderson/Wikimedia Commons

For a century, one vision after another to build atop the Sunnyside rail yard has failed to become reality – and the local councilman sees the same risk with the latest idea.

“No plan to develop Sunnyside Yards has been presented to me or to the community,” New York City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “There’s simply been an idea floated, which Mayor (Bill) de Blasio is not the first person to float. It’s impossible to comment on a plan or have an opinion of a plan that doesn’t exist.”

During his 2015 State of the City address, de Blasio called for the construction of a deck over the rail yard and engineering a new neighborhood above the land primarily owned by Amtrak and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. De Blasio envisioned 11,250 affordable homes anchoring the new community – although Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office quickly dismissed the mayor’s proposal.

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Nonetheless, the city commissioned a study, released in February, that found building apartments over Sunnyside Yards could be done. At a cost of about $10 billion, the city could cover 70 acres of the rail yard with schools and retail shops, up to 20 acres of open space and up to 15,000 new apartments, including at least 3,300 affordable units. If necessary, the city could reportedly build around the roughly 17 percent of this site controlled by the MTA, which is run by the governor. With support from the MTA, the city could extend the project area to all but about 4 percent of the rail yard and create up to 24,000 new apartments – including at least 4,200 affordable ones – at a cost of $16 billion to $19 billion.

Van Bramer said the number of housing units discussed in the feasibility study was “alarming” because the growth in population would overwhelm the area’s already stressed transit and infrastructure systems. If Van Bramer had his way, a green space rivaling Central Park would rise above the rail yards and connect several communities currently broken up by the tracks.

The New York City Economic Development Corp. is meeting with communities surrounding Sunnyside Yards to share the results of the study and solicit feedback on the area’s future.

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