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Thread: Sunnyside Yards

  1. #1
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    Default Sunnyside Yards

    Lately, we've been contemplating exciting proposals for major development projects atop two key rail yards: Hudson Yards on the Far West Side of Manhattan and Atlantic Ave. Yards in Brooklyn. We may differ on the particulars of the what should be built on those yards, but I think we agree that these projects have the potential to bring about transformations of their surrounding neighborhoods, as the construction of Park Ave. did many years ago.

    Of course, New York City's largest open-air rail yard is Sunnyside Yards in Queens. Sunnyside is critical to the operations of LIRR, NJ Transit, Amtrak, and the subway system -- but it plays a very disruptive role in the urban fabric of western Queens. Development of the yards could provide a tremendous amount of new housing and connect surrounding communities by improving the street grid.

    Key issues and opportunities include:

    - Long Island City redevelopment: the city hopes to attract large-scale office development to Jackson Av., the northwestern edge of the site.

    - East Side Access - The plan to bring LIRR to Grand Central Terminal includes a new LIRR/Amtrak station in Sunnyside Yards, near Queens Blvd. and the LIC office buildings. The shift of LIRR trains away from Penn Station would free up capacity to bring some Metro-North trains into Penn (just some from the New Haven line), and these could also stop at Sunnyside.

    - "Super Express" - long-delayed proposal for express subway line linking 63rd Street Tunnel with Eastern Queens could run through Sunnyside Yards.

    Here's my question for the board: is Sunnyside a viable development site (after the costs of decking over the rail yards are taken into account)? Should New York begin developing a master plan on the scale of Battery Park City? Can sale of the yards' air rights help finance construction of the Super Express?

    Also -- I heard that some proposals for development of Sunnyside were floated a number of years ago. Does anybody remember the specifics of these proposals?

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    P.S. Since we're bringing the Jets to Hudson Yards, and the Nets to Atlantic Yards, should we move the Mets to Sunnyside?

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    I have an article somewhere's in my magazine collection, Ill dig it up.

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    A new Shea staidum above Sunnyside yard makes perfect sense, it's more conveinant to more people, with a new rail station being built near Laguardia College it has the potential to brings fans from Connecticut (Metro North New Haven line), Long Island and New Jersey to the stadium.

    It would be a huge boon for the neighborhood, and for the Mets.

    The only problem would be the complexity of the deal, the yards on the West Side of Manhattan and Brooklyn are both owned by the MTA and the State of NY.

    Sunnyside is owned by Amtrak, a Federal supported agency.

    Anything involving the Federal Government is complicated, look at how long it's taking getting the Postal Service to turn over part of the Farley Post Office to the State of NY to get the "New" Penn Station project going.

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    Ancient article... but still interesting... Ah, to have Amtrak thinking big again!

    The New York Times
    PERSPECTIVES: The Sunnyside Yards; Amtrak's Grand Vision for Its Air Rights
    By ALAN S. OSER
    Published: May 28, 1989

    NOW it's Amtrak's turn at trying to make use of the huge development opportunity at the Sunnyside railyards in Long Island City, Queens. The national passenger railroad has taken on a development manager and started planning that could open 150 acres of land there for large-scale commercial and residential development over the next decade and beyond.

    New Yorkers will think they have heard that song before. At least since Nelson A. Rockefeller's days as Governor in the 60's, when Penn Central ran the maintenance and repair yard, plans have been floated for construction on a platform above it. Once Samuel J. LeFrak wanted to build middle-income housing. Another time there was talk of a domed stadium for the New York Jets.

    On the other hand, Citibank's new 55-story, one-million-square-foot office building in Long Island City has lifted real estate values and energized sales activity in the entire area. And development planning is advancing for other office sites, as well as for the 68-acre East River waterfront proposal in Hunters Point, on which the public land-use review is expected to start in the fall.

    Accordingly, it is not unrealistic to look on the unutilized development rights at the Sunnyside yards - so close to midtown Manhattan - as one of the city's principal land banks. Its current manufacturing zoning is obsolete, and eventually Amtrak would have to seek public approval through the land-use review process to get the zoning and other approvals needed for constuction.

    The question is, will Amtrak find it possible to work its way through New York City's tortuous development process to the point where it can market buildable sites? Are any of these large-site development projects on privately owned land conceivable unless the upfront development work is pursued by a public agency or authority?

    Beyond that, will the government restructuring that the New York City Charter Revision Commission is preparing complicate decision making on land use and thereby undercut endeavors of scale and scope that respond to citywide needs?

    ''Plans can work if there is not an attempt to overdevelop or put in place something that is not compatible with existing uses,'' said James P. Stuckey, president of the city's own development arm, the Public Development Corporation. In that context, Donald Trump's plan for Television City on former railyards on the West Side of Manhattan is likely to face heavy public opposition as long as it includes a 150-story office building.

    But outside Manhattan, Forest City Enterprise's Metrotech office development in downtown Brooklyn is the only multisite land-development project that has succeeded in attracting major back-office users who were close to relocating from Manhattan to New Jersey.

    The Sunnyside yards may offer one of the best opportunities for Queens back-office operations near the midtown Manhattan business district.

    Amtrak's efforts come at a time when another railroad operator in the city, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, has experienced a setback in what was almost a remarkable land-use plan for Manhattan -platformed development over the M.T.A.'s Caemmerer yard in the far West 30's. In January, after two years of effort, Gulf & Western abandoned its plan to build a new Madison Square Garden on a platform above the yard.

    THE platform would have created 30 acres of buildable property, on seven new city blocks, from 10th Avenue to 12th Avenue between West 30th and West 34th Streets. A master plan developed for the M.T.A. by Beyer Blinder Belle, architects and planners, envisioned the eventual phased development of 3,000 apartments on 12th Avenue, eight million square feet of office space on 11th Avenue and a 900-room convention hotel on land just south of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

    But Gulf & Western and the M.T.A., after two years of negotiations, could never agree on the appropriate location for the new Madison Square Garden within the redeveloped yards. So Gulf & Western decided to alter theexisting Garden instead.

    To find a company that intends to use a major block of new space and is willing to commit itself as the occupant, even though the development process is just starting, is unusual in New York City. Normally the site owner spends his own time and money on the process - as New York City is itself doing through the Public Development Corporation - or a developer takes on the task speculatively. Gulf & Western, it is safe to say, did not expect to be unable to come to terms with the M.T.A.

    In the case of Amtrak, the railroad's real estate department - based in Washington and headed by Tony DeAngelo, assistant vice president for real estate - has undertaken a variety of development projects along the Northeast Corridor. They have centered on station improvements, notably in Washington, Wilmington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Newark and New York.

    But there are also hopes for air-rights development. In Baltimore there is a potential for three million square feet. In Philadelphia, where Gerald Hines Interests has become the railroad's partner, there is a potential for 12 million to 30 million square feet on 60 acres adjacent to the 30th Street Station.

    In New York City Amtrak has chosen the Georgetown Group, whose principal is Marshall Rose, as development manager. Edgar A. Lampert, a Georgetown partner, is the project manager. Cooper Robertson & Partners has been hired to do the planning studies, and Vollmer Associates has undertaken the traffic and infrastructure studies.

    The Sunnyside yard runs from Laurel Hill Avenue on the east to Hunters Point Avenue on the west. If the land were laid out across Manhattan Island, it would cover an area from 42d Street to 59th Street, from Fifth to Lexington Avenues.

    The yard is crossed by a series of road bridges, one at Honeywell Street, now closed; another at 39th Street, which is open but in disrepair, and others on Queens Boulevard and Thomson Avenue. Below the bridges run the main lines of the Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak's trains bound for the north and northeast cut through.

    Traffic congestion at the approach to the Queensboro Bridge is already a Long Island City problem, but to a large extent the bottlenecks are caused by lack of separation of local and through traffic.

    The development of the yards might make it possible to devise a new road network to improve traffic flow through Long Island City, the consultants say.

    At the east end of the yards, 25 acres of land off 43d Street near the Sunnyside Gardens community would logically be developed as a first phase, with housing at a scale compatible with the existing neighborhood. No decking would be required since the land is free of tracks.

    JUST south of this land, General Motors is currently building an 80,000-square-foot service facility on a seven-acre site for three showrooms the company has recently built for Cadillac, Pontiac and Chevrolet on Northern Boulevard. Turner Construction Company is doing the construction, which it plans to complete in January.

    New York City also owns developable air rights above railroad property next to the Amtrak yards. They lie above land that the M.T.A. owns, and in some cases has leased out, which makes redevelopment a more difficult task.

    In past development attempts at the Sunnyside yards, the consultants pointed out, the owner was not directly involved. Third parties - builders, state officials and others - were making the proposals.

    This time Amtrak itself, as the owner, is doing the predevelopment work. ''We want to take into account the public issues like traffic and open space,'' said Mr. DeAngelo. ''We're hoping we can get some development started there in the early 90's.''

  6. #6
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    Here's a page tracking this issue:
    http://www.plannyc.org/project-84-Su...Yards-Platform

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    Let's see, they've been talking about this since at least 1989?

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    I don't think they were talking all that time although 17 years (+/- a decade or two) of talk for a major project in this city is about right.

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    "The Sunnyside Yards development proposal has been discussed by city planners, developers, and community advocates for decades. The report recommends that builders put between 18,000 and 35,000 housing units on the site, depending on the zoning. There would also be schools, parks land and an interposal transportation facility for the MTA, LIRR, Amtrak and bus service. Some advocates hope the project would include a guarantee of 50 percent affordable housing.

    The property, which is owned by Amtrak and is primarily used by New Jersey Transit, is enormous. It runs from Laurel Hill Avenue on the east to Hunters Point Avenue on the west. To put it into perspective, if the property were in Manhattan, it would span 42nd to 59th Street, from Fifth Avenue to Lexington Avenue."
    http://www.planyc.org/project-84-Sun...Yards-Platform

    Development of Sunnyside Yards would be as big and as important as the redevelopment of Queens Plaza making Queens the next "hot" thing, after Brooklyn

  10. #10

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    I'm all for this, but hopefully someone will be smart enough to leave even the empty parts of the Sunnyside property open(as in, do the development on a platform above those parts too). With rail becomming more and more attractive of a solution to the oil crisis, Sunnyside yard facility will probably need all the property to store trains.

    The offices at Jackson Av is perfect. It's RIGHT at the location of the proposed Sunnyside Station. This, along with ESA, probably will mean the death, however, of Hunterspoint Av station.

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    Imagine a Huge Convention Center on Top of Sunnyside Yards

    by Jeremiah Budin



    Sunnyside Yards, the 160-acre rail yard that cuts through Sunnyside, Queens, has been targeted as a potential site for a huge affordable housing complex situated on huge platform over its exposed train tracks. But these weekend in the New York Times, former deputy mayor and current Culture Shed chairman Dan Doctoroff put forth another, not-so-modest proposal, which is as follows: 1) Sell the Javits Center for around $4 billion and rezone it for residential development, 2) Build a new 3.1 million-square-foot convention center over Sunnyside Yards (Javits is 1.8 million square feet), 3) Also build some housing (50 percent affordable), hotels, offices, retail, etc. around the new convention center. The Javits Center, Doctoroff writes, is "too small for many events and can't compete with facilities in other cities," and Manhattan is too expensive for many convention travelers. Meanwhile, Sunnyside Yards "carves a nasty scar through the heart of Queens" but is also adjacent to Long Island City, "one of the most convenient, transit-friendly areas in the city." The only obstacle, he contends, is money, and the sale of the Javits Center could go a long way in that regard.

    The Daily News decided to ask some Sunnysiders what they think of all this, which is, as it turns out, not much. "I'm offended every time someone says there's a scar running through the neighborhoods that I represent," said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who added, "I have never had a constituent tell me that what we need is a convention center built smack dab in that neighborhood." Community Board 2 chairman Joseph Conley commented, "I don't see how a convention center would work there." Hey, it could be worse, Sunnyside—at least Dan Doctoroff isn't trying to bring you the Olympics.

    New York's Next Big Thing [NYT]
    Queens locals aren't thrilled with long-shot plan to put convention center and housing at Sunnyside Yards [NYDN]

    http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2014/1...side_yards.php

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    Sunnyside Yards Development Would Be Incredibly Difficult

    February 9, 2015, by Jeremiah Budin


    Image via Mayors Office/Crain's

    Sunnyside Yards, the 160-acre rail yard in Queens, is set to be the site of a major political/development battle as Mayor Bill de Blasio just announced plans to constructed a Stuyvesant Town-sized affordable housing development there, and Governor Andrew Cuomo immediately countered that the rail yard is needed for transit purposes while semi-endorsing former deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff's proposal to build a convention center there. As Crain's lays out, however, any development at—or, rather, on top of—Sunnyside Yards would be an incredibly difficult project due to its size, shape, topography, and complicated ownership.

    The question of who owns Sunnyside Yards is a not a simple one. The MTA and Amtrak both control portions, though the divisions are nebulous. General Motors also controls a small section, which it uses for "dealership activities." The land itself is also problematic—Mitchell Moss, director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at New York University, describes the bedrock as "soft," which would be problematic in terms of building, say, an eight million-square-foot platform with a small village on top of it. Any development would take an extremely long time and be very costly, which will not work in de Blasio's favor. Seth Pinsky, a former CEO of the city's Economic Development Corp. and current executive vice president at developer RXR Realty told Crain's, "It's a 30-year project where probably 50% of the costs will be incurred in the first five years."

    And, on top, of all that, the current residents of Sunnyside are going to vehemently oppose the project no matter what it is. In other words: good luck.

    Sunnyside on track for major land grab [Crain's]

    http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2015/0..._difficult.php

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    They should definitely develop the Sunnyside Yard, the tracks are a blight on Western Queens. I would like to see the land parcelled out and sold to private developers. The city would buy the land from the railroad, build a platform, and each plot would be auctioned off with priority to larger scale development. I'm really not interested in seeing the world's largest housing projects built here. It would be great to have a Stadium or Convention Center here but I don't think it's going to happen. Just let it grow organically, and make land allocations for public spaces within.

  14. #14

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    They could deck over it, but they can't get rid of it.

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    Semantics - they never got rid of the Grand Central yard either

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