City: Sunnyside Yards yes, BQX maybe later

Images from EDC and Friends of the BQX.

There are two threads of headlines this week for the LIC and Astoria area: 

  1. The city is officially moving forward with a Sunnyside Yards development master plan.
  2. The city officially left important BQX stuff out of its budget. 

That means, the city is on top of developing a mega housing development over the Sunnyside Yards (a lot of people in Astoria and LIC don’t know what that is, but it’s the huge swath of train land east of Northern Boulevard that you see from either the N/W or 7 trains when approaching or leaving Queensborough Plaza). But when it comes to running a streetcar through LIC and Astoria to connect with Brooklyn, it’s just not there yet. 

Background. Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed both of these major infrastructure projects as potential landmark goals of his. Both would be major additions to Northwest Queens with potentially transformative effects. He proposed developing housing over the Sunnyside Yards during his second State of the City address in 2015. He proposed the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) in his third SOTC address in 2016. The Sunnyside Yards proposal involves decking over the yards to build a set of buildings up to 69 stories tall to help BDB meet his affordable housing goals and create more units for a growing population. A study released last year found the project could cost $16 to 19 billion. The streetcar would serve the population that’s already growing along the East River waterfront in Brooklyn and Queens. The idea for BQX is to better connect residents and workers along the waterfront as more housing and workplaces appear. The mayor’s proposal put the cost at $2.5 billion. 

It seems to me the Sunnyside Yards has gotten less attention (because, it doesn’t touch Brooklyn?) but this proposal has been floating around a year longer than BQX. Some publications point out that building over the yards is an idea that has come up many times, but I really don’t think this is the same thing. The fact that it’s the mayor proposing it, and that it is part of his number one goal (housing), sets it apart, IMHO. But there was reason to see this not going anywhere. Governor Andrew Cuomo called the project a no-go immediately after BDB announced it. And virtually all elected officials (including Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer) whose districts cover the yards have spoken against the proposal. But meanwhile the Economic Development Corporation arranged a mega-team for the mega-project, as it plans to launch a planning process this summer

The BQX, which seems to be talked about more (which isn’t crazy, as it would touch so many neighborhoods) is on the back-burner. Crain’s New York Business reports that while the administration recently said it’s finishing up a feasibility project on the BQX, the EDC left important planning and research funds out of its next budget, confirming the outlet’s same findings about the EDC’s initial budget proposal. 

The EDC is involved in both the Sunnyside Yards and the BQX proposals. The EDC created a planning team and advisory committee for the yards, while the BQX has its own non-profit cheerleader group advocating for it and building a coalition. I will be covering both stories and both groups, characters and all. 



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