BQX: public meetings Feb-June

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A portion of the BQX streetcar line, connecting Queens and Brooklyn, would run through 21st Street from 44th Drive to Astoria Boulevard.

The city will be holding public meetings on the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) through the first half of this year. The Economic Development Corporation’s new BQX website lists workshops in “February/March 2020” and public hearings in “May/June 2020.” The EDC released a conceptual design report in summer 2018.

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Coverage: Crain’s, Queens Courier, Gothamist, Brooklyn Eagle

 

Protesters hold press conference at Sunnyside Yards

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Screen-grab of photo from @ivanr_contreras Twitter account

The Justice For All Coalition and other activist groups held a weekday noontime press conference at the Sunnyside Yards today, calling for a moratorium on all mega-projects and large-scale rezonings. The protesters also called on the Economic Development Corporation and the Department of City Planning to:

“allocate the tens of billions of dollars intended to develop the yards instead to restore public housing, repair and expand our crumbling infrastructure, save small businesses, and restore habitability for all, not just the wealthy.”

According to a tweet from community organizer Ivan Contreras, more than 100 people participated in the rally. A flyer shows endorsements from 46 organizations, such as obvious ones including Woodside on the Move and Queens Neighborhoods United. There are also endorsements from a few non-local groups such as Coalition to Protect Chinatown & LES and Brooklyn Anti-gentrification Network. Access Queens is not listed.

The EDC is holding a “digital town hall” on December 4. I’m not sure how protesters will be able to crash it. You can sign up here.

 

Patch: Queensbridge didn’t know about Bernie rally

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From IG: BernieSanders

“Seemed to be a pretty white rally,” Bishop Mitchell Taylor told Patch

Presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders held a rally, boosted by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, at Queensbridge Park last Saturday without giving Queensbridge residents much advance notice, the outlet reported yesterday. The campaign said it handed out flyers at Queensbridge the Friday before and reached out to Tenants Association President April Simpson “as soon as they got her contact information.”

There were no flyers put up in the buildings. A tenants meeting scheduled for the same time as the rally went on as planned. Sanders had announced a rally in “Queens” during the last primary debate but didn’t specify the location, missing an opportunity to fill in QB residents. 

As I tweeted last week, if the rally were in AOC’s district, it could have been in Corona Park. Queensbridge, which Amazon opponents had inserted into the battle over the corporate headquarters debate, served as a relevant backdrop. “Let’s acknowledge the ground that we are on, which is the ground zero for the fight for public housing, and fully funded, dignified housing in the United States of America,” AOC said at the rally. 

Re Patch 

Rainey Park meeting?

The Parks Department with Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer hosted a scope meeting at the Noguchi Museum yesterday to solicit thoughts on the capital project to renovate Rainey Park.

What happened at the meeting? No, really, I’m asking. I only just received notice of the meeting in Astoria Post in my Google-alerts for Rainey Park one day late. JVB posted about the meeting yesterday at 11:05AM but I only seem to have seen his tweets about the Hunters Point Library opening this week and the new NBC show called “Sunnyside.”  A Google search for “jimmy van bramer rainey park noguchi” only brings up notice of the meeting in the Astoria Post article.

A call to JVB’s district office finds that the Parks Department was behind the outreach. And while I didn’t call the press line directly and can’t quote anyone, sounds like it wasn’t a heavily attended meeting. So I don’t know what else to say about the community outreach so far for how $7.5 mil will be spent.

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In other news, Suraj Patel is going to run for NY’s 12th congressional district again.

Community Land Trust Considered for Sunnyside Yards Master Plan

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Activists disrupt Sunnyside Yards meeting at Aviation High School.

At a rowdy third* public meeting for the Sunnyside Yards master plan, the new head of the planning team, Adam Grossman Meagher, said the team is considering a public land trust as part of the financing scheme.

“You can imagine part of this that’s created through traditional means,” Grossman Meagher said. “You can also imagine,” he said, part of the site as a community land trust.

A CLT is a community-based non-profit that owns the land, allowing residents to control the use, and are used to maintain affordability. There has been a CLT movement and a push in the city council.

The idea of a public land trust has been on the lists of demands by activists who’ve made their presence felt at the master plan community outreach meetings throughout the year.

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EDC’s Adam Grossman Meagher (right), LIC Partnership president, Elizabeth Lusskin (red dress) and a man guarding the door from protesters.

Protesters were a major part of this third general public meeting, holding an Occupy-style mic-check demonstration in the middle of the event. The lead protestor led the disruption from a table in the Aviation High School cafeteria where poster boards were on display around the periphery. The 50 or so participants in the call-and-response eventually targeted a small side-room where Grossman Meagher and lead consultant Vishaan Chakrabarti were leading a presentation on the emerging master plan. The protesters were not allowed inside but after they chanted a demand for entry, Grossman Meagher mentioned the CLT discussions off-handedly.

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A look at how the Master Plan is beginning to shape up.

Asked (to confirm) if the Economic Development Corporation was discussing the possibility of a CLT, Grossman Meagher said “yes,” and that the idea was on one of the poster boards. I couldn’t find the idea on the poster boards except for one board of a list of ideas heard by participants at public meetings.

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Sunnyside Yards BINGO? (Bottom left corner: CLT)

The team plans to have another meeting later this year and a master plan ready by sometime in winter. At this third general meeting, some ideas of how the plan is shaping up were on display. Check out those images in the slideshow below.

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*This was corrected: the EDC held the third, not fourth general public SSY master plan meeting.

JVB rallies for separate walkway on QBB

Council Member JVB rallies with Transportation Alternatives and Bike New York, source: Twitter @JimmyVanBramer

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who is running for borough president, rallied with transit advocates this morning for a separate walkway on the south side of the Queensborough Bridge.

The northern outer pathway of the bridge is currently used by both pedestrians and cyclists, with just a narrow painted division down the middle. The full pathway is 11 feet wide and the bike side is two directional. The bridge saw 6,556 bike trips in one summer day in 2017, Transportation Alternatives says.

JVB arrives for rally, source: Twitter: @JimgmyVanBramer

TA had been petitioning Van Bramer to support opening up the southern outer pathway on the bridge for pedestrian use to separate cyclists from foot traffic. The council member is now pushing the Department of Transportation.

“We don’t need any starchitects” -community lays heat on Sunnyside Yards planners

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Vishaan Chakrabarti – whom for some reason was only addressed as “Vishaan” – the head architect involved in the Sunnyside Yards master plan, had the P.S. 166 auditorium lights dimmed to better show his slide show, leaving him a silhouette against abstract layouts of the rail yard. He expressed how given the high rises at the Queens Plaza end of the yards and the near-suburban Sunnyside Gardens district at its opposite end, the team was looking into wider spread mid-rises, and not just high-rises. He said the team was looking for a “sweet spot” of human scale blocks. He said the yards is an opportunity to right wrongs such as trash piles and sludge puddles at curbs. 

But the first question, from a Community Board 2 member, was how this was going to be paid for. Neither Chakrabarti or Cali Williams, who leads the master plan team, wanted to discuss the price tag, which has been projected at $16 to 19 billion. “This is a complicated and challenging site,” and the costs and funding will be figured out along the way, Williams said. 

This was the second public meeting for the Sunnyside Yards, two years after a feasibility report was released. About a year ago, Chakrabarti’s Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, was tapped to join the master plan team, with Williams, an Economic Development Corporation vet, at its head. 

When Williams tried to end the Q&A to get to the breakout sessions, a woman interrupted her to say there were more questions in the room, which filled out with a few hundred people. Many applauded the interruption. Williams caved and said she’d allow two more questions. 

The first questioner then, thanked and praised the planning team. “What I hear is that you guys want to do the right thing,” he said. “Nobody gets shafted in this, generally.” 

That guy set the whole thing off. A younger guy near me stood up and shot back about how his friends have been removed from Astoria, Ravenswood and the nearby neighborhoods. He said when the affordable units come, “good luck trying to win the lottery to get there in the first place!” Many people applauded. 

I attended a breakout session on urban design. Somehow I wound up at the one table, apparently, that didn’t have any activists. First our guide showed us pictures of existing buildings, each from a neighborhood in Western Queens, with a corresponding grid showing how much Floor Area Ratio the building used per block. We were asked to put a sticker on the picture we thought would be most appropriate for the Sunnyside Yards. After examining all the pictures, I pointed out that the pictures were misleading – and I wasn’t trying to be especially clever. The tallest-thinnest looking building somehow took up more space on a block than a smaller and wider-looking building took up of a different block. And the buildings were all totally different styles, including public housing. Continue reading ““We don’t need any starchitects” -community lays heat on Sunnyside Yards planners”