“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”

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Amazon to come to Anable Basin

The Anable Basin was controversial even before Amazon said it would show up. Less than a year ago, City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, other local pols and various LIC activists were there to protest a plan to turn the strip at 44th Drive at the waterfront into a development that would somehow involve residential and industrial uses altogether. Well — no one cares about that anymore, because Amazon is coming, which is apparently the biggest business story in a while and it’s down the street from my apartment. A memorandum of understanding shows where Amazon plans to set up shop for part of it’s HQ2, and it’s the same area, just south of Con Edison. JVB and Senator Michael Gianaris were initially down with Amazon coming to LIC, but held a protest at the site today saying this was a huge $3 billion giveaway that won’t involve any public review. The mayor says the 25,000 jobs or more promised over a decade is unprecedented and the governor says the return on investment would be nine to one.  Continue reading “Amazon to come to Anable Basin”

Comptroller comes to LIC to take on City Hall

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A great grandfather at the front of the line for the microphone told Comptroller Scott Stringer he’s sick of bridges and streets getting named after politicians. Stringer said he admitted he fantasized of one day telling his son that “Stringerway” was once called “Broadway.” 

Stringer, an almost-2013 candidate for mayor and thought-to-be 2021 mayoral hopeful, had the jokes at his Long Island City town hall at the CUNY School of Law. When one person insisted that City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer has his eyes set on being mayor, Stringer said, don’t you hate people who want to be mayor? 

Stringer wasn’t just here to understand the needs of one region of Queens. He was here to make allies in his fight against City Hall – and probably for it. He knew that many of the complaints would be about housing and development. That’s everywhere, but in LIC, the towers are shooting up around us into the sky and the people are anxious about school space, train space, park space and sewage. Stringer is positioned as a high-level politician with views juxtaposed to the mayor’s housing strategy, setting himself as a more progressive alternative. 

“I don’t believe that this is how we should build our city,” he said in reference to Alicia Glen, deputy mayor for economic development. “We’ve got to change the system. And the way we’re building our city is, we’re doing it backwards.”   Continue reading “Comptroller comes to LIC to take on City Hall”

Seven story mixed-use building slated for deep Dutch Kills

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A two story, two family home built in 1915 is slated to be demolished in way of a seven story mixed-use building at 33-10 38th Avenue, down near Astoria Seafood and the Paper Factory Hotel.  The building will have 20, most likely rental apartments, and some sort of community facility, New York YIMBY reported recently.  Continue reading “Seven story mixed-use building slated for deep Dutch Kills”

HomeMark 99¢ strip on 31st Street to become “Astoria Artisan Food Hall”

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The Commercial Observer reports that the low-key strip on 31st Street and 35th Avenue with HomeMark 99¢ on the corner is set to be torn down and replaced with an “Astoria Artisan Food Hall.” Developer Vass Stevens Group bought the strip at 34-39 31st Street last October and already got rid of the tenants and demolished the interiors, apparently. It plans to divide the building into eight storefronts and aims to include, says the Observer, “a coffee roaster, a microbrewery, a specialty dessert bakery and an Asian concept.” There was also mention of “ethnic Hispanic concepts… Fitness concepts, performance groups and creative tenants.”  Continue reading “HomeMark 99¢ strip on 31st Street to become “Astoria Artisan Food Hall””

35th Ave and 12th Street building could look like this

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A rendering of the obscure Ravi Management’s planned eight story building for the southwest corner of 12th Street and 35th Avenue shows a light-toned jumbo cube. Maybe I couldn’t see the rendering if it was shown at the hearing over the item at CB1’s land-use committee’s rezoning hearing last month – but it was shown on a slide at a full Community Board 1 meeting last night, where the board approved of the rezoning plan with certain stipulations.

Continue reading “35th Ave and 12th Street building could look like this”

Halletts Point temp arts site to get Coffeed

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That two-headed glassy building underway at 10 Halletts Point appears almost finished and is supposed to begin leasing this summer. But meanwhile, plenty of the dead space that will make up the seven-building development languishes as most of the project has been stalled. The Real Deal reported earlier this month that the Durst Organization plans to enliven the dead waterfront space in the meanwhile starting this summer (lasting maybe a few years?) with a cultural arts center involving “a stage and a fenced off area for film, dance, music and other events.” Corner has learned that Frank “Turtle” Raffaele, CEO of Coffeed, has partnered with Durst to set up a temporary Coffeed location at the temporary site. The site has been reported as 27th Avenue and 1st Street. But there are kind of two or three different locations at that intersection, the fenced off lot across from 10 Halletts point at the north, a low-rise building of some sort at the south part, and another weird lot south of that where a strange glass thing was standing until recently. I asked Raffaele if the location was where the strange glass thing was and he nodded, but I’m still not sure. In any case, I like that he knew what I was talking about. Continue reading “Halletts Point temp arts site to get Coffeed”