The city is officially moving forward on developing a neighborhood over the Sunnyside Yards by launching a master planning process this summer. The Economic Development Corporation announced today that Alicia Glen, deputy mayor of economic development and Anthony Coscia, chairman of Amtrak, which owns most of the space, signed a letter of intent to collaborate on the plan. The EDC’s announcement confirms Crain’s New York Business’ March 29 report that urbanist Vishaan Chakrabarti will be heading the master plan team. But more people are involved! Cali Williams, an EDC vice president for the last decade, now has the title: director of Sunnyside Yard. And a steering committee headed by Elizabeth Lusskin, president of the Long Island City Partnership and Sharon Greenberger, head of the YMCA for Greater New York (what?) will be consulting on the plan. But wait… what about elected officials who don’t want this to happen?
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, whose district spans both the LIC and Sunnyside sides of the yards, has been vocal against this project. How the EDC and mayor’s office will be able to push this ahead without the support from the 26th city council rep, I’m really not sure. The yards would have to be rezoned to allow residential development and super tall buildings, something the council member would have to approve. Sunnyside Post reported shortly after the EDC’s announcement today that JVB and State Rep. Catherine Nolan, who also opposes the plan, complained the city went around them on this. Well of course.
Councilman Costa Constantinides, screenshot from City Council webpage
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, screenshot from City Council webpage
The Astoria Postreports that City Councilman Costa Constantinides is probably eyeing the Queens borough president seat for 2021 when Melinda Katz vacates. Constantinides, who is serving his final term as council-member, held a fundraiser with a maximum donation of $3,850, the top limit allowed for borough president. A flyer for the fundraiser reads, “I hope I can count on you as we expand upon our legacy and fight for higher office after my current term ends.” If true, this makes the second city council member from Western Queens eying the beep race. It was revealed in February that Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer formed a Queens Borough President exploratory committee.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer clashed with Streetsblog NYC over the weekend. Last Friday, Streetsblog published a story titled, “Jimmy Van Bramer Called for a Protected Bike Lane on 43rd Avenue a Year Ago Today. Now He’s Undecided.” The post came a year after Corona resident Gelacio Reyes was killed on his bike by a drunk driver. The tragedy galvanized support for enhancements such as protected bike lanes in the 43rd and Skillman avenues area in Sunnyside. JVB indeed supported that. But at a March 26 town hall, he said, “Nothing is a done deal, this is a proposal,” Streetsblog reported. “I listened to every single word that every single person said here today.”
Streetsblog tweeted with its article, “Hard to think of a more brazen about-face on a major street safety project in NYC than @JimmyVanBramer abandoning the 43rd Ave protected bike lane.”
In his statement, the councilman said he still believes in the measures but added his respects for the approval process.
“We are going through the process which, though Streetsblog may not like it, includes the DOT presenting to the local community board… While some may be frustrated with the process, I believe Community Boards play a role and should be included in such plans.”
“Statement from @JimmyVanBramer contradicts nothing in today’s story. A year after saying DOT should install protected bike lanes where Gelacio Reyes was killed, he does not support DOT’s plan for protected lanes on 43rd and Skillman.”
JVB had a much better day with the press last week when he was given credit for the city’s decision to remove parked garbage trucks from the streets by the Ravenswood Houses.
Joelle, 17 (orange vest), one of the organizers of today’s Women’s Ride in Queens: “As a woman being a cyclist, there’s a lot of gender discrimination” in the form of mansplaining or street harassment, she says. “So we wanted to say women should feel strong & impowered to ride.” pic.twitter.com/3Ym5A6Gw0K
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer will be at LaGuardia Community College tomorrow for the opening reception of “The Lavender Line: Coming Out in Queens,” an exhibit on the last 25 years of LGBT activism in Queens.
At this month’s Community Board 1 full meeting, members said they’d be sending out a survey for Ravenswood area residents. The idea, apparently, is to have some measure on how residents feel about changes happening in the area in regards to all the development going on. This should help the board in future land use reviews and all that kind of stuff. The same survey will go out throughout CB1 but it will start in Ravenswood because there’s so much development happening here. I think I can name some of it:
The twin Alma towers at 34-46 Vernon Boulevard. It looks finished, doesn’t it? But someone pointed out to me recently the fences weren’t on the balconies yet.
The survey will go out to tenants association type groups CB1 members said but be on the lookout for it in local newspapers, if you guys read those things.
A few notes:
$450,000 year-round exercise equipment at Queensbridge park, a $500,000 soil science lab at the Ravenswood Houses? These are a couple of the eight ideas that are up for a vote in the 26th council district at the 4th round of participatory budgeting.
A 7 Train Coalition launched to fight gentrification along the 7 line but I wish they’d call it Occupy the 7 Train.
The deep end of 44th Drive west of Vernon Boulevard in Hunters Point is usually a quiet stretch, all concrete and bricks with a great Midtown skyline view. But today several dozen people, including elected officials of the area, held a rally around some parked cars to say no to the city’s current rezoning and development plans for the strip. The current plan calls for rezoning two lots for housing, manufacturing, offices, park space and a school. The protesters say too much is being given away.
The Economic Development Corporation put out Requests for Proposals early in 2016 to redevelop 5-40 and 4-99 44th Drive where the Department of Transportation and the defunct Water’s Edge restaurant are. Last summer the EDC revealed its plan with TF Cornerstone as developer. The plan involves 1,000 rental units and 100,000 square feet of industrial space. Some 250 or 25% of the units are supposed to be affordable.
Long Island City Coalition and allies want a shot at influencing a different plan. Part of the issue is population density given the state of transit and what’s said to be overcrowded schools. “We’re being walled in,” a musician said to the crowd. Instead, opponents have floated ideas such as more park space, a community center or a big school. “A permanent solution for overcrowding is this beautiful building,” someone said of the DOT behemoth behind the rally. “This is a public space. We own this,” Brent O’Leary of the Hunters Point Civic Association said.
I asked Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer if he has a plan to bring an alternative plan to the EDC. “EDC has to come to the table,” he said, as in have forums where the community weighs in. I asked how long it will take to get an alternative plan through. “Whatever amount of time that would take, it’s worth taking.”
I stalked Councilman Jimmy van Bramer today. Well, for five minutes I swung by the annual black history month celebration at the Jacob Riis Settlement at Queensbridge. I stood quietly in the back and noticed there was lots of free food. JVB honored a whole bunch of people. Here’s a whole list of them. What I heard sounded like a tribute to people making their community a great place by doing things such as anti-violence work.
Old news: A few days ago Councilman Costa Constantinides announced he’s officially going through with making over Steinway Street: he wants there to be mid-block crosswalks and a plaza. But I’m… not sure when and how? And he doesn’t seem to be sure where this plaza will be. Too bad no one reads this yet. I’d say, post your opinion on where the plaza should go.