The New York Times highlighted P.S. 111 in upper Long Island City this week as a school Mayor de Blasio’s “Renewal” program has failed to help. The program, launched in 2014, invested millions in the city’s 94 poorest schools. The Times reports that non-public internal documents said in as early as December 2015 that a third of those schools would not likely meet the program’s goals.
P.S. 111, or the Jacob Blackwell School, between 13th and 21st streets, 38th and 37th avenues, served as the featured school in the story. Only 8 percent of students passed the state’s math exam this year, fewer than before Renewal. Officials considered closing P.S. 111 the last few years. A memo noted that Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, education committee chair, would likely fight the closure. The Times notes city data reports the school is safer than it was when the current principal, Dionne Jaggon, took over in 2014. (Read piece here).
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.
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.
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.
Crain’s New Yorkreported Thursday that sources say the city has tapped architect and urbanist Vishaan Chakrabarti to lead up the design plan for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s major development proposal for the Sunnyside Yards. The Crain’s story comes one year after the city released a report on the potentiality of decking over the vast train yards, projecting the endeavor could cost $16-19 billion, involving 14,000 to 24,000 market rate apartments and 4,200 to 7,200 apartments counted as affordable. Since the mayor announced his plan for building housing over the swath of land in his 2015 State of the City address, little has been mentioned by the city about the project other than last year’s study.
The site, which according to last year’s report could include residential buildings 15 to 69 stories high and office buildings 18 to 44 stories, would expand on the growing Long Island City skyline and would constitute a new sub-neighborhood within Western Queens. Some dissidents have suggested the sudden volume of new people could have an overwhelming impact on the areas transit, schools and rents. Crain’s says the city won’t likely be able to act on a master plan until after BDB’s term ends in 2021.