Deputy Mayor of Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen described the 180-acre site as “one of New York City’s last great opportunities” to solve challenges related to a growing city population.
“Sunnyside Yards represents one of our greatest opportunities to invest in the affordable housing, good jobs, open space and public transit western Queens needs,” Glen said in a statement. “Working with independent engineers, Amtrak and multiple agencies, we have taken a hard look at what it will take to build over the Yard.
“It’s challenging,” she added, “but it’s both physically and financially feasible.”
The study was designed to look at the project, first proposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2015, from engineering, economics and urban design perspectives.
Sunnyside Yards is six times the size of Hudson Yards and double the size of Battery Park City. Parts of the site are owned by Amtrak, the MTA, the city and General Motors.
“If constructed, an overbuild at Sunnyside Yards would be the largest and most complex urban development site in New York City,” the study said.
Officials concluded that 80 to 85 percent of the site could be capped to build housing, while the remaining portion was deemed too difficult to build over. The study recommended that section be kept “un-decked.”
City officials estimated the cost of the project as between $16 and $19 billion. The development could also generate up to $1.5 billion in property taxes over 40 years.
The study presented three “test case” scenarios for development, each designed with different goals in uses, programming and phases.
Each case would yield between 14,000 and 24,000 new housing units, and at least 4,200 to 7,200 of those would be affordable under the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) program. The project would also bring at least 31 to 52 acres of open space and new schools, community facilities and retail to the area.
The report also concluded that some infrastructure in the surrounding area, such as sewer and water supply systems, is “aging,” and may not have adequate capacity to meet future demand.
Another challenge is that the railyards are still in use for operations, storage, maintenance and other purposes by each of its owners.
The MTA and Long Island Railroad (LIRR), Amtrak and NJ Transit all have future plans either under construction, planned or envisioned over the next 15 years that would impact the project.
“The existing and future railroad operations will impose significant constraints for overbuild feasibility,” the study said.
Part of the study was devoted to the “Core Yard,” a 70-acre part of the site mostly owned by Amtrak that officials consider “most viable for development.”
The study concluded that development of the Core Yard could bring 11,000 to 15,000 new housing units, and 3,300 to 4,300 of them would be affordable. It would also yield 15 to 20 acres of open space, new schools, community space and other amenities.
The total cost would be $10 billion.
“A project of this scale would span several political administrations, multiple economic cycles and changes to the city’s employment base,” the report said. “This feasibility study is only the first stage in a multi-step, multi-year design process needed to realize a project of this scale and complexity.”
The next steps of the process include a more detailed study and design development, as well as public outreach.
Local elected officials remained skeptical.
“I continue to oppose this level of large-scale development for Western Queens,” Nolan said in a statement. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in government, community leaders and all residents to share opinions and see what options are available so as to have a voice.”
State Senator Michael Gianaris said in a statement that any future development “must ensure adequate infrastructure” to handle the growing population, including additional parks, schools, open spaces and improved mass transit, especially on the 7 train.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer invited the mayor out to western Queens to have a town hall with his constituents and discuss the project.
The mayor and the Sunnyside councilman previously clashed over a 209-unit affordable housing proposal at 50-25 Barnett Avenue, causing nonprofit developer Phipps Houses to withdraw the application.
“Let me be clear,” Van Bramer said. “This plan will be voted up or down at the City Council, and I won’t support anything that isn’t right for our community.”