A $19 Billion Dollar Proposal To Build Over Queens’ Sunnyside Yards Ignites Debate

Sunnyside Yards would be six times the size of Hudson Yards and the largest new development in NYC in two decades.

By Jeff Vasishta February 8, 2017

Watch out, Hudson Yards, there could be a new sheriff in town. Well, not exactly in town—but just across the East River in Sunnyside, Queens. A feasibility study released by the city’s Economic Development Corporation on Monday resurrects a century-old proposal to deck over existing rail lines. This massive development would be six times the size of Hudson Yards and cost between $16 and 19 billion to construct.

As of yet, there is nothing official—just a lengthy report and a lot of possibilities. Sunnyside Yards is one of the busiest rail yards in the city. Amtrak and MTA are running rail lines and layup trains in the yard, and New Jersey Transit stores trains there between morning and evening rush hours. In fact, the western part of the yard is too busy to build on. In the proposal, the city would deck over 80 to 85 percent (150 acres) of the 180-acre area.

RelatedBrickbats And Bouquets For Mayor De Blasio’s Proposed “Mansion Tax”

Here are the three scenarios offered in the proposal

Housing heavy

Private developers could build 18,000 to 24,000 units, of which 5,400 to 7,200 would be affordable. There will also be 700,000 to 900,000 square feet of retail space, 13 to 19 schools, and up to 3,300 parking spots. It also has the most open public space—52 acres.

Office/retail heavy

There will still be housing—but also massive amounts of retail (700,000 square feet) and office space (3.5 to 4.8 million square feet,) as well as 4,500 parking spots.

Mixed Use—Hotel & Retail heavy

There will be no office space but as much as 1.5 million square feet of “mixed-use” and 5,300 parking spots.

RelatedAbandoned Hospital In Staten Island Is Accepting Development Proposals

The main impediment is, of course, the cost. It’s estimated, though, that if developed, the project could generate $934 million in property taxes over the next 40 years. This number would exceed the cost of initial investment, according to the report. In the short term, the project would mean a massive hit for the city, leaving them with a gaping hole to the tune of $3 billion dollars.

Despite this, Major de Blasio was in bullish mood about the idea, when he first announcing a plan to deck over the yards during his State of the City address in early 2015. In what has become a pattern, however, Governor Cuomo blasted the concept, saying that the yard was an important piece of transportation infrastructure and “it is not available for any other use in the near term.”

Wendy Pollack of the Regional Plan Association tried to trike an equanimous tone while being generally upbeat:

“While there certainly are a lot of operational and financial challenges to developing Sunnyside Yards, there also are a lot of good reasons for exploring the possibilities,”  she said. “No other site in the city offers the same combination of proximity to transit and the central business district and very substantial acreage that could be developed. This is a large, long-term project, one that we can assume will stretch well beyond one or two political cycles.”

Last year, Sunnyside was the only Queens neighborhood to make the “gentrifying” list in a report released by NYU’s Furman Center. It ranked 11th out of the 15 neighborhoods on the list. Sunnyside and Woodside also encompass the dramatically growing Long Island City. The “non-family” residents—usually singles or couples without children—are moving in at astounding pace—40.9 percent in 2000 compared to 48.5 in 2014. College grads in the neighborhood grew by nearly 16 percentage points during that time, with more than 40 percent of residents holding degrees in 2014, the report found.

Ironically, Hudson Yards currently connects to Sunnyside via the increasingly crowded the 7 Train. Its route has been the stuff of much debate. It caused Queens rents to increase and older residents, as the data shows, have given way to younger, upwardly mobile newcomers. The Queens Anti-Gentrification Project has taken aim at the trend.

“The hardworking people who made these neighborhoods…are now being forced out because of higher rents,” Dan Raymond, co founder of the activist group said on the group’s web site. “The small immigrant businesses are disappearing and the big stores are moving in. We all see it.”

They wouldn’t have seen anything, should the Sunnyside Yard proposal come to fruition.

Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

    Stefano Boeri, the architect mastermind behind the famous plant-covered skyscrapers, is now designing Forest Cities in Liuzhou, China. #ForestCity #China
    Auction is the second scheduled in a month for a One57 unit and it could set a NYC foreclosure record. #BillionairesRow #Foreclosures
    Once a couch-surfing website, Airbnb moves on to luxury properties, further disrupting hospitality industry. #Airbnb #Luxury
Four Countries To Retire In With $200K In Savings—And How Much Real Estate Costs There
Ever dreamed of retiring abroad? You know, affordable healthcare, better climate, more positive news—becoming an expat seems like an enticing option, especially one you no…
While Other Real Estate Platforms Start Charging Agents $3-Per-Day Exposure Fee, Agorafy Remains Accessible To All
Real Estate searching platform are always finding news ways to diversify their revenues models. Case in point—on Tuesday July 18, Streeteasy, one of New York…
Is Real Estate Crowdfunding The Fix That Urban Housing In America Really Needs?
Saving money for a down payment? One can only hope. Most millennial in their twenties or thirties are mortified that they might never be able…
Brooklyn And Queens’ Real Estate Sub-Markets Continue Their Ascent To The New Heights
So, the sales prices in Brooklyn and Queens hit record highs. Again. Just like they did in December 2016 and at the end of this…
The Economy Of Car Services And Delivery Apps Might Be Making NYC Less Eco-Friendly
Living in an eco-friendly neighborhood is a good thing. And, as it always the case with the good things, it also costs more. High rents…
Building Communities: What The U.S. Developers Should Learn From Soho China
As our world emerges into the new period of globalization and technology, some of the most important by-products of this process are buildings that have…
Five Reasons Why All Entrepreneurs Must Keep Their Eyes On China
It is hard to overestimate the importance of Chinese influence on the modern global economy. Carving out a place in Chinese market and winning over…
Airbnb Up Their Game With A New Luxury Tier Featuring Mansions And Villas
Airbnb is about to seriously up their game. First, the company started testing a new service called Select in an attempt to push accommodation listings…