Mayor Bill de Blasio
BY LUIS GRONDA
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s State of the City address on Tuesday yielded some important news on future projects in Queens.
Speaking at Baruch College in Manhattan, de Blasio laid out his plan for 2015, focusing mainly on boosting affordable housing in New York City.
“While the state of our city is strong, we face a profound challenge. If we fail to be a city for everyone, we risk losing what makes New York, New York. And nothing more clearly expresses the inequality gap – the opportunity gap – than the soaring cost of housing,” de Blasio said.
Queens is a target for de Blasio’s affordable housing plan, with the goal to preserve 200,000 affordable units in the next 10 years.
The Mayor announced a plan to build more than 11,000 units of affordable housing on 200 acres of land at Sunnyside Yards, a facility owned by Amtrak and used by the MTA as storage for its passenger cars.
The Sunnyside Yards plan was met with some pushback, following Tuesday’s address.
In a statement, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa said that the site is not available for another use in the near future.
“The MTA uses Sunnyside Yards as an important facility for our transportation system, and it is not available for any other use in the near term. The State and the MTA are studying several potential future uses of the site from a long term planning perspective,” DeRosa said.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) also did not immediately embrace the plan for Sunnyside Yards, saying he spoke “at length” with de Blasio about the idea before his State of the City Speech.
“Some parts of my district are high-density and some are low-density. Each are unique, and the character of these neighborhoods is worthy of protection,” Van Bramer said in a statement. “When we are talking about building more housing we also need to talk about schools, parks, cultural spaces, live/work spaces for artists and meaningful transportation enhancements in Western Queens.”
Another key aspect of de Blasio’s speech was announcing a five-borough ferry service that includes a new ferry service going to Rockaway as well as Astoria. The plan would connect those two areas in Queens, along with other areas in the City including South Brooklyn to the East River. The service is expected to launch in 2017 and will come at the cost of $55 million, according to de Blasio.
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D- Ozone Park), who represents much of the Rockaway peninsula, said that while he is encouraged by the news, they need the ferry restored immediately.
“Our ferry dock at Beach 108th was disassembled and shipped away overnight. It should not take two years to bring it back. Our struggling families deserve equal access to transit just like every other resident in this city and I will not stop fighting until this is a reality,” he said in a statement.
State Sen. Joe Addabbo (D-Middle Village) greeted the announcement with similar concerns about the project’s timeline and also raised questions of how it could affect the area in the event of another Sandy-like storm.
“The year 2017 is not exactly around the corner, and my constituents need improved transportation now. Furthermore, I have my questions and concerns about an aggressive infrastructure upgrade. Bringing thousands of new residents to the Peninsula can be an upgrade but also a potential risk in the event of a future storm,” Addabbo said.
The ferry stopped running, late last year, after the City said it could not afford to continue running the service.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @luisgronda.