About two hours after de Blasio exited the stage to the strains of Peter, Paul and Mary’s “If I Had a Hammer,” Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a statement declaring that the yards are important to the MTA and “not available for any other use in the near term.”
Maybe Cuomo is miffed that de Blasio didn’t play the Pete Seeger version of “Hammer.” More likely this is just the beginning of a protracted negotiation, with some fascinating political ripples. Cuomo, back in his 2012 State of the State address, floated the notion of replacing the Javits Center with a new $4 billion convention facility at Aqueduct racetrack. That plan collapsed within six months, when a Malaysian gambling company balked at paying for a major share of the project.
The scheme was revived in November, however, on the op-ed page of the Times, in a new form: Replace Javits with a convention center at Sunnyside Yards, plus 14,000 residential units, 50 percent of them “affordable.” Even more intriguing was the essay’s author — Dan Doctoroff, who’d been Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s forceful deputy mayor for economic development. Sunnyside has been on Doctoroff’s mind for a long time. It was a key location in his pitch to bring the 2024 Olympics to New York.
A middle-class-housing enclave at Sunnyside would be an indirect de Blasio answer to a more successful Doctoroff deal — the luxe Hudson Yards on Manhattan’s West Side. It would also be a nifty jab at the pals of Bloomberg who have been encouraging Doctoroff to run against de Blasio in 2017.
From Sunnyside Post:
Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan issued a statement that questioned his plan.
Nolan’s viewpoint follows Governor Andrew Cuomo’s statement yesterday that made it clear that such development was not imminent. Cuomo said the ‘state and the MTA are studying several potential uses of the site from a long-term planning perspective.”
“I am extremely supportive of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s concerns that long term planning must be considered in any development of Sunnyside yards,” Nolan’s statement read.
“I have grave concerns about Mayor de Blasio’s plans as expressed in [Tuesday’s] state of the city address. There are many questions that must be asked."
From Capital New York:
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents Sunnyside, did not immediately embrace the idea of building 11,250 units of affordable housing at the 200-acre site.
A left-leaning Democrat, Van Bramer stressed that he supports an expansion of affordable housing in New York City, which was the focus of de Blasio's State of the City speech Tuesday morning. He said his concern stems from the needs that arise with the additional population in his already-crowded district. He also said he is wary of the possible height of the apartment buildings in a predominantly residential area.
"I'm down with the vision and I truly do applaud the mayor for making this a priority," he said. "[But] if you're going to seriously look at the Sunnyside Yards, though density works in some places it doesn't work in others."
For instance, he said he would oppose high-rise buildings that may be out of character in the neighborhood, which is home to a mix of long-time residents and young families attracted to the proximity to midtown Manhattan.
"The truth is we just don't know" what the mayor's specific blueprint is, he said. "We're just not going to build 30, 40, 50 residential towers in Sunnyside—that's just not going to happen. That level of density would be wildly out of character with the very low-rise nature of Sunnyside."
He also said, as local officials skeptical of major housing projects in their districts often do, that the city and state should provide adequate resources to accompany the growth—a school and a new train line, for instance.
"When the 7 train goes down, then all hell breaks loose," he added, referencing the only subway that serves that area.
It's not exactly fun when it's running well, either.