A public meeting Monday on the controversial Sunnyside Yard planning process featured plenty of community engagement, including dramatic opposition from opponents of proposed mega-development six times larger than Manhattan’s Hudson Yards.
The early portion of the Monday meeting, the third public hearing on the massive development plan, remained calm and organized as attendees milled about information stations.
But members of Queens Neighborhoods United and other organizations that oppose the project soon took over the room, denouncing the plan to elevate the 180-acre yard from a sprawling network of train tracks to a brand new neighborhood, complete with housing, transportation and stores. Some activists stood atop cafeteria tables to address the attendees.
“These are plans made by property developers, plans for property developers,” said Rutgers University Professor James DeFilippis.
“We don’t trust this process,” opponents chanted, while others shouted “Let us in,” outside the cafeteria as they tried to enter the meeting.
“#EDC employees didnt know what to do w/ themselves as we took over the #SunnysideYards public EDC meeting. They presented nothing new, nothing solid. #SSY will cost more than the $22 billion and take longer than the 100 years they're projecting. That's our money & public land!,” QNU later wrote on Twitter.
Even before the first public meeting regarding Sunnyside Yard in October 2018, community members raised concerns about displacement and accelerated gentrification related to the neighborhood-building initiative.
“I haven’t come across anyone in Queens who thinks this is a good idea,” steering committee member Melissa Orlando, executive director of Access Queens, told The New York Times last year. Orlando, whose organization advocates for better public transportation, said the project could increase congestion.
A line of people snaked around the schoolyard of Aviation High School in Sunnyside ahead of the meeting, as representatives from a host of city agencies and the New York City Economic Development Corporation prepared to explain the draft of the master plan.
“I’d like to see the creation of the things they say they want to create, essentially liveable neighborhoods, better connections across Queens, transit infrastructure, mixed-income housing, mixed-use development, and pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods,” Gideon Shapiro, a historian of urban planning and architecture, told the Eagle.