The Sunnyside Yards Steering Committee, organized by the Economic Development Corp. (EDC), officially lost two members in Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Justice for All Coalition Chair Sylvia White.
The EDC is leading a multibillion-dollar effort to build new land atop Sunnyside Yards, a 180-acre rail yard considered one of the busiest in the country, partly owned by Amtrak, MTA and the city.
They created the Steering Committee with citywide and local leaders to advise and guide them through their Master Planning process.
But after several months of the EDC’s community outreach portion of the process, many Queens residents and leaders are protesting the project and calling for the city to instead use the funds they want to allocate for the project toward the community’s more immediate needs.
Justice for All Coalition (JFC), a community organization based in Astoria and Long Island City, is one of the organizations leading the fight against Sunnyside Yards. In November 2019, they sent letters to several elected officials asking that they step down from the EDC’s Steering Committee.
In response, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and Ocasio-Cortez sent a joint letter, obtained by The City, in which they emphasized that their roles in the Steering Committee didn’t “imply endorsement of the project” and that the EDC’s current proposal “reflects a misalignment of priorities.”
Senator Michael Gianaris also sent a letter, stating that while his name and office appeared in the Steering Committee, he never accepted the invitation. Gianaris added that although the planning process includes some public input, “that input does not appear to be reflected in the public facing materials released about the project and rather tinkers around the edges providing a few token benefits.”
On Jan. 24, Ocasio-Cortez sent the EDC her letter of resignation. She wrote that while she understands that the ambitious project requires a “lengthy, complex, and multi-stakeholder driven planning process,” she felt the need to resign due to the project’s proposal.
“Despite the many outreach meetings that you have cited, I have yet to see sufficient inclusion of the feedback from those meetings in the current plan,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote in the letter. “This feedback, both from community members and from my office, includes but is not limited to community land trusts, truly affordable housing, and public and green infrastructure of the scale necessary to meet our 21st-century housing and environmental justice challenges.”