The People vs. Big Development


The Next Fight

Perhaps the next big land-use battle is brewing in western Queens, where the city is preparing its master plan for the 180-acre Sunnyside Yard, a sprawling active rail yard about six times as large as New York’s latest mega-development, Hudson Yards.

“We feel like it’s going to be another giveaway boondoggle for the rich, just like Hudson Yards,” said Emily Sharpe, a lawyer and founder of the Coalition to Stop Sunnyside Yards. There, too, opponents question the city’s commitment to truly affordable housing, with some arguing that nothing should be built on the massive site at all.

Farther east in Queens, resistance is building against a proposal for a 29-acre site along the polluted Flushing Creek to create 1,725 apartments — with fewer than 100 below-market-rate rentals.

The project, which has already been certified by the City Planning Commission, will include retail, office space, apartments and hotel rooms across nine buildings with a total of 13 towers. Construction could begin as early as this year.

But critics say the project was greenlit with little consideration for flood zone risks, the added infrastructure burden or the potential for displacement.

Flushing quietly became one of the fastest-growing for-sale markets of the last decade, with 3,075 new condos built there from 2009 to 2019, second only to Williamsburg with 3,201, according to StreetEasy. Prices have risen in kind: The median sale price was $650,000 in 2019, up from $350,000 in 2009, a nearly 86 percent jump.

“I think there is a growing sense of an urgent need for change,” said Tarry Hum, the chair of the Department of Urban Studies at Queens College, who is opposed to the project along Flushing Creek.



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