New York City and Amtrak will begin master planning for development at the Sunnyside Yard in Queens in the summer.
The city and Amtrak signed a letter of intent to formalize collaboration, Deputy Mayor of Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen and Amtrak Chairman Anthony Coscia announced.
The master plan – which city officials said could bring billions of dollars in potential infrastructure investments to western Queens - will be drafted in consultation with a new Sunnyside Yard steering committee that includes community leaders and planning experts.
Sunnyside Yard, most of which Amtrak controls, is the nation's busiest passenger railyard and is a key train storage and maintenance hub for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. It is also a train storage yard for New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Rail Road. LIRR is developing storage tracks and maintenance facilities there as part of its East Side Access project.
Decking over a portion of the 180-acre site could bring significant new investments in parks, schools, affordable housing and other critical services to western Queens, a New York City Economic Development Corp. study said last year. The study estimated the cost at $19 billion.
"The magnitude of public benefits and taxes is significant," the study said.
Elizabeth Lusskin, president of the Long Island City Partnership, and Sharon Greenberger, president and chief executive of the YMCA of Greater New York, will co-chair the panel.
City officials say that within 20 years, New York is expected to add more than half a million people - including more than 80,000 in Queens alone.
Amtrak and the city selected New York-based Practice for Architecture and Urbanism as the lead consultant to develop the master plan.
"This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for civic groups, public officials and residents to create a vision for their borough, one that delivers on the central challenges Queens faces like affordable housing, open space, more school seats and better public transit," said Glen.
Cali Williams will be director of Sunnyside Yard, a dedicated position at the city's Economic Development Corp.
Collaborating with Amtrak has proven difficult in the past. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and board members of the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority have blamed East Side Access cost overruns and delays to repairs at Penn Station on the quasi-public federally owned railroad's intransigence.