Tag Archives: Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan

City collecting proposals for Sunnyside Yards feasibility study


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo via NYCEDC Sunnyside Yards Feasibility Study RFP

Mayor Bill de Blasio is moving full steam ahead with his plan to create 11,250 housing units over Sunnyside Yards, although Gov. Andrew Cuomo has voiced opposition to it.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC)  announced Friday a request for proposals for a yearlong comprehensive feasibility study for building over the rail yards. The agency is collecting proposals until March 20.

The study will examine the prospect of decking the enormous rail yard, and building homes, schools, open spaces and community facilities for the neighborhood as well as improving public transportation and infrastructure, while not interfering with train operations in the yards.

“This is the first step in understanding whether development of the Sunnyside Yards is possible, and what it could contribute to the city and surrounding communities,” de Blasio said. “This is a tremendous opportunity to deliver on our vision of a more affordable city and smart development that responds to the needs of surrounding neighborhoods.”

De Blasio first announced his plan for the yards during his second State of the City address in January, but hours later Cuomo disagreed with using the yards because of long-term plans for it.

But Cuomo is not the only politician to oppose developing Sunnyside Yards. When an idea to build a new Jacob Javits Center over the rail yards surfaced last year, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan didn’t immediately respond favorably to that plan.

Both shared concerns of major development in the area without first addressing issues current residents are facing, including lack of sufficient public services. State Sen. Michael Gianaris addressed Community Board 2 earlier this month about the proposal as well, and stated similar concerns.

“Any talk of thousands of new housing units at Sunnyside Yards should be secondary to meeting our significant existing infrastructure needs,” Senator Gianaris said. “Western Queens is already in need of many more schools, parks and open spaces, and vastly improved mass transit, particularly on the 7 line. As this process unfolds, I look forward to working with the community to ensure our voices are heard loud and clear when it comes to Sunnyside Yards.”

Building over the yards is a key part to de Blasio’s goal of building and preserving 200,000 affordable housing units — 80,000 of which will be new construction — in the next 10 years.

There are nearly 200 acres of land at the site, 113 acres that are owned by Amtrak, 66 by the MTA and the remainder by private owners, according to the EDC’s request for proposals.

The EDC is working with Amtrak, which is in favor of development over its section of the yards.

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Sunnyside and Woodside parents petition for a new middle school


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Map courtesy of Sunnyside Woodside MSP

A group of parents from Sunnyside and Woodside have started a petition calling on city and school officials to bring a new middle school into District 30, which is known for its overcrowded schools.

Debra McGowan, a parent of a first-grader at P.S. 11 in Woodside, presented the petition during a “State of Our Schools Town Hall” meeting on Tuesday organized by Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, chair of the state Assembly Education Committee.

The petition, started on Feb. 12, comes after the parents starting calling on the School Construction Authority and Department of Education last year for a new middle school in the area which serves elementary schools P.S. 150, P.S 11 and P.S. 339, slated to open in the fall.

McGowan said since last year, parents have come up with potential sites and have presented it to the SCA. However on Feb. 6, the parents were told by the agencies that according to the latest census there are not enough children in the area to justify a new middle school.

“The children in [District] 30 are zoned to I.S. 125, which is in technically [District] 24, but there are 1,700 children in that middle school and that is a thousand too many,” Nolan said. “So to suggest that situation should continue is ridiculous, to say there are not enough kids, when there are going to be more.”

Along with having to attend middle schools that are overcrowded, McGowan added that students from Sunnyside and Woodside have to cross dangerous thoroughfares such as Queens and Northern boulevards to get to their designated middle schools.

McGowan said she is trying to get as many signatures as possible by the end of the month and will present the petitions at the next Panel for Educational Policy meeting scheduled for Feb. 25. She added that the goal is to not miss out on the 2015-2019 capital plan, which would look to build three middle schools in Queens.

“We’re here and I need signatures to prove that we’re here,” McGowan said. “I feel that we need to let them know that we need to build a school in the area.”

More information about the petition can be found on the Sunnyside Woodside MSP Facebook page

The DOE did not immediately respond to request for comment. 

Along with the petition, during the town hall meeting, Nolan and education advocates described how the state owes the city school system $5.9 billion as a result of underfunding, and they criticized Governor Cuomo’s education agenda. 

Some of the issues voiced by those present at the meeting included problems with the emphasis on high stakes standardized tests, lack of funding for arts and music, and asking to keep the current cap on the number of charter schools in the city. 

Representatives from the coalition Alliance for Quality Education, which calls for quality education for city schools, plan to march and lobby for public education in Albany on March 11 and have started using the hashtag #wecantwait to gather supporters. 

“There may be some bad things happening but we do have a chance to make some good things happen,” Nolan said. 

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Talk of Sunnyside Yards mega development chugging along  


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Jim Henderson/ Wikipedia Commons

Proposals to redevelop the massive Sunnyside Yards are building up steam after decades of discussion as more key players in the rail yard’s future are weighing in with some specific ideas for what can be built there.

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan was the latest to express her ideas about what to do with the massive 160-acre rail yard.

Nolan said upgrading the existing community must be considered first when developing the rail yard, referring to an ambitious plan by former Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff and SHoP Architects to build a massive convention center and housing complex over the site.

Developing the Sunnyside Yards has historically been a touchy subject — one that began heating up recently after then Community Board 2 Chair Joseph Conley introduced the idea to conduct a publicly-funded feasibility study to figure out what could be done with the yards, which was first reported by The Courier in October.

Last month Doctoroff penned an editorial in the New York Times about his plan, which includes moving the 1.8-million-square-foot Jacob Javits Convention Center over the rail yards and expanding it to 3.1 million square feet, while also creating 14,000 new housing units — 50 percent of which would be set aside as affordable —  and adding an office and retail complex and public green spaces.

Rendering courtesy of SHoP Architects 

Rendering courtesy of SHoP Architects

But Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer has not stood behind the plan, and instead voiced concern for current residents.

“What we need is more green space. We need a lot more schools, we need more [school] buildings, already based on the number of kids we have today, and not including any new kids,” Van Bramer said. “We need better transportation options — the 7 train is already over capacity. And yes we need affordable housing and we are very supportive of more affordable housing being built, but it can’t come at the expense of the quality of life that the people experience in the neighborhood today.”

Many of his constituents have opposed development of the yards. A petition against a development project at the site started by locals following the Doctoroff editorial has garnered about 250 signatures.

But industry experts seem to think not using the land would be a waste.

“I think that Sunnyside Yards represents an enormous opportunity for Queens and for the city and one that is certainly worth exploring more closely,” said former city Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky, who is now a vice president at RXR Realty. “The big challenge will be to figure out how to get the right mix of uses. It’s too big an opportunity to ignore.”

Although he has not shown support for it, Van Bramer said if the project is to move further  a study must first be done on the proposed usage of the land.

“I think that if there is a next step the city might want to take a look at some feasibility issues and see what’s possible,” Van Bramer said. “I’m not sure anything needs to be done quite frankly.”

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9th Annual Taste of LIC offers items from over 50 local restaurants


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Dominick Totino Photography

Foodies made their way to the Long Island City waterfront to a get a taste of what the popular western Queens neighborhood has to offer.

The Chocolate Factory Theater presented the Ninth Annual Taste of LIC, a community-wide festival highlighting Long Island City’s culinary and cultural accomplishments, Tuesday at Gantry Plaza State Park.

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This year’s celebration featured food and beverage tastings from 50 restaurants and auction and raffle prizes courtesy of 100 local Long Island City businesses. The event also featured a special performance by over 30 Sunnyside/Woodside Girl Scouts choreographed by Madeline Best.


Executive Director of The Chocolate Factory Theater Sheila Lewandowski and Borough President Melinda Katz

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer served as Master of Ceremonies and “chocolate lover honored guests” included Borough President Melinda Katz, state Senator Michael Gianaris, Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan.

All of the event’s proceeds go toward The Chocolate Factory’s 2014-2015 season of dance, theater, music and multimedia performances.

 

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