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Cuomo Knocks De Blasio's Sunnyside Yards Development Again

By Jeff Mays | February 24, 2015 4:22pm
 Just a few days after the city's Economic Development Corporation released a request for proposals to conduct a year-long feasibility study to develop the rail yards— which is partially owned by the state-controlled Metropolitan Transit Authority— Cuomo once again said he doesn't see any chance for the site to be developed.
Back and Forth Between De Blasio and Cuomo Over Sunnyside Yard Continues
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WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo saying that his relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio was great, he continued to knock the mayor's plan to build 11,000 units of affordable housing over Sunnyside Yards.

Just a few days after the city's Economic Development Corporation released a request for proposals to conduct a yearlong feasibility study to develop the rail yards — which are partially owned by the state-controlled Metropolitan Transportation Authority — Cuomo once again said he doesn't see any chance for the site to be developed.

"What the MTA has said is they need it for the East Side Access, so short term they don't see any redevelopment possibilities," Cuomo said, referring to the massive project to bring the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central.

It's the second time Cuomo has knocked de Blasio's plans to build affordable housing on the site. The first came shortly after de Blasio made the proposed affordable housing project a signature piece of his second State of the City address earlier this month.

A few hours after de Blasio's speech at Baruch College, Cuomo's spokeswoman sent out a statement saying that Sunnyside Yards was "not available for any other use in the near term" and that the MTA was studying the site from a "long term planning perspective.”

The city responded that they did not need MTA's permission because of the 200 acres encompassing the site, Amtrak owns 113 acres on the eastern half of the site and was enthusiastic about the proposal.

"What Amtrak wants to do is Amtrak's business," Cuomo said Monday.

Of the 66 acres owned by the MTA, the city has air rights to 44 acres. City officials had been meeting with the MTA about the project before the statement from Cuomo's spokeswoman raised concerns.

Another 23 acres on the eastern edge is privately owned.

The city's request for proposals seeks "a comprehensive evaluation of specific factors such as the existing and planned configuration of the rail yards" and "ongoing requirements to maintain all and accommodate future rail operations."

The language is an indication that de Blasio plans to launch the project, which could take years to get off the ground, regardless of what Cuomo says.

In a statement announcing the feasibility study, de Blasio said he was pleased to be "working with partners like Amtrak and local stakeholders on a thoughtful and thorough review" of the proposal.

“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 added.

As Cuomo made his latest comments on Sunnyside Yards on Monday, he also tried to silence talk of a rift between himself and de Blasio, saying that he and de Blasio will have the "best relationship between a mayor and governor in modern political history."

De Blasio demurred when asked about the comments, saying that he didn't know enough about the modern political history between mayors and governors. The mayor characterized his affiliation with the governor as a "good working relationship."

Experts say de Blasio's Sunnyside Yards proposal is no slam dunk because of associated costs and local concerns regarding infrastructure such as transportation and schools.

At the same time, large proposals such as this are a big part of reaching de Blasio's goal of 200,000 new and preserved units of affordable housing over the next 10 years.