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Ocasio-Cortez Steps Down From Sunnyside Yard Steering Committee, Says EDC is Not Listening to Her Constitutents

Jan. 27, 2020 By Christian Murray

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has penned a letter to the Economic Development Corporation announcing that she no longer wants to be part of the Sunnyside Yard steering committee.

Ocasio-Cortez said that she wants out because she says the EDC is not listening to many of her constituents—particularly those who fear the plan to develop Sunnyside Yard will spur gentrification.

The EDC, which has conducted three town hall meetings and 100-plus stakeholder meetings, is expected to release its masterplan for the 180-acre Sunnyside Yard some time before the end of March.

“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 dated Jan. 24.

“The 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,” she wrote. “Without the inclusion of these requirements in the Master Plan, I cannot continue to contribute my resources to the project.”

The EDC announced the formation of a 35-member steering committee in May 2018 that is tasked with providing a local perspective on what should be included in the masterplan. It consists of local civic leaders, planning experts and elected officials.

Concept Put Forward by the EDC at Sept. 16 meeting

The overarching plan for the 180-acre site will involve decking over the yards– and potentially constructing tens of thousands of apartments; office space; green space; and a transportation network. The plan would take decades to fully implement.

The majority of the residential buildings, according to project’s consulting team, would be between eight and 18 stories, although some of the plans displayed at a recent meeting indicated that some could reach 30 to 50 stories.

Protesters at the Sept. 16 public meeting (Photo: Queens Post)

However the EDC’s plan to develop the site has received a mixed reception.

In September, dozens of protesters showed up at an EDC meeting to voice their opposition against development.

in November, a boisterous crowd of about 80 protestors—representing groups such as Justice for All and Woodside on the Move– staged a rally in front of the Sunnyside Yard site on Skillman Avenue. They voiced concern about gentrification, while arguing that the city should instead invest in restoring public housing, repairing the city’s infrastructure and saving small businesses.

Ocasio-Cortez’s letter to the EDC announcing her resignation from the steering committee follows similar correspondence she had with the organization on Nov. 19.

She wrote a joint letter with Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer at the time that read: “The proposed high-rise and mid-rise residential buildings would further exacerbate a housing crisis that displaces communities of color and parcels off public land to private real estate developers.”

The EDC, however, contends that the city would be able to address many of its problems by developing the Sunnyside Yard.

“Sunnyside Yard presents an opportunity to build a stronger New York for generations to come that includes more open space, transit, affordable housing, jobs and green infrastructure in Western Queens,” the EDC said in a statement. “This planning process has always put community engagement at the center. We’re committed to continuing our work with the community to build a strategic vision that can better serve local residents and all New Yorkers.”

The EDC did not directly address Ocasio-Cortez’ decision to leave the steering committee.

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