On February 6, 2017, NYCEDC released the Sunnyside Yard Feasibility Study, a comprehensive study evaluating the technical feasibility of decking over active rail and related facilities in Sunnyside Yard, which sits on approximately 180 acres of western Queens. The release of the study concluded a year-and-a-half-long process led by the City and a team of consultants with significant input from Amtrak and a wide range of community stakeholders, elected officials, and City agencies.
Sunnyside Yard Feasibility Study
Sunnyside Yard is one of the busiest rail yards in the country and a key train storage yard and maintenance hub for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. It also serves New Jersey Transit and Long Island Rail Road, which is developing storage tracks and maintenance facilities there as part of its East Side Access Project. With Amtrak and MTA currently undertaking critical capital investments in its rail infrastructure, this is a unique moment for the City to coordinate long-term planning for the future of the Yard.
While overbuild development at Sunnyside Yard has been discussed for nearly a century, this study is the first to comprehensively address railroad operation constraints, structural engineering requirements, market conditions, and urban design standards in a cohesive manner. The City was assisted by a team of consultants led by FXFOWLE Architects, Parsons Brinckerhoff, and HR&A Advisors, all of whom have extensive experience with railroad-related projects and large-scale planning analysis. The study kicked off in the summer of 2015. The project team met with elected officials, City agencies, and more than 20 community groups to gather local knowledge about the surrounding neighborhoods and inform the analysis.
The study established a series of planning guidelines based on engineering, urban design, and financial constraints to inform future analysis and decision-making. The study found that decking and construction is feasible in the majority of the Yard, with approximately 15-20% infeasible, predominantly over the highly-trafficked Main Line. The study identified certain sections of the Yard that are ideal for vertical construction and others for a range of parks, roads, and open spaces. It tested three different programmatic scenarios across the full Yard and identified a roughly 70-acre portion, the “Core Yard,” as a likely site for initial phases of development.
The study concluded that reasonable next steps would include:
- Significant stakeholder engagement to solicit feedback on community objectives and opportunities
- Detailed planning analysis to identify discrete early phases of a potential project, local and regional transportation solutions, a refined development program, and a strategy for governance and implementation
- Close coordination with Amtrak to preserve the opportunity for overbuild in its planned capital investments.