Sunnyside Yards - Special Report Series
The following is a series of reports we have run and continue to evolve to provide background and context for the residents and voters of Sunnyside, Long Island City, Astoria, Queens, and perhaps NYC, to use to evaluate the respective pros and cons of public policy with regard to the future development of Sunnyside Yards.
The first report is a brief history of Sunnyside Yards, most of which we picked up in a book presentation by historian / author Dave Morrison at the Greater Astoria Historical Society.
The second report provides a summary overview of the development of Queens in the 19th and 20th centuries. Showing how the development of transportation affected real estate development in Queens.
The third report takes a deeper dive into the 20th century development, exploring the same line of thought with regard to the interwoven importance of transportation and real estate development.
The fourth report is expected in late April, which will show the 20th century history of development - the specifics of which will be arriving shortly.
Over a Century of Railroad History in Sunnyside Yards
Railroad Historian Dave Morrison Brings Back to Life the Glorious Past of the Queens Rail Yard & the Hell Gate Bridge at the Greater Astoria Historical Society
On Saturday afternoon I attended a lecture and book signing event at the Greater Astoria Historical Society in the Quinn Building, only blocks from the Museum of the Moving Image. The book is entitled Sunnyside Yards and the Hell Gate Bridge and it was written by Railroad Historian Dave Morrison of Plainview, New York. The Greater Astoria Historical Society hosted the event as part of its Hell Gate Centennial commemoration efforts.
It didn’t take Dave long to convince those of us in attendance that he was not only an expert in the subject, but also a passionate railroad history aficionado. Dave’s presentation included photos from the book, as well as many other photos he’d collected which didn’t make it into the book. In the photo at right, Dave Morrison signed a number of copies of his new book, Sunnyside Yards & the Hell Gate Bridge, following his presentation of excerpts from it at the Greater Astoria Historical Society.
Dave began his story in Brooklyn, in the mid 1800’s, when the residents of Brooklyn protested building a train rail yard in the borough because of all the noise, dirty coal steam and traffic it would bring to the fast growing, bustling borough.
Click here to read the rest of the story, including a photos, of the presentation made by Dave Morrison about the history of Sunnyside Yards and the Hell Gate Bridge.
Sunnyside Yards: Finding Our Place In Space & Time
Part I. A Closer Look Into The Many Dimensions Of The Mayor's Proposed Development
March 8, 2015 / Sunnyside / Queens Real Estate / Queens Buzz. There's been plenty of talk about the proposed development of Sunnyside Yards since Mayor de Blasio first announced it as one of the top real estate development sites that could be used to mitigate New York City's current housing crisis.
I've been taking an informal poll about the proposed development, and generally have heard people voicing opposition to it, even though the proposal is still in its early stages. To be sure there are potential issues associated with the real estate development which one could easily construe to be negative [like the population density impact on infrastructure], but there are also opportunities associated with it, which one could see in a positive light [like tying funding for more transit to address the stress already on the #7 subway line].
What will follow over the course of this week, is our look into the proposed development of the Sunnyside Yards.
Sunnyside Yards: Finding Our Place In Space & Time
Part II. History Of Transit & Housing In Queens: Sunnyside Yards
In Part I of this report series about Mayor de Blasio's proposed development of Sunnyside Yards, we saw how Queens evolved from the rolling woods and farmlands of the early 19th century, into an industrial and manufacturing center along the East River waterfront in the second half of that century. In 1898 Queens became a part of New York City and the dawn of the 20th century had begun.
Work On The Steinway Tunnel Resumes & Begins The Era Of The Commute
In 1892 William Steinway [he died in 1896] began digging a tunnel underneath the East River between Queens and Manhattan. He had envisioned completing it to enable mass transit flows between Queens and Manhattan to enhance the value of his vast Astoria / Long Island City real estate holdings, but he died before that vision came to fruition. The Steinway Tunnel, which was named in his honor and which it carries to this day, is now the underground tunnel for the #7 subway line between Flushing Main Street in Queens, and Times Square in Manhattan. I shot the photo to right at LaGuardia Community College in LIC which shows a newspaper account of a 1907 test run of the line, three years after the completion of the Steinway Tunnel between Manhattan and Queens in 1904.
Large Scale Real Estate Development Begins In Queens
Following the creation of the interborough subway lines, affordable housing developments followed in Jackson Heights, Forest Hills and Sunnyside. The photo at right shows a 1922 real estate development in Jackson Heights built for the upwardly mobile growing middle class. I shot this photo at the Jackson Heights Beautification Group's Historic House [Garden] Tour Weekend.
We ended Part I talking about Public Housing that ultimately became low income housing, and which had systemic problems attributed to the civil rights struggle of the mid 20th century, and which was followed by social upheaval accompanied by narcotics. While remnants of the past remain with us, the most egregious aspects of these historical issues have been ameliorated.
And so we begin Part II by taking a deeper dive into the evolution of New York City's transportation system and housing development, with an eye toward how mass transit and the auto enabled the daily movement of millions of people / workers between their workplaces in Manhattan to their homes in the outer boroughs - most notably of Queens.
What follows is Part II of a deeper look into the Mayor's proposed development of the Sunnyside Yards.
Sunnyside Yards: Finding Our Place In Space & Time
Part III. A History Of Building Over Rail Yards In New York City
Click here to view our first report about Sunnyside Yards which provides a brief history of the development of transportation and real estate in Queens in the 19th and 20th centuries. Click here to read our second report about Sunnyside Yards which provides a far more in-depth history of the real estate development and transportation in the 20th century.
On this leg of the journey in our report series on Mayor de Blasio's proposed development of Sunnyside Yards, we take a more in-depth view of the history of real estate development of the air rights of rail yards in New York City. So with no further ado, let's continue.
The photo to your right shows the vision of
William J. Wilgus who coined the phrase "taking wealth from the air" as it was he who first proposed monetizing the air rights of New York Central and Hudson River Rail yards, which ran north along what is Park Avenue today.
This was an example of the ingenious thinking of the time, as he leveraged a new technologies, by electrifying the rail system, lowered the rail tracks and built platforms over them. I took the photo above right, of what I believe to be a 1902 graphic of his vision, which I found at a public exhibit in Midtown.
We return to the dawn of the 20th century, when horses and carriages were still one of the primary modes of inner urban transit, but this transportation mode would relatively quickly be replaced by the expansion of the trolley car system and eventually subway system in New York City. In 1900, according to historian Dave Lawyer, there were only 8,000 automobiles in the entire nation.
Overland transit between cities was a mix of horses and carriages and the rail roads, but over the course of the 19th century rail roads had become the most reliable means of long distance overland transit. Lawyer says that in 1900 there were 200,000 miles of steam rail and 14,000 miles of electric rail ways which were primarily for street cars and rail ways serving urban areas.
Transportation by water, which for millenia had been the most viable means of long distance travel between states and towns, continues to this day to play a role in long distance transit - although these days primarily of the transportation of goods.
The photo at right shows the Penn Station rail yards circa January 1908 as plans for its erection over the rail yards were getting underway. Pennsylvania Rail Road built Penn Station which was opened to the public two years later in September 1910. The station, one of the great New York City landmarks, was demolished amidst much public furor beginning in late 1963.
We'll continue with our report series about Mayor de Blasio's proposal to develop the air rights over Sunnyside Yards a bit later today or in the week.
Sunnyside Yards: Part III
A Look into the Feasibility, Functionality, Public Policy Issues & Community Involvement of developing Sunnyside Yards
May 18, 2015 / Sunnyside & Long Island City Neighborhoods / Long Island City Real Estate / Queens Buzz. In the first two segments of our series on the Sunnyside Yards we took a look at the history of transit and real estate development as the two went hand in hand.
In this report we’re going to explore the feasibility and functionality of constructing platforms over rail yards and highways in New York City since the turn of the 20th century beyond the turn of the 21st century when this sort of construction has begun anew.
We’re then going to explore the public policy issues associated with building such a platform over Sunnyside Yards, giving consideration to infrastructure such as transit, schools and neighborhood businesses, as well as to environmental issues and the current affordable housing crisis. We will end this report with a look at different strategies the community / neighborhood could employ to block, guide or embrace a development over Sunnyside Yards.
Grand Central Terminal 1871. When Grand Central Terminal was first erected in 1871, the terminal was essentially located at the northern end / outskirts of what was then considered the densely packed and rapidly growing New York City. While the first modern elevator was showcased in the mid 1850's, elevators didn't go into public use until the 1870's after the concept had been refined. In the 1880's elevators were run on electricity, not steam, and buidling high rises in New York City and elsewhere took off. The Dakota on the Upper West Side was one of the first great high rises and it was erected in 1884.
Platform Over Rail Yards Now Park Avenue 1903 - 1913. Building up over rail yards began at the turn of the 20th century when William J. Wilgus coined the phrase "taking wealth from the air". It was he who first proposed monetizing the air rights of New York Central and Hudson River Rail yards, which ran north along what is Park Avenue today. Platforms were built over the rail yards which terminated at Grand Central Terminal at 42nd Street which was no longer on the northern edge of the growing city, but it was also not yet the Midtown we know today.
Location. Location. Location. The first photo above shows 5th Avenue in 2015 within ten blocks of Grand Central Terminal. The second photo shows the center of the Sunnyside Rail Yards, which is located a bit more than two miles away from Grand Central Terminal. To help put things in perspective, it's worth noting that Union Square Park is located exactly two miles away from Grand Central Terminal.
Fasten your seat belt. And click here later this summer for Part III of our series regarding the development of Sunnyside Yards.
Part III. Work In Progress
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Several years ago the Hunters Point South development was approved by Community Board 2 and subsequently approved by the New York City Council and Mayor. Click the link above to read the earlier report. Click these links to gain a broader perspective of the Long Island City Neighborhood in which these units reside, as well as of the LIC real estate market for apts and condos or the Long Island City real estate market in general.
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