The plan to build over Sunnyside Yard, the world’s busiest rail terminal, is incredibly ambitious and complex. It would see an entire neighborhood built from scratch, totaling 140 acres. By comparison, the Hudson Yards development on Manhattan’s West Side is all of 28 acres. In fact, all of Manhattan totals only 14,478 acres, barely more than 100 times the size of the planned neighborhood above Sunnyside Yard.
So you know whatever gets built over the tracks is going to be very expensive.
But a new master plan makes one wonder if the Sunnyside Yard project is actually worth the cost, at least when it comes to affordable housing.
The plan, issued Tuesday by the city’s Economic Development Corp., says the development will include 12,000 units of housing, all of it designated affordable. But the cost of erecting a platform over the rail yard, the foundation upon which everything else will be built, is projected to be $14.4 billion. That’s $14,400,000,000. And that means each of those 12,000 homes will cost $1.2 million, before one square inch of any actual building is constructed. You can get a pretty nice house for $1.2 million in Queens as is, along with much of the rest of the city.
More affordable housing is certainly needed in the five boroughs, including here. People are losing their homes or leaving the city to avoid such a fate. And the goal of building over Sunnyside Yard is laudable: creating a whole new neighborhood of not just homes but schools, parks, libraries, stores and everything else. But $1.2 million per unit before mortar touches brick? That seems a bit cost-prohibitive, given all our aging infrastructure that needs repair.
Maybe not all the housing above Sunnyside Yard needs to be affordable. Including market-rate homes might be one way to help ensure the project itself is at all affordable.