AOC resigns from Queens megadevelopment steering committee

Congresswoman delivers blow to de Blasio’s dream of 180 acres of housing, schools and parks

Jan.January 24, 2020 05:26 PM
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sunnyside Yards (inset) (Credit: Getty Images and Wikipedia)

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sunnyside Yard (Credit: Getty Images and Wikipedia)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez resigned from the steering committee planning the development of a 180-acre Queens site after being pressured by community groups.

In a letter today, AOC said she quit the Sunnyside Yard Steering Committee because not enough feedback was being incorporated into the New York Economic Development Corporation’s vision for the massive project, which opponents fear will cause gentrification.

“This 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 of the scale necessary to meet our 21st century housing and environmental justice challenges,” AOC wrote to the EDC, the main economic-development arm of the de Blasio administration.

Officials at the agency acknowledged AOC’s resignation Friday afternoon. In a statement, a spokesperson said, “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. This planning process has always put community engagement at the center.”

Groups opposing development in Queens, including the Democratic Socialists of America, had targeted the de Blasio administration and the development’s steering committee, a roster of community leaders and elected officials, including AOC.

“You love to see it,” said Alex Crowley, a member of the leadership of the Queens branch of the socialist group, upon learning of AOC’s resignation.

Groups including the Queens Anti-Gentrification Project, Justice for All and Woodside On the Move previously criticized the development process for being conducted undemocratically. They said that after Amazon’s exit, the EDC put together the steering committee featuring AOC and other officials but gave it little accountability, rather than engaging with dissenters.

City officials hope to establish a mix of affordable housing, schools, parks and open spaces over the rail yard, situated between Sunnyside and Long Island City. The administration has been trying to portray the planning process as inclusive to avoid the kind of opposition that killed plans for an Amazon campus in nearby Long Island City.

The ambitious project, if it comes to pass, would not happen until after Mayor Bill de Blasio’s term expires at the end of next year.

The EDC has a hand in efforts to develop Willets Point in Queens and Hunts Point in the Bronx, the aborted Amazon campus and the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park.

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