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TF Cornerstone Puts Together Plan to Rezone a Large Chunk of Hunters Point, Involves a Deck Over Rail Yard

TF Cornerstone’s 2-02 54th Ave. site–which also has the address of 55-01 Second St.–is bound in black. The rail yard is in red. Both would be rezoned under proposed plan (Google)
April 23, 2019 By Christian Murray

TF Cornerstone is looking to rezone a significant portion of the southern tip of Hunters Point—between 2nd Street and 5th street—that would incorporate a large piece of property that it recently bought by Newtown Creek.

The company is proposing to rezone the district behind the Hunters Point South megadevelopment. It involves rezoning some manufacturing space surrounding the LIRR tracks and decking over a 3 1/8 acre section of the Yard between 2nd and 5th Streets. The rezoning area would roughly go from Newtown Creek to Borden Avenue—between 2nd Street and 5th Street.

TF Cornerstone revealed its plan to Community Board 2’s Landuse Committee last week.

Jon McMillan, senior vice president for TF Cornerstone, told the committee that the rezoning plan was “just an idea” and that it would bring several amenities to the area and help reduce the noise and fumes of trains idling in the Yard.

The new district would include about 8 acres of public greenspace, although it would bring significantly more residential units and commercial space.

For TF Cornerstone, the plan would provide it with the ability to build an extra 300 units on its 2-02 54th Avenue site. The company is currently permitted to build 1,500 units on that parcel (which covers two sites)—since the property was included as part of the Special Hunters Point District that was created in 2008. That district was put together with the Hunters Point South affordable housing development in mind.

TF Cornerstone bought a parcel last year that incorporates the two sites on the bottom right (Source: City Planning)
However, according to McMillan, the rezoning concept is also about making its buildings and the area more desirable.

TF Cornerstone’s 54th Avenue property is in a section of Long Island City tucked away behind the rail yard and is adjacent to a manufacturing district on 54th Avenue and 2nd Street. Access to the north side—such as 5th Street–is cut off by the railway tracks.

Additionally, TF Cornerstone is in the process of building 1,100 units on Parcel C of Hunters Point South. The back of the building will face 2nd Street and the yard, currently a gritty space.

“We are coming to you all for advice…I want to see if this makes sense to you guys,” McMillan told the committee.

McMillan said that if the company doesn’t move forward with the rezoning plan it would just build its 1,500 as-of-right units.

The rezoning plan is centered on building a platform over a 3 1/8 acre section of rail yard between 2nd Street and 5th Street. By doing so, TF Cornerstone would be able to offer its future tenants—and the community at large– easier access to 5th Street and it would move the idling, noisy trains away from the sites. The area on top of the deck would be dedicated green space—perhaps a soccer field, McMillan said.

“We want to reconnect the grids because the railroads create an area to the south of the rail yards that is disjointed from the area to the north—ideally we want to get 5th street as some sort of extension,” McMillan said.

The plan would make provision for other residential development—where manufacturing is currently located–and add retail space along 2nd street. The details were not fleshed out at the committee meeting.

McMillian said that 2nd Street would become a commercial strip that would serve the Hunters Point South community. The company would consider subsidizing retail tenants to make it work.

The cost of building a platform over the yard would be about $140 million, according to McMillan, who said that TF Cornerstone has been in consultation with the MTA who support the overall concept. The $140 million equates to about $1,200 a square foot, he said.

The TF Cornerstone site is in blue and is zoned for residential. Residential development is not permitted in M1-4 district. (Source: City Planning)
TF Cornerstone is proposing that the MTA offer a developer the right to build a large structure in return for covering the $140 million cost. The building would probably consist of about 900 units to make the plan cost effective and would go up on the northern side of the yard, McMillan said.

There would be mixed-use development along the south side of the platform as well as up past 5th Street.

TF Cornerstone as part of the plan would provide 3.6 acres of public space adjacent to Newtown Creek. The space, while remaining in the hands of TF Cornerstone, would essentially be an extension of Hunters Point South Park.

The reaction of the Community Board 2 committee was mixed. Some liked the concept of creating green space where the yard is and seeing the north and south sides connect.

But there was concern about the influx or residents that the plan might bring, even if it brings affordable housing that now come with all rezonings.

The proposed rezoning. Orange is residential, green is open space. Where the deck would go is in green. (Photo was taken during committee meeting and is of poor quality)
McMillan said that TF Cornerstone is open to making provisions for schools and other infrastructure requirements in rezoning the district.

Lisa Deller, the chair of the Landuse committee, told McMillan that any rezoning would be a long protracted process and that there would be a lot of push back.

“If you have an urgency around building this and you want to get going you should build the as-of-right scenario,” Deller said.

If TF Cornerstone moves ahead with the plan it would most likely be involved in two rezonings in Hunters Point at the same time.

The company has been working with the New York City Economic Development Corp. to rezone two city-owned lots where 44th Drive meets the East River.

The plan was shelved when Amazon was going to take over the property. There is no word as to whether it will be resurrected.

A platform would be built over the rail yard. The top of it would be used as greenspace and as a pedestrian connection (Photo was taken during committee meeting and is of poor quality)
Correction: The initial story incorrectly referred to the rail yard by 2nd Street as the Sunnyside Yard. It is in fact the Long Island City Yard/Terminal.

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