LIC: Not everything’s sunny in the rail yard

With the Metropolitan Transportation Authority being asked to juggle a lot of requests this budget season, government, business and civic leaders in Western Queens have just one more — the long-studied and long-awaited Sunnyside station for the Long Island Rail Road,

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn) was in Long Island City on Monday saying the station is long overdue, and never more so with the population growth in the region.

The station is considered connected to the East Side Access Plan, which is underway, expected to open new commuter access to Grand Central Terminal by December 2022.

Sources have told the Chronicle that the station cannot realistically be built until the East Side Access project is completed.

“Nearly 20 years have passed since Long Island City was promised a new station in Sunnyside Yards and it is way past time for the state to deliver,” Maloney said in a statement issued by her office. “We need a transportation system that recognizes and accommodates the growing number of riders on our railways and one that recognizes our city’s changing commuting patterns. The current MTA Capital Plan has more than $75 million for the station. We need this station. We were promised this station. And we are calling on the MTA to put to use the resources needed to build it.”

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Long Island City), in an accompanying statement, said she has directed millions of dollars to study the need of a station and for what she called true East Side access

“Unfortunately, those promises, supported by objective studies, have not been fulfilled,” Nolan said. Borough President Melinda Katz called it “a critical investment.”

A spokesman for the MTA, in an email, said the station’s time line could depend on one other major project — the proposal by the New York City Economic Development Corp. to build over about 70 acres of the 180-acre site while maintaining it as a rail yard.

“As NYCEDC and Amtrak develop a Master Plan for a potential overbuild of Sunnyside Yards, the MTA is working with them to ensure that options for a station can be pursued without compromising future LIRR service or operations,” the spokesman said.

Tom Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, and Elizabeth Lusskin, president of the LIC Partnership and executive director of the Long Island City Business Improvement District, also offered their support at the press conference, asking the state to keep its promise.

“Western Queens has seen a population boom, not only in terms of new residents, but businesses have discovered that our community is the perfect place for them to grow and thrive,” Grech said. “This growth has put a strain on our local infrastructure.”

“Plans for the growth of LIC laid out 30 years ago are now being exceeded beyond anyone’s expectations, dreams or fears,” Lusskin added. “This is now the fastest growing neighborhood in the United States, and this is before major projects currently in the works take shape.”