Massive Queens apartment project adds elementary school as rail tunnel forces redesign
A Manhattan-based developer is reconfiguring its planned 1,197-unit Hunters Point South apartment complex because of the complex engineering involved in accommodating an Amtrak tunnel and power lines that run under the city-owned project site, Crain's has learned. As part of the new design, developer TF Cornerstone will include a 600-seat school for the rapidly growing neighborhood on the Queens waterfront.
"The plan changed, and it needed to change based on what they discovered underneath the site," said City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents the area and pushed for the elementary seats. "But their delay is to the benefit of the 600 kids who will be able to go to that school."
Van Bramer said the city last week sent TF Cornerstone a letter confirming its intent to build the school.
In 2013, the Bloomberg administration selected the developer and nonprofit partner Selfhelp to build an ODA Architects-designed residential project, including 700 affordable apartments, and 100 more reserved for seniors on part of the Queens peninsula dubbed Hunters Point South.
Nearly two and a half years later, though, blueprints have yet to be finalized. Amtrak and the New York Power Authority must sign off on the plans. Amtrak has been negotiating with TF Cornerstone since March 2015 to ensure construction doesn't damage the rail tunnel.
It is not clear what aspect of the underground infrastructure took the developers by surprise, given that plans for the peninsula released in 2008 indicated whoever controlled the site would have to build around multiple easements.
TF Cornerstone referred questions about the project to the city. A spokesman for City Hall said the city is in “productive discussions” about adding a school to the site, but did not confirm that a letter of intent had been sent.
Under the original configuration, TF Cornerstone had looked at erecting an education or cultural center in a separate building on the site. But when the firm had to redraw its plans, Van Bramer and other community advocates pushed for a school to accommodate an influx of families as construction proliferates. Hunters Point South alone is set to bring 5,000 new apartments to the Long Island City waterfront, which is served by just one elementary school that is already at capacity, Van Bramer said. The school in the TF Cornerstone building will be paid for with funds announced in Mayor Bill de Blasio's preliminary budget earlier this year