The New York Times is moving 350 jobs to 24-01 Court Square Place, a curvy, glassy, very-Court Square-looking building owned by the United Nations Federal Credit Union, across the street from the CUNY School of Law.
“A lot of tenants were vying for the space,” Greg Smith of JRT Realty Group to the New York Post. “We are seeing an uptick in activity after the Amazon debacle because Long Island City [had more] exposure.”
The Times will take the 9th, 10th and 11th floors this fall, reaping the benefits of the Relocation and Employment Assistance Program (REAP). The program gives tax credits to companies that relocate jobs from outside of NYC or below 96th Street to certain parts of Northern Manhattan or any other borough.
So we’re finally discussing this. On July 8, LIC Talk posted, “Where is the Northern Border of Long Island City?” The blog is right that there is no easy answer. The situation of the ambiguous border has complicated my life since I’ve moved here.
When I moved here, my apartment on 36th Avenue near 10th Street was listed online as “LIC-Astoria border.” I soon came to find “LIC” signage along the street and as north as Broadway, which LIC Talks insists is the border. My address came up alternately as Long Island City or Astoria in Google Maps. Certain websites listed my neighborhood as Astoria based on my zip code (11106.) My roommates used either name for their mailing address. At that time DNAinfo ran a crowdsourcing piece finding there was little consensus on the south Astoria border. I read a 2008 NYTimes piece placing the Ravenswood Houses in LIC. And I overheard someone by 36th Ave and 21st Street say she was going to Astoria. I read a Gothamist piece referring to the area I lived in as “South Astoria.” At an Astoria writers group at Panera Bread on 35th Avenue, someone said that actually, we were in an area traditionally known as Long Island City, when Broadway was the border. A book in the back of the Noguchi museum referred to the area as LIC. A famous 1980 NYMag piece declared the Queensborough Bridge as the upper Long Island City border. A 2011 NY Daily News piece said Little Brazil, centered on 36th Avenue, is in Astoria, while a 2017 NYTimes piece placed it in “a pocket of Queens.”
By the time I started this blog, I had already concluded that I lived in Long Island City, or a place traditionally known as Long Island City. But I knew that we had moved into an age where much of the area south of Broadway is thought of as Astoria. Also, when I told people I lived in LIC, they would say something about the area being up and coming. I would have to explain I lived in a corner heavy with South Asian and Mexican or Central American immigrants, who by the way, seemed to run the local businesses and have the largest presence in Rainey Park, which I think is different demographically than Queensbridge or Socrates. (We’ve also got Greek and Brazilian immigrants, which sounds like Astoria). I would say I lived within a field of warehouses and small factories. I’d say I lived by three public housing complexes. I explained there were few restaurants or bars here. In any case, it wasn’t the “LIC” people tend to think of. And it wasn’t the “Astoria” they think of either.
The problem, it seemed, was rooted in the fact that what traditionally separated LIC from Astoria was not a street, but the clustering of residential pockets with much industrial area in between. That industrial area was long sprinkled with homes and some fully residential strips such as Crescent Avenue as it runs through Dutch Kills. And I lived in a residential pocket within a greater industrial area. Adding to that, is how the upper rim of the Queensbridge Houses on 40th Ave feels like a solid border because it’s followed abruptly by an industrial zone. And as Queensbridge is known to be solidly in LIC, it’s easy for any residential areas north of it to seem like – well, now we’re in Astoria, or something.
I named this blog Corner of Astoria because it rolled off the tongue well. But I never felt satisfied with that designation. And I possibly never will.
The New York Times highlighted P.S. 111 in upper Long Island City this week as a school Mayor de Blasio’s “Renewal” program has failed to help. The program, launched in 2014, invested millions in the city’s 94 poorest schools. The Times reports that non-public internal documents said in as early as December 2015 that a third of those schools would not likely meet the program’s goals.
P.S. 111, or the Jacob Blackwell School, between 13th and 21st streets, 38th and 37th avenues, served as the featured school in the story. Only 8 percent of students passed the state’s math exam this year, fewer than before Renewal. Officials considered closing P.S. 111 the last few years. A memo noted that Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, education committee chair, would likely fight the closure. The Times notes city data reports the school is safer than it was when the current principal, Dionne Jaggon, took over in 2014. (Read piece here).
The Asian Halal place by Queensbridge on 21st Street is being reinvented as LIC Grill. The “no frills,” as they say, joint, previously wore the banner, “Pakistan, India & Bangladesh Halal Food” and below that, “Asian Restaurant” on brown-red coloring. This has been replaced by a sleek wood-toned banner simply headed “LIC Grill,” subheaded, “Indian and American Cuisine.” Continue reading “Asian Halal now LIC Grill”
Hour Children has relocated one of its thrift stores to Steinway Street, leaving behind two retail blocks dotted with vacant and inaccessible storefronts on 34th Avenue on both sides of Crescent Street. The former thrift store location at 25-22 34th Avenue has been permanently closed since January 9 due to flooding, Corner learned by a call to Hour Children. The spacious 34th Avenue property, owned by Fred DelRosario, according to city records, is joined by five other closed storefronts, plus a permanently gated storefront and a storefront being used for industrial use.
Near the former Hour location is a large storefront, 25-14 34th Avenue, used by Possible Productions, a set design company that has on its portfolio website the 2016 Democratic National Convention and Coachella. Possible Productions has a wide exterior with the gate down, and a sign which reads: “AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY.” I rung the bell and asked when the “season” ends, referring to the other sign, and when the store will be open. The man who answered briefly implied it’s not a store, and said the gate will stay down. The set shop seems to be listed as part of the same building or owner as the former thrift shop — when I search the block and lot, I’m only seeing this under “K1” retail code. But a set design shop isn’t retail. I think it’s either light manufacturing or warehouse. So I need to find out more about this use of a storefront on a retail block. Update: So this is what I learned from a Department of Buildings rep who acted like I was asking the most absurd question she’d heard all day. That storefront is allowed to have its gate down forever.
There’s an Aladdin bakery that also appears to be in a building zoned K1-retail. Bakeries, from what I understand, are industrial. Whaa? Yea, so I’m not sure — maybe it’s allowed to be there so long as there is retail in the other storefronts of the building, or conjoined buildings? I will find out! So, on two retail strips on both sides of Crescent, eight of the storefronts are not being used as storefronts. Six of those are vacant, one is Possible Productions and the other is an Aladdin bakery. (Photos below.)
State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas tweeted a photo of herself seated at a table with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz at George’s, the restaurant that replaced or reconceptualized the Astor Room at Kaufman Astoria Studios, and wrote above it, “The Power Table.” This tweet, posted Friday afternoon, is the first to be linked to the address under the name George’s. Also, the photo shows what George’s looks like.
That means, the city is on top of developing a mega housing development over the Sunnyside Yards (a lot of people in Astoria and LIC don’t know what that is, but it’s the huge swath of train land east of Northern Boulevard that you see from either the N/W or 7 trains when approaching or leaving Queensborough Plaza). But when it comes to running a streetcar through LIC and Astoria to connect with Brooklyn, it’s just not there yet.
Also, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer was at the Met Gala, which was Catholic themed. “It’s almost time for this kid from #Queens to head to the @metmuseum for the #MetGala!” he tweeted earlier on. JVB has gone before at least in 2013 and 2014. He was also hanging out with Jesse Eisenberg the other day.
As the Times explains, last year only about 550 people went to the gala, which is invitation only, each invitation overseen by Anna Wintour and tickets cost $30,000. Are all the council members invited? Who sponsored or invited the councilman of the 26th District? I hit him up with questions on Instagram so let’s see if he responds.
A fiesta in the Ravenswood area wasn’t just a Cinco de Mayo celebration. The party on 11th Street by Saint Rita’s Church was a fundraiser to help rebuild a church that was destroyed by the September 2017 earthquake in Mexico. Several of the attendees, Corner was told, are from Chila de la Sal, a town in Puebla, Mexico.
The Five Boro Bike Tour came through Queens and shut down 21st Street, Vernon Boulevard and other streets in Long Island City and Astoria. I didn’t catch it but saw these cops standing in a huge group on 34th Ave and Vernon.