July 01, 2015

  • Long Island City, NYC, the Up-and-Coming Gem Across the East River

I had the pleasure of calling Long Island City home for a little over a year from 2011 to 2012. Over the past few years, the neighborhood has gone through some changes, going from an area best known for factories and taxi ranks to a fun, affordable, alternative place for 20-to-30-somethings to eat, drink, and sleep.

I grew up in Manhattan and knew next to nothing about Long Island City before moving there. While it isn't the cool kid destination that people my age were moving to (Lower East Side, Williamsburg), it felt right for me. I wanted a quiet, diverse neighborhood with decent rents and an easy commute to Manhattan, and I got that and more.
 
LIC 1

For the unacquainted, Long Island City is the southern of the two westernmost neighborhoods in Queens (the other being Astoria). Generally speaking, the further south you go and the closer to the East River you get, the more affluent the area and the more expensive the housing stock. Center Boulevard, the street located along the East River, is home to numerous high-rise condominium buildings with sweeping views and luxury amenities. The further north you go (no one knows the true boundary between LIC and Astoria), the more affordable the housing units.
 
One of the things that surprised me about Long Island City was that it has an ever-emerging bar and restaurant scene. The greatest concentration of establishments is located on Vernon Boulevard around the Vernon-Jackson 7 train stop. Among them, Casa Enrique, located at 5-48 49th Avenue, is a new addition to the neighborhood that has quickly emerged as one of NYC's best, most authentic Mexican restaurants. For bars, Alewife, Dominie's Hoek, and LIC Bar are among the most popular.

Further north, near the Court Square subway stop, John Brown Smokehouse, located at 10-43 44th Drive, serves up some of the nation's best BBQ this side of Kansas City (the burnt ends are a must). They just moved there about a year and a half ago to their new, bigger location that serves American microbrews and is THE place for KC Chiefs fans to flock to on Sundays. They used to be located two blocks away from my house; when they were there, I ate there at least once a week since their food is THAT good. Other solid dining options in this area are Sage General Store at 24-20 Jackson Avenue (go there on weekends for the three-course bacon brunch), M. Wells Steakhouse at 43-15 Crescent Street, as well as their sister establishment located inside MoMA PS1.
 
As far as attractions go, visit the aforementioned MoMA PS1 at 22-25 Jackson Avenue is an annex of MoMA's main Manhattan museum. The museum features numerous modern art exhibits, as well as some special outdoor exhibits in the summer. LIC also has a number of parks, most notably Gentry Plaza State Park, which offers great views of the Manhattan skyline, as well as serves as LIC's East River Ferry stop.
 
Long Island City, in my opinion, has two distinct advantages over other non-Manhattan neighborhoods. First, the transportation options are better than most. Numerous subway lines (E, M, G, 7, R, N, Q, and F) all stop there, as well as LIRR, providing quick links to Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Long Island. Plus, the Queensboro Bridge and the Pulaski Bridge have pedestrian walkways, making it easy to walk or bike to Manhattan and Brooklyn, respectively. While the Queensboro Bridge view isn't as glamorous as the Brooklyn Bridge's view, you don't have to deal with hordes of slow-moving tourists taking pictures with every step, making walking across it my preferred way of getting to work in comfortable weather. In addition, the East River Ferry has a Long Island City stop. Second, if you have out-of-town guests coming to visit but you don't have room in your house to have them stay over, Long Island City is home to numerous affordable hotel options, many of which offer great city views.

For me, Long Island City is a perfect NYC neighborhood. It's a no fuss, fun, easy to reach place that is still kind of a hidden gem. I am writing this piece from my new home in Central NJ, but I constantly miss the views, the people, the food, the bars, the bridge, and the ever-present bodegas, laundromats, kids playing in the street, and taxi cabs that call LIC home. There is more to LIC than the neon Silvercup Studios sign that greets you as you cross the Queensboro Bridge. Take the time to dive in and get to know it. And don't forget the burnt ends.

LIC 2

--Written by Nick Kahn


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