By Yvette Brown
Long Island City is geographically the largest area in Queens, housing many residents, businesses, shopping centers and plenty of entertainment including some popular museums. The neighborhood’s prime location is across the East River from Manhattan, and it’s becoming a landmark this year – the Pepsi-Cola sign. The site has attracted the interest of many since some of the earliest European settlers built homes there in the 17th century.
Due to frequent flooding, the area remained farmland up until the mid-19th century, when two developers, Neziah Bliss and Eliphalet Nott began doing construction in the area. When the railroad arrived in the 1850s and 60s, and the ferry to Manhattan arrived in 1859, the area quickly became popular, bringing industry to the region. In 1870, the New York State legislature formed LIC as a distinct township. It wasn’t until 1898 that Western Queens became a part of New York City.
The first Borough Hall was briefly the LIC Courthouse, which was built between 1872 and 1876. The courthouse became a designated NYC landmark in 1976 and is also listed on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places. The courthouse had been rebuilt in 1904 after a fire had destroyed the structure.
The courthouse was used in 1922 and 1956 as a setting for Cecil B De Mille’s “Manslaughter” and Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Wrong Man.” The courthouse is located on the boarder of Hunters Point, which is one of the smaller neighborhoods within LIC. Hunters Point houses the famous Pepsi-Cola sign in Gantry Plaza State Park – a part the now-closed bottling plant – which can be seen from the city or from the Queensboro Bridge. Hunters Point is named after George Hunter, who acquired a large parcel in Hunters Point in 1817, which was later purchased by Jeremiah Johnson, a Brooklyn real estate agent, after Hunter’s death. Within Hunters Point, PS 1 Contemporary Arts Center on Jackson Avenue is the oldest municipal school building in Queens, having been built in 1893. Both PS 1 and its affiliate, the Museum of Modern Art, are landmarks.
Due north is Queensbridge on Vernon Boulevard, the largest public housing development in NYC. Queensbridge was completed in 1940 and consists of 26 six-story buildings. Further up north is Ravenswood, which is home to Rainey Park. The park is named after Thomas Rainey, who made it his mission to have a bridge built across the East River, which is now known as the Queensboro Bridge.
The Socrates Sculpture Park is also a part of LIC, which opened in 1986 and founded by Mark DiSuvero along with other artists and elected officials. It is said to be one of the most acclaimed public art spaces in the country. Modern-day sculptures are also able to be seen at the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum. LIC was once the home of 5 Pointz, a building which housed artists, who would legally paint the building before it was whited out and demolished in 2013. It was easily seen by passersby on the 7 train.
Also a part of LIC is Blissville and Dutch Kills, lesser known areas within LIC. The commercial area of LIC is Queens Plaza, a mass transportation hub and it’s where the Queensboro Bridge and Northern Boulevard meet. LaGuardia Community College is also a part of this community, located at 31-10 Thomson Avenue. They opened their doors in 1971 and it holds students from about 160 different countries. LIC is a growing residential and business area, especially with more affordable housing coming to the area.