BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
With over 6,300 businesses; over 93,000 employees; a transportation hub serving eight subway lines, 13 bus lines, the East River and the Long Island Rail Road; and a geographical location at the center of New York City and just a few minutes from Midtown Manhattan, Long Island City has not only proven to be one of the largest manufacturing centers in New York State, but is the fastest-growing neighborhood in the city.
Although LIC is home to over 31 arts and cultural institutions and venues; over 150 restaurants, bars and cafes; and over seven summer events series, those who visit it immediately fall in love with the waterfront. LIC allows visitors to look at Manhattan from the other side of the East River. Because of this, along with everything it has to offer, LIC has become the go-to site for tourists.
In 2001, Queens Plaza and Jackson Avenue were named New York City’s fourth Central Business District and were rezoned for large-scale, mixed-use development. That caused LIC to boom, as did the Queens Plaza Pedestrian and Bicycle Improvement Project which was completed in 2012, transforming LIC’s entry point.
Data provided by the Long Island City Partnership on LIC development up to June 2016 show that LIC currently has 27 operating hotels and 34 hotels in planning and under construction, making LIC home to over 2,740 rooms and over 4,850 rooms in the making.
“LIC’s hotels serve a mix of leisure and business travelers, taking advantage of our proximity to destinations across the city and the world,” said a spokesperson for the Long Island City Partnership. “Our many cultural institutions, waterfront parks and unique dining options have made the area a destination on its own. Its close proximity to Midtown Manhattan, northern Brooklyn and NYC’s two airports [LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy Airport], as well as thousands of local businesses needing to lodge clients and co-workers from around the globe, make LIC an ideal location for travelers. We are now at a volume where LIC is an attractive place for the hotels, and their visitors are now adding back into LIC across business, tourism, arts and culture, and retail.”
The Queens Tribune spoke with community board 1 district manager Florence Koulouris, who was not surprised that LIC has shown tremendous growth.
“We are Queens,” said Koulouris. “We have the most diverse community in New York City. There are a multitude of ethnic backgrounds here. You can dine at a different restaurant every night and have a different cuisine. The housing in Astoria alone has people from Greece, Croatia, Mexico, Puerto Rico and so many more.”
Koulouris said hotels in LIC are an asset to people visiting their families in New York City because the average apartment houses one or two bedrooms, leaving a person’s family without a room to stay in.
“Long Island City is a perfect place for someone whose family lives in Astoria, Ridgewood or Corona and are looking for a hotel that is located someplace they can easily access public transportation to visit their family members, while also enjoying what New York City has to offer,” said Koulouris.
Since Borough President Melinda Katz took office in 2013, she made tourism a priority of her administration and launched a marketing plan with the slogan “The World’s Borough,” aimed at increasing visitation in Queens.
“Queens is hot and on the move and we’re thrilled by the growing attention and interest that the rest of the world has in this borough,” Katz said in a statement in 2015 when Lonely Planet, the world’s leading travel media company, named Queens the best tourism destination in the United States. “This is a top destination choice for people from around the globe to live, work and play. Our neighborhoods are home to families that hail from over 120 countries and speak over 135 languages, so our diversity is a natural and tremendous asset to the international capital of the world. You haven’t really seen New York City unless you have experienced Queens.”
Although LIC is growing at rapid speed, Koulouris said that the infrastructure needs to be the focus.
“We don’t need any more long-term plans; we need to think short term,” said Koulouris. “We need to start double layering: plans for now and plans for later. We need to be focused on day-to-day residents as well as tourists. We need to worry about our present residents and our future residents.”
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or firstname.lastname@example.org