Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Well, at least it has the Pepsi sign...

From the Wall Street Journal:

F. Scott Fitzgerald was looking toward Manhattan when he wrote, in "The Great Gatsby," that "the city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world."

He certainly wasn't looking from the bridge toward Queens. In the 1920s, the view would have been a landscape of factories and warehouses.

Today, amid a development boom in Long Island City, the view is different but no more pleasing. The waterfront towers that have sprouted seem to have taken their aesthetic cues from Newport, N.J., rather than from that other borough across the East River.

Further inland, there's been a flurry of new residential projects by developers eager to cash in on New York's healthy market for both rental apartments and condominiums. Since 2008, at least a dozen new residential buildings with about 5,000 units have been completed or are under way in the 37 blocks in central Long Island City that the city up-zoned in 2001.

Land rushes like this in many other New York neighborhoods have been enough to create a sense of place. But in Long Island City, that's proving trickier to pull off. The area boasts some architectural diamonds-in-the-rough, but they're far more isolated than those found in neighborhoods such as Dumbo, which retained a historic character despite plenty of infill watering.

Rather, the area consists mostly of nondescript, low-slung buildings and enough parking lots to house seemingly the whole of the New York yellow cab fleet. It's a promised land for developers; but the area needs quality as well as quantity of both residential and commercial development to become a real neighborhood.

In the end, the aesthetic hope for Long Island City is perhaps best seen in the best-known symbol of the area: Artkraft Strauss's Pepsi-Cola sign, which once topped a bottling plant along the waterfront and now sits in Gantry Plaza park. The Strauss firm designed some of New York's most interesting signage from the 1930s to 1950s; let's hope that a sign from 1937 won't remain the most innovative thing about the neighborhood.

No one ever said building a neighborhood mainly from scratch was easy, and some welcome and discerning decisions have clearly been made in charting its development. The fine balance that remains to be achieved is to create a coherent neighborhood whose greatest asset is something more than the five-minute ride to Manhattan.


Anonymous said...

Remaking a severely commercial mixed zoning with warehouses etc is not easily done nor effective in preserving any character the had prior to these dull towers arrived. However there are fantastic brownstones and older structures on certain blocks that should be preserved before the wreckers ball arrives. The fact is many structures that were worth preserving are now gone as they were not plentiful and were quietly taken down because they were not necessarily significant.

Anonymous said...

Old Long Island City is being bulldozed into oblivion - every application for protection is being categorically rejected.

The NYC preservation community is focused on Manhattan and pay scant attention to Queens - except when it comes to fund raising - which explains the odd Queens location thrown in a list of 'places to celebrate.'

The ploy succeeds for it brings in the usual tiny contingent of grateful dupes from the borough.

Anonymous said...

Look at the shameful treatment of the Queens Plaza millstones, and every effort to bring them indoors into a local museum frustrated by the city machinery that is supported by elected officials and local civics.

That takes lots of effort.

We ARE rewarded for what we work for.

Anonymous said...

Commenter 1 has it correct. Old Long Island City was demolished building by building as none were particularly significant, so you are left with an empty canvas to create an architectural wasteland with a post-apocalyptic motif.

Anonymous said...

Old Long Island City was demolished building by building as none were particularly significant ....,

With all due respect, sir, you are full of shit.

Anonymous said...

Dream on as you like, but LIC's fate is to be destroyed.

It is Manhattan East and nothing will prevent it from being bulldozed into the dirt.

Perhaps a few historic baubles can be salvaged for display in the lobbies of hipster hotels or commercial buildings...like those millstones.

Hell, that's far better than them being left outdoors to be slowly corroded by the snow and road salt, or car collisions and vandalism.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Dream on as you like, but LIC's fate is to be destroyed.

This says it all ....


The fact is that preservation in Queens is a joke.

Our electeds are too ignorant, the broader preservation community in NYC doesn't take the borough or anyone in it seriously, and what efforts we have here are marked by backbiting and ineptness.

This woman is getting an award because the preservation community is thanking her for keeping Queens in the Dark Ages and ignorant.