Long Island City

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It’s Always the Kids Who Suffer

It’s been a week since Amazon decided to not site one of their HQs in Long Island City, Queens. One of the promises of coming to Queens—and accepting about $3 billion in tax incentives—was to do outreach for local colleges.

At Queens College, there was an event scheduled for Monday, February 25, that was announced a few days ago in the weekly email newsletter, This Week at QC for February 19.

Amazon Information Session.

12:15-1:30 pm, location TBA upon registration for event. Amazon visits Queens College to discuss work culture and interview process, current paid internships and jobs, and how to plan your academic and career pathway. RSVP: http://bit.ly/AmazonInfoSession2019. Information: qc_career@qc.cuny.edu.

But today, the Center for Career Engagement and Internships announced that the event was cancelled.

I think we can all figure out why the event isn’t going to happen anymore, but it still seems wrong to not hold the event, regardless of last week’s announcement.

Reports indicate that Amazon already has something like 5,000 employees, It seems reasonable that the company could probably still hire a few Queens College students, with a normal rate of turnover, even without building a second headquarters here. This could have provided some opportunities for some college kids. But instead, by canceling [sic] this event, Amazon is acting true to its characterization by many in the press as childish, taking its proverbial ball and going home.

There Goes the Neighborhood Haircutter

Eight years ago this month, I moved to Long Island City with my girlfriend-at-the-time, Sarah. Having lived only in Manhattan since I left Santa Barbara six-and-a half years earlier, I dreaded the thought of ever moving to Queens as it signaled reverting to a sub-urban existence, except that the weather was a lot better in Santa Barbara than in Queens. However, as we deliberated over neighborhoods to live, we chose Long Island City as an ideal locale. It was very convenient to our jobs—and my softball games, and it had thus-far escaped the attention of Annoying People that were overrunning trendier neighborhoods in Brooklyn and in Manhattan. We also knew a tight-knit community of artists that were scattered throughout the neighborhood.

Although there were no full-service grocery stores, drug stores, or hardware stores, it felt more like home than any other New York neighborhood I had lived. There was a cheap Chinese place, a great local bar that would let us store our apartment keys for the inevitable lockout, and, crucially, a place to cut my hair. A Colombian native, David the Haircutter owned the shop below our apartment. When I visited every four-to-six weeks, he chatted with me in Spanish and asked about my family. He also accepted and held my mail from Sarah that went to my old apartment after we split up. Over the years, I also configured his Wi-Fi router and helped him sell a shampoo bowl on Craig’s List. Perhaps, most flatteringly, he honored the 2008-era price of $20, years after he raised his base men’s cut to $25. Even after I moved across the Pulaski Bridge, I still returned to David’s Haircutters on Vernon Boulevard.

The financial crisis of 2008 only postponed the inevitable, and, eventually, those Annoying People found Long Island City to be an ideal place, too. Renters were priced out, property owners cashed out, and another cycle of gentrification pushed out the earlier wave that I had ridden. Overwhelmingly, talk of real estate replaced impassioned discussions of art.1


On Saturday, though, I went there for the last time. He told me that he had sold the remaining ten years of his twenty-year lease, called it quits, and packed up for Florida. He leaves tomorrow, and a nail salon will take over the space in the coming months.

While I’m happy for David—and a tiny-bit annoyed that I have to find a new haircutter, I’m sad for Vernon Boulevard and Long Island City. It has finally arrived as a true neighborhood in the Manicure Capital of the United States.

The above link to Amazon is an affiliate link. If you buy something that link, I will earn a commission fee.

  1. To be fair, almost every blog about Long Island City has ever really been about real estate, and the artists were usually solitarily too holed up in their structurally deficient studio spaces to actually debate aesthetics. 

Four LIC Breweries to Host Ten-Day Beer Crawl

Remember when the three local breweries in Long Island City staged a beer-crawl back in February?

In recent months, a fourth brewery, the LIC Beer Project, has opened north of Queens Plaza in recent months. Now that there’s a fourth, the beer-making outfits are collectively launching a late-summer beer crawl starting today, August 14, and running through next Sunday, August 23.

The four participating brewing outfits are:

  • Big Alice Brewing, 8-08 43rd Rd.
  • LIC Beer Project, 39-28 23rd St.
  • Rockaway Brewing Company, 46-01 5th St.
  • Transmitter Brewing, 53-02 11th St.

I still want to take credit for the idea, but, you know, I haven’t even been to Transmitter or Big Alice, much less the newly opened LIC Beer Project, despite my love of passports.

It might time to walk the walk, or to, ahem, crawl the crawl.

They’re Calling it LICHenge


Midsummer is still about a month away, but twice every year—once around Memorial Day and again around Bastille Day—New Yorkers point their cameras at the setting sun to capture it as it lines up with the Manhattan street grid. Because of the similarity of how the sun lines up with the rocks at Stonehenge on the summer solstice, this specifically New York City–phenomenon has been called “Manhattanhenge.”

I first learned about Manhattanhenge back around 2002 or 2003, when a friend forwarded me a link to Neil Degrasse-Tyson’s article explaining the event, which was written not too long after People named him the sexiest astrophysicist alive. I believe he is also credited with concocting the portmanteau “Manhattanhenge.”

Almost every year since then, I missed it. For most of my early years in New York City, I lived in Greenwich Village, and I would invariably feel discouraged to take my camera and tripod to 14th Street, where I would have to dodge pedestrian and vehicular traffic at a busy time of the day. As budding New Yorker, my cynicism didn’t judge it worth the trouble.

However, after moving to Long Island City in 2008, I realized that I had the perfect spot to view the sunset on any given night, and starting in 2011, I got over my reservations over photographing Manhattanhenge and headed for Gantry State Park, where Long Island City meets the East River at Hunters Point. There, I found that I was in good company of other curious photographers, including one guy who used his girlfriend’s head as an improvised tripod.

Shooting the Shooters

And, of course, the photographic results were pretty stunning.


Much like Long Island City itself, watching Manhattanhenge from Long Island City is “blowing up.” I hate to say that because it seems silly to brag about watching a particular sunset longer than anybody else. That same sun has been “setting” beyond our horizon for over a billion years, and it has been lining up with the Manhattan street grid since about 1811. I’m old, but not that old.

However, two events came to my attention this week that suggest the growing popularity of watching Manhattanhenge from Long Island City:

  1. On Thursday, May 28, the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, the non-profit organization that advocates for Gantry State Park and Hunters Point South Park, is hosting a viewing party. The name for it is a portmanteau of a portmanteau: LICHenge. Members of the organization get some vittles and a beverage while they watch the sun set in line with 42nd Street.

  2. Jeanmarie Evelly, the DNA Info reporter who covers the “Brooklyn parts” of Queens, posted a story about viewing Manhattanhenge from LIC. I had actually completely forgotten about Manhattanhenge until she emailed me yesterday, asking permission to use one of my photos of the 2011 LIC-Manhattanhenge. The photograph now illustrates her story about “soaking” in views of Manhattanhenge from the LIC waterfront.

As an exile from Long Island City, I doubt that I will return to the Queens waterfront to view Manhattanhenge. Perhaps, instead, I will head to Transmitter Park in Greenpoint to watch it from a new vantage point. In either case, I would hate to miss it. Even if it’s more popular than ever before, watching Manhattanhenge from here is still a great experience.

What’s not to like about a sunset?

The LIC Beer Crawl

Hyperlocal news website The LIC Post reports that the three nanobreweries in Long Island City are hosting a brewery crawl, complete with passports that visitors get stamped and submit for a raffle.

Rockaway Brewing Company (46-01 5th Street), Big Alice Brewing (8-08 43rd Road) and Transmitter Brewing (53-02 11th Street) are coming together to offer a brewery crawl during beer week, which runs from Feb. 20 to March 1.

It’s great to see these breweries, the “LIC Three” as I once called them, band together to make the neighborhood a more lively destination. Also, can I take credit for this idea?

There Goes the Neighborhood Chinese Place

You could see New City from our bedroom window, as in this February 2010 photo.

You could see New City from our bedroom window, as in this February 2010 photo.

As if I weren’t sad enough these days, I learned that New City Kitchen Express, on Vernon Boulevard, will likely close within the next two weeks after seven years serving the neighborhood. Every New York City neighborhood needs a “cheap Chinese” place, and that’s what New City was for our corner of Long Island City.

LIC Post reports:

The restaurant’s lease expired and the business owners did not want to pay the much higher rent. The landlord is seeking $10,500 a month in rent as well as $3,300 per month to cover the real estate taxes.

This is sad because I’ve come to recognize the family that runs the shop and even watched the son and daughter, who work the register, cook the food, and make the occasional delivery, grow up over the years. I remember how they were temporarily forced outside of their space when the upper floors of the building caught fire. But the store closing is even more sad to me because this was where Sarah and I had one of our first meals in Long Island City.

Our first meal in the neighborhood was at Manducati’s, as were looking to take shelter on a bitterly cold night after looking at an apartment. We also ate at Dominie’s Hoek after John Casella at Crest Haven Realty showed us two apartments, one of which we took. After signing the lease, we dined in at Tuk Tuk to power us as we prepared the apartment for our move-in a few weeks later.

We were lucky enough to be allowed to move in early to do things that are much easier to do when you’re not surrounded by boxes containing all your worldly possessions, such as line kitchen shelves and to paint the walls. Each night, Sarah and I would do some work and then head to either my place or hers for the night. It was on one of those preparation nights, a Friday if memory serves, that Sarah and I got hungry and sought some quick food options. I hadn’t brought my computer, and this was before we had smartphones, so we couldn’t look up a place and its menu on the Internet. However, from our bedroom window, which faces Vernon Boulevard, we could see the New City’s sign from our window and copied down the phone number.1 We phoned in a take-out order but since we didn’t have a menu, we just ordered whatever you expect to find at every Chinese take-out place in New York: General Tso tofu for Sarah, the chicken version for me, and peanut noodles for the both of us.

One thing I did not know about New City was that it had recently opened when we moved in. It seemed like they were there forever.

  1. It’s also possible that I used Google’s SMS search. Back then you could send a text with a business name and the zip code, such as New City 11101 to GOOGL and you’d get a response with an address and phone number. Crazy, huh? 

Toenail Trouble

This was the first procedure to partially remove part of an ingrown toenail, in April 2012. Partially removing my toenail has become a yearly ritual.

This was the first procedure to partially remove part of my toenail, in April 2012. Partially removing my toenail has become a yearly ritual.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had some pretty painful ingrown toenails. I even remember getting them as a kid, but I was always able to dig around a bit to get the nail in a good spot. But perhaps in a sign of aging, my ingrown toenails have become so painful that I’ve deferred to the help of medical professionals. About once a year since April 2012, I’ve had a podiatrist essentially give me a high-priced pedicure. A doctor will trim the part of the nail that has worked itself into my skin and then call it a day. I was anxious the first time I had the procedure and was expecting to need help getting home. One friend said that I would need as much as month recovery time. It concerned me so much that I looked into filing a disability insurance claim to help cover my lost wages. However, it wasn’t as bad as all that. After each procedure, I have been able to walk out and even ride my bike home. I felt so good the first time, I even went to the once-monthly Tiki Tuesday night at the Astor Room in Astoria with Sarah and my friend Julia.

Warning: It’s going to get a little gross, here.

But after at least three procedures, most recently in March 2013, I think it’s time to get the problem permanently fixed. I want them to remove the toenails entirely so they may finally grow straight. I also have a few really discolored nails, too. They developed over time, and I neglected them so long, there might be no other way to fix the problem than to get rid of those altogether.

I’m not sure how bad the procedure will be and whether I will be able to walk on my own. When I asked the doctor how much recovery I would need after a complete toenail extraction, she said that it would only require a day or two of convalescence compared to the partial extraction. I am hopeful that means I can at least walk out of the doctor’s office and get around okay, preferably even bike around since it keeps most of my weight off my feet.

My biggest concern at the moment is my recovery. I don’t have a permanent home right now, and I am worried that I might not be able to get to my temporary home. Where will I recover, if it’s as bad as I fear? For the most part, I’ve been able to get by on my own after the previous toenail extractions, I was able to do quite a bit on my own after I dislocated my pinkie last April, and I was able to take care of myself when I had food poisoning in late May. But even through those times, I had someone to take care of me, should I needed help. Right now, I don’t have that, and I really miss it. And I’m scared.

Long Island City Has Three Breweries

Three breweries in Long Island City: Big Alice, Rockaway, and Transmitter are all within a manageable walk from each other.

Three breweries in Long Island City: Big Alice, Rockaway, and Transmitter are all within a manageable walk from each other.

It still amazes me how a decade ago since I moved to New York, there were almost no noteworthy breweries in New York State, save for Brooklyn Brewery and one or two more. Today, however, there many more than I comfortably count, such as Sixpoint, Singlecut, Captain Lawrence, Keegan, and Greenport Harbor. In Long Island City, we appear to be following that trend. We now have three breweries whereas a couple of years ago we had none.

The other day, while hanging out at my favorite hostel/work-space/trivia-night, I saw a postcard showing the three Long Island City breweries: Big Alice, Rockaway, and Transmitter. Placing them on a map like that was an invitation, almost a challenge, to visit all three of them.

All three are within a long but manageable walk from each other. You could also visit all three by biking to each one, as I would almost invariably do.

Brewery Location Taproom Hours
Big Alice Brewing 8–08 43rd Rd Friday, 5:00 – 8:00 PM.
Their Facebook page lists their hours as 5:00 – 7:30 PM.
Rockaway Brewing 46–01 5th St Thursday and Friday, 3:00 – 8:00 PM; Saturday and Sunday, 12:00 – 8:00 PM
Transmitter Brewing 53–02 11th St Friday, 5:00 – 8:00 PM; Saturday and Sunday, 12:00 – 5:00 PM.
Their website lists their Saturday and Sunday hours as 12:00 – 6:00 PM.

You can visit each brewery, one at a time, or take a Friday evening and hop to them all, as their taprooms are all open on Friday evenings. If I get around to visiting all three on a single day, I’ll post a report here.

Update, July 15, 2015: There’s a fourth brewery within striking distance. LIC Beer Project is located on 39-28 23rd Street, which is a few blocks north of Queens Plaza, and open on Fridays, 4:00 – 9:00 PM, and on Saturdays, 1:00 – 9:00 PM.

Coffee and Indoor and Outdoor Music

Seasonal creep

It’s when someone tries to hurry along the next season when we’re still in the midst of the current season. Some examples include Back-to-School sales in July, Christmas decorations in October, and Valentine’s Day swag right after New Year’s Day. I’ll even add registering for spring classes in the second week of the fall term.

I’ll admit that the weather this summer has been downright pleasant, temperatures in the low 80s with very low humidity, which hasn’t resembled the sultry summers of late. But yesterday, August 15, it was downright autumnal. Not only was it chilly enough for me to wear a sweatshirt when I saw the Boogaroos at the free outdoor show at the South Street Seaport last night, there were other signs of autumn:

  • There were NFL football games were playing on the big screens at bars across the city,
  • At one of those same bars, I saw a sandwich board easel advertising Oktoberfest beers,
  • On Thursday, I was handed a beer list that included four pumpkin beers,
  • Yesterday afternoon, I swore I saw NYU students beginning to move in to some of the dorms along Washington Square.

I really hate fall, despite the pleasant weather in September and early October. It signals the end of my lighter-than-normal workload, the end of softball season, long bike rides before more difficult to schedule, greenmarkets approach the end of their flavorful harvest, everyone is watching football, and I revert to wearing long pants. But before summer gives way to fall, here’s a few events still going on before it all ends in about two weeks.

Sadly, because the semester is about to start and I have work to do, I’ll probably miss all the outdoor stuff. Dang!

Trivia Night at the Hostel

A novel but increasingly common sight in Long Island City is the presence of baggage-toting tourists descending to the subway station at 23rd Street-Court Square. Part of the reason is that the area has a healthy concentration of hotels, such as the Z Hotel and the Wyndham Garden, and our very own hostel, appropriately called The Local. I think a lot of travelers end up around here because the hotels must be cheaper than staying in Manhattan but are located one subway stop from Manhattan, although a hotel such as The Ravel is about a good ten-minute walk from Queensborough Plaza.

My travel experience wasn’t that of the typical youngster backpacking around Europe after college. Most of my travel consisted of many short trips, partly because I always had a steady job after college and, because my father worked for an airline, I could fly anywhere for practically nothing. Throughout my various travels, I only stayed in a hostel a handful of times: once in Italy with a bunch of college friends, once again in the Garden District of New Orleans, and most recently in London to attend an academic conference. As far as I remember, these hostels resembled university dormitories: they all had a shared bathroom, a communal kitchen and dining area, and a front desk with supportive staff to help you experience the city you were visiting. One thing that I don’t remember seeing at these hostels was a bar.

The Local has a bar, and in the spirit of promoting conviviality among its guests, the hostel features activities such as a Thursday trivia night. Some of my friends like The Local because it’s a nice space off the beaten track. There is no “bar drama” because there are no regulars among its transient clientele. And best of all, it features some very inexpensive craft beer and decent wine, or so I’m told.

Last week, Sarah and I went to the Thursday night trivia contest. Assuming we were the only locals who would regularly attend this trivia night, we named our team LIC You Next Thursday. The questions consisted of some common knowledge questions, such as whether alligators sweat. (They don’t.) Because the guests undoubtedly have New York on their minds, there were questions about the city, such as naming and ranking the five boroughs in order of physical size. The pop-culture round were mostly about movies from the 1990s, and our having come of age in that decade really helped us answer those questions.

The prize was a $50 bar tab, which I am happy to report we won.


The prize was so big we had to call on friends to help us spend our winnings. However, we also could have saved for another day: the prize expires after seven days.

Aside from winning the trivia contest and spending the prize, I received no compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.