Long Island City, N.Y.
by Stephen Fisher
Originally written as a letter from former Sunnysider/Woodsider Stephen Fisher to his friends and family, the following photo essay is tribute to an area which, even if we never walked its streets as children, we felt as second skin as we passed through on the IRT Main Street Flushing elevated subway line or traveled across the Queensboro Bridge in a car heading towards Manhattan.
This is a photographic tribute to my native neighborhood in New York: Long Island City, Queens. It was inspired by Amazon’s announcement last month of its plan to open a new headquarters there, coupled with a realization that I have recent photographs of the proposed building site area. Moreover, the now historic connection of lawyer Michael Cohen’s Long Island City business to presidential politics gave me an added impetus to write about an already interesting place.
With the kind indulgence of my sister on car trips from Long Island to Manhattan, we were able to drive through our old neighborhoods of Sunnyside, Woodside and Long Island City, and then continue by the short taxi ride over the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan where I got to see a few of my favorite offbeat sights. That is how I got the photos below.
I was born in Astoria, and my family lived first in Woodside and then in Sunnyside, which are the neighborhoods adjacent to what is now called Long Island City, the section of Queens bordered by Brooklyn and the East River. In my youth, the area designated as Long Island City included those three adjacent neighborhoods. Long Island City was part of my formal home address, and was listed as my birthplace on documents, that is, until recently, when I had it changed officially to New York City.
When I was growing up in the 1940s and 50s, Long Island City was mainly a commercial and light industrial area with factories, warehouses and especially the offices and garages for cab companies, including the one story building where lawyer Michael Cohen had his Yellow Cab taxi medallion business. While this business has since folded, Cohen did very well for a while and was able to move up in the world, eventually joining up with Queens’ famous con man, Donald Trump. Meanwhile, the taxi cabs were abandoned at a gas station on Northern Boulevard, described nicely in this little local report: http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/transit/2018/10/12/sources--cabs-formerly-owned-by-michael-cohen-and--taxi-king--sit-abandoned-in-queens
In what I think is a remarkable event in modern times, Queens has become home to the largest and most diverse population of immigrants anywhere in the world. Currently, about one half its 2 million plus population is foreign-born, coming from all over the globe. Amazon sees the benefit; Trump is ungrateful.
The Court Square Diner, seen in pictures below, is still an ordinary diner. However, in the near future, it might very well become popular and upscale, that is, when Amazon moves into the neighborhood. My older relative, Ira Glener, who lives nearby and whom we met at the diner, and the new very young Congresswoman from the area, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who reflects the local progressive politics, both object to the Amazon deal. One important issue is a couple of billion dollars in concessions the mayor and governor gave to Amazon, which could have gone to other pressing needs, like improving the 100 year old subway system (see historic 1917 photo below) which is very heavily used, and functioning poorly these days.
Long Island City at left with proposed site of Amazon headquarters visible mid-photo in front of modern high rise buildings on the Anable Basin Inlet, the East River. Taken from the Queensboro Bridge, the reflection of my shirt can be seen in taxi cab window. Photo by Stephen Fisher
East River viewed from the Queensboro Bridge to south, the former Goldwater Memorial Chronic Care Hospital on Roosevelt Island at right foreground. Recently demolished, it has been replaced with the new Cornell Technology Campus, conveniently situated opposite the future Amazon site and connected to Long Island City by ferry. Queens is on the left and lower Manhattan is seen in the distance, with new World Trade Center tower. Photo by Stephen Fisher, April, 2014
View from taxi on upper deck of the Queensboro Bridge taken on the Queens side of the East River with Long Island City in foreground and Brooklyn in distance at left. The planned Amazon headquarters site is between the low, long brown building in center of photo and the new apartment buildings. Across the East River is Manhattan, with One World Trade Center tower in the far distance, the United Nations and Empire State buildings to the right. Photo by Stephen Fisher April 2014
Long Island City Silvercup Studios (the original Silvercup Bakery sign), the largest TV and film studio in New York City, viewed from the upper deck of the Queensboro Bridge with the Citigroup Building and other new high rise buildings in background. Photo by Stephen Fisher April 2014
Queensboro Bridge upper deck view facing north with the Ravenswood Consolidated Edison power plant to right and a partial view of the Queensbridge Housing Project - the largest public housing development in the Western Hemisphere according to Wikipedia - in the foreground, the uptown Manhattan skyline across the East River in background. Photo by Stephen Fisher April 2014
Court Square Diner at Court Square Station, serving the Long Island City area since 1946 located under the elevated subway, the 7 Flushing train, at 23rd Street near Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, close to the future Amazon offices. Photo by Stephen Fisher May 2018
Historic photo, January 1917: Queens Boulevard viewed from a building in Long Island City, the new elevated extension of the subway just before it opened, called the IRT Main Street Flushing Line, now the #7 train. Rawson Ave./33rd Street Station in foreground, Sunnyside to the left and Woodside beyond. Trees and farmland have been cleared. Within 10 years, the area will be developed and trees will begin to grow back.
Street scene where Elmhurst and Jackson Heights neighborhoods adjoin on Roosevelt Avenue at 72nd Street under the elevated tracks of the Flushing #7 subway line. The photo is of me with my Canon 600D camera reflected in the car side mirror. Elmhurst Hospital Center nearby has translators in over 150 languages. Photo May 2013