Amazon’s upcoming move to the waterfront neighborhood of Long Island City (LIC) has Queens residents abuzz with anticipation, and they’re not the only ones. Local businesses are prepared to welcome the new arrivals with a growing slate of housing, eating, and retail options.
There’s no doubt that we’ll see plenty of ambitious new projects shaping up alongside HQ2, but LIC already has plenty to offer. Long Island City is an artistic community teeming with countless cultural gems, impressive green spaces, and a solid portfolio of quirky bars, specialty restaurants, and down-to-business coffee shops. It’s currently home to over 150 restaurants, bars, and cafes; more than 39 arts and cultural institutions; five waterfront parks; and 32 hotels, with 43 others in the works. From its spectacular views of Manhattan to its lovely parks, trendy restaurants, and easy access to public transportation, LIC will prove an exceptional home for Amazon’s planned new hires.
MoMA PS1: A satellite location of Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the lesser-known MoMA PS1 is located within a weathered school building, boasting an impressive array of contemporary art within a laid back atmosphere. During warmer months, the museum runs its popular Warm Up series, outdoor events presenting the best in live and electronic music. Last year Warm Up hosted more than 75 artists across 10 energy-packed sessions.
Museum of the Moving Image: This museum explores the history of film with interactive exhibitions, and also doubles as a cinema. Events include everything from screenings of contemporary films (including Q&As with special guests) to showings of cult classics.
The Noguchi Museum: This museum specializes in works by artist Isamu Noguchi, an artist and landscape architect who is especially well-known for his sculpture and public works. The museum houses the world’s largest collection of his art, consisting of two floors, as well as an outdoor sculpture garden.
Dutch Kills Green: This 1.5 acre oasis in Queens Plaza, formerly a parking lot, was transformed in 2012 into a green space that houses a native-plant wetlands, a collection of artist-created benches, an amphitheatre, and a bike trail that starts at Pulaski Bridge and takes adventurous riders all the way to Manhattan’s Lower East Side
Gantry Plaza State Park: A 12-acre riverfront park, Gantry Plaza features gardens, fishing piers, sports fields, a playground, a mist fountain, and frequent live music. Most notably, though, the park is known for its incredible views of the midtown Manhattan skyline, the 59th Street Bridge, and the Williamsburg Bridge. Visitors are sure to enjoy strolling around its four piers and manicured gardens.
The Cliffs at LIC: This indoor rock gym is a paragon of flexibility, and not just in the athletes scaling its walls. Climbers can purchase day passes or memberships, and solo climbers can take advantage of auto belays. The gym also offers a number of classes, from rock climbing classes to yoga, pilates, and even AcroYoga. Any level of skill is welcome to take on these “cliffs” near the Queens waterfront.
Places to Eat & Drink:
Court Square Diner: Don’t just visit Court Square Diner because it’s one of the city’s last remaining true diners, go there because it serves up a great meal, too. This diner has everything we’ve come to love and expect from such beloved eateries. A sprawling menu, affordable prices, retro decor, and a kitchen that never closes. Absolute perfection.
Dutch Kills: This craft cocktail bar shakes up a huge menu of specialty drinks, and each one is a work of art. It’s big on house-made ingredients (they even make their own grenadine), fresh squeezed juices, and a variety of bitters. While the main attraction is cocktails, the bar also serves a modest selection of wine and beer, as well as a few comfort snacks to soak it all up. Kentucky beer cheese, anyone?
Queens Comfort: Widely considered to be one of New York City’s best brunch spots, Queens Comfort in nearby Astoria is not to be missed. Specializing in comfort food, this place has it all: a menu chock-full of atypical Benedicts, karaoke, live DJs, freestyling MCs, retro movies, and vintage decor. Oh, and it’s BYOB.
The best part is….this is just the tiniest of samples. LIC had already been deemed one of the hottest spots for young people pre-Amazon, and while it’s hard to imagine the neighborhood getting any hotter, Amazon’s announcement is sure to add more exciting destinations to the list.
The history of New York City often lays unnoticed in the names of the streets and avenues that comprise it. From its origins as a colonial trade outpost to its current status as the cultural capital of the world, the oft-traveled thoroughfares of the five boroughs are a living history of the area’s influences and interests. These are just a few of the fascinating street name origins that have probably gone under your radar.
A one-of-a-kind street in Manhattan, the Bowery’s name has meant plenty of different things to different eras of New Yorkers. From the punk rockers of the 1970s and 1980s to the chic types who populate its hip bars and restaurants today, no street’s denizens better exemplify the rapid speed of change in NYC. Perhaps that makes it strangely ironic that the name comes from the first and oldest use of this avenue, which was full of quiet, pastoral farmland. In fact, the name comes from the Dutch word for farm: bouwerij. The spelling was anglicized after the Dutch left town and has remained that way ever since.
Manhattan’s most famous thoroughfare, like the similarly named Bowery, comes from the language of the city’s Dutch founders. Brede weg, simply meaning “wide road,” was an appropriate enough name, and remains so to this day. While it’s best known for being the home of the Theater District, the street doesn’t end on the island. While there are separate Broadways in Queens and Brooklyn, only the Bronx can say their version is truly part of the prominent one in Manhattan. In fact, the street runs even further north than that, extending 18 miles into Westchester County, finally ending in the town of Sleepy Hollow.
Modern visitors to this Chinatown thoroughfare are awash in traffic and aggressive handbag sales but had they visited about 200 years ago they’d more likely be traversing this block in a canoe. Yes, similar to Wall Street to the south, Canal Street got its name from an actual canal, built to handle runoff from the swamps and marshes that occupied this area before urbanization. By 1820, the swamps were gone, and the canal had been paved over to become the island-spanning street we know today.
One of Queens’ oldest and longest roads, Kissena Boulevard connects Flushing and Jamaica while running directly down the center of the borough. The name comes from the Chippewa word meaning “it is cold,” derived by the lake of the same name found in Kissena Park. The street is not only an important landmark for New York City travelers but Rock and Roll historians as well. According to legend, Queens-born KISS guitarist Paul Stanley got the idea for his band’s name by shortening that of the street he traveled on as a child.
Eager for more etymological entertainment? Read our How NYC Neighborhoods Got Their Names or The Most Popular Dog Names in NYC.
New York is truly a city constantly in flux. Among the most exciting recent changes to the NYC landscape have been spaces fallen into disuse and reimagined into homes for the most thrilling music the world has to offer. These are the city’s latest and greatest major music venues, each borne from an old building transformed into something more vibrant and new.
The latest venue opened by Bowery Presents (owners of the Bowery Ballroom, Webster Hall, Terminal 5 and others), this former steelworks factory in East Williamsburg has been converted into the mid-sized concert hall of Brooklynite’s dreams. No longer will trips into Manhattan be necessary to see the likes of Elvis Costello, MGMT, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor on their NYC tour stops. The site’s repurposed metal fixtures, exposed pipes, and rugged factory-grade windows and ceiling fans are a reminder of what once was while giving big-name bands the Brooklyn edge they’re looking for when they swing into town.
Forest Hills Stadium
Named for the cozy Queens neighborhood it calls home, Forest Hills Stadium has a history matched by few venues in the five boroughs. Once host to shows by Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Diana Ross, and countless other megastars, the stadium fell into disuse by the 1990s, necessitating a full renovation to get it back to its past glory. That happened in 2013, and reopened with a rousing show by Mumford and Sons to signal that Queens was once again a destination for music’s hottest acts.
The crown jewel of Flatbush Avenue, the Kings Theatre finally reopened in 2015 after a meticulous renovation. Formerly a vaudeville theater turned movie house, crowds came from around Flatbush and surrounding neighborhoods to enjoy the regal building until it was shut down in 1977. A renovation plan approved in 2010 and completed in 2015 restored the Theatre to its rightful place among the city’s finest seated music halls, even serving as host for Mayor de Blasio’s State of the City Address in 2018.
NYC style isn’t restricted to the bands that pass through town. Read our guide to 5 Architectural Styles that Define NYC or Public Artworks that New Yorkers Must See to Believe for more on the aesthetics of the city.
One of the most ethnically diverse regions in the entire country, Queens is unsurprisingly home to many tantalizing food options from many corners of the world. The South Asian enclave of Jackson Heights is no exception. This residential outerborough haven is home to some of the finest Indian, Bangladeshi, and Pakistani cuisine this side of the Ganges River.
If your experience of Indian food starts and ends with supermarket curry, let any one of these eateries be your introduction to a world of culinary delight. This walkable neighborhood (traffic and cramped streets can make driving here a hassle) is easily accessible by the 7, E, F, M, and R trains, as well as the Long Island Railroad.
This neighborhood institution was originally housed in a former greasy-spoon diner that often had trouble containing the visiting masses, with lines going out the door at times. Ownership has kept the name but moved into a more spacious location in the mid-90s to better suit the crowds their top-notch offerings attracted. For value, there’s no beating their lunch buffet, but anytime you’re hungry, you won’t regret the trip.
Samudra Vegetarian Restaurant & Chaat House
Don’t let the “v” word scare you away, carnivores, this eatery’s savory wares will have you forgetting all about those meat cravings. Samudra features high-quality portions at wallet-friendly prices, with rave reviews from locals and visitors alike. Try their Dosa (stuffed, crepe-like pancake with vegetable filling) or palak paneer (fresh cheese in spinach-based sauce) to get a taste of the subcontinent without leaving the five boroughs.
Maharaja Sweets & Snacks
Once you’ve polished off an entree (or two), talk a walk down 37th Avenue to this raved-about sweet shop. Stocked with brightly colored favorites like burfi and galub jamun, as well as homemade ice cream, this spot’s a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. Small bites are available too if you feel like grabbing an extra samosa for later!
If you can envision yourself craving the flavors of India quickly after leaving, but don’t look forward to a subway journey every time, stop by Patel Brothers grocery store before you leave Jackson Heights. This chain has all the cardamom, curry leaves, and basmati rice you need to take a stab at recreating the great meals you’ve had in the neighborhood. Don’t worry, if your homemade approximations don’t live up to your memories of Jackson Heights, these fine eateries will be happy to welcome you back.
So you’ve decided to take the plunge and move to New York City. Congratulations! Making your way in this city can be intimidating, but knowing where you want to settle can take much of the pressure off of your transition. There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a neighborhood in NYC, so read on for some ideas about the best areas for newcomers.
Long Island City
If close proximity to Manhattan at sub-Manhattan prices sounds good to you (and it should), LIC is a great place to call home. This former industrial hub offers a peaceful escape from Manhattan with hard-to-beat views and a rapidly growing restaurant scene. If you’re confused by the name, don’t worry. Just know that while you’re technically on Long Island (as Queens and Brooklyn are geographically part of the island), but well within the confines of the five boroughs.
This neighborhood perched at the upper tip of Manhattan will give you all the prestige of a “New York, New York” address at a fraction of the price of more southerly options. A number of pre-war buildings make for affordable lodgings for someone making their entrance to the city. One great attraction is Inwood Hill Park, the only piece of Manhattan that stands untouched as it originally was before the city became the concrete jungle it is today.
If Brooklyn calls out to you, Crown Heights has the perfect combination of culture and affordability to welcome any newcomer. Though new developments are popping up fast, the neighborhood still holds both classic charm and up and coming hotspots. A remarkably diverse region, it’s one of the few places in the city where you’re equally likely to hear Yiddish and Creole spoken on the same block.
As long you’re not intimidated by living in what’s most likely the busiest neighborhood in the city, the affordable rents in Chinatown make it a good option. While it may be a bit daunting, the proximity to cultural hubs like SoHo and the Lower East Side mean you’re never far from somewhere new and exciting. Just try not to make any major purchases on Canal Street.
You might have thought there was nowhere to get great Latin American and Chinese food, but then you didn’t know Sunset Park. For a wide variety of quality eats on a budget, it’s hard to do better than this Brooklyn nabe. Sunset is also home to the rapidly growing Industry City development, which promises a wealth of new shopping and entertainment options that’s sure to raise the neighborhood’s profile in the near future, so you’ll be glad you got in early.