Field Trip: Long Island City

I can’t begin to defend the NYC Ferry system as a mass-transit solution—the city subsidizes it to the tune of $6.60 per passenger!—but as someone with free time and an urge to explore, I love it. A visit to Long Island City by subway doesn’t hold half the appeal of one by boat, especially since there’s only one other stop (E. 34th St.) after leaving Pier 11 on the NYC Ferry Astoria route, so you get 13 minutes of uninterrupted voyage.

Moreover, the trip doubles as a tour of the new architecture on the East River, mostly in Brooklyn and Queens; the last photo is of the marvelous American Copper Buildings in Manhattan. The movement of the boat makes photography difficult.

Long Island City has the best arrival of any ferry stop I’ve visited: right under the famous Pepsi-Cola sign. The glass towers behind it are not the most satisfying backdrop, but let’s take what we can get.

I walked south through Gantry Plaza State Park, which segues into the city’s Hunters Point South Park (reachable by NYC Ferry’s East River route). The entire stretch is lovely, and it reminded me of Battery Park City. While big apartment buildings aren’t my thing, I can imagine living there see how this might be a fine place to live, seasonally. When you think about how much the waterfront of New York City has changed in the past 25 years, it blows the mind….

At one point, a sign said the gantries are to the south. The word was new to me: “a bridgelike overhead structure with a platform supporting equipment such as a crane, railroad signals, lights, or cameras.” Along with a snippet of old railbed, they were a welcome addition to the somewhat generic pleasantness of the park.

I’m less sure about the Queens Library at Hunters Point, currently under construction. One one hand, good for architect Steven Holl for trying something different (and getting it approved in what must’ve been a brutal process); on the other hand, it’s rather Karim Rashid, isn’t it? And its position on the waterfront is prime, to say the least.

Eventually I reached a fence, through which I could see an unfinished part of the park. That’s not smoke in the second photo; I was shooting through a hole in the mesh.

Heading inland, I wandered through an industrial area. There were some picturesque moments—and a surreal one, when an ice cream truck jingled through the desolation—but a little of this went a long way. I believe I crossed over some Long Island Rail Road tracks, and I walked alongside the Long Island Expressway, so that was something.

I was kind of annoyed at myself for not stepping inside the Circus Warehouse, which offers classes in trapeze, aerial silks, contortion, and more. Next time….

A striking spire drew me back to civilization, by which I mean lunch at Café Henri. The vibe was right and the croque madame was tasty. A digression: Solo diners should be given the option of a half-order of fries, because what was I supposed to do? Not eat them all? With children starving elsewhere?

Feeling the need to walk it off, I headed northeast. There wasn’t much to engage with, anyway, except P.S. 1, which I planned on skipping. (The building is a treat, but don’t get me started on contemporary art or I’ll sound like Prince Charles.) I did like seeing the health-food store and a Peruvian restaurant, the kinds of businesses you don’t find much in Lower Manhattan anymore….

This was a neat building, and if I come back at night, I’ll go to Mu Ramen.

I continued walking, stopping when I saw something notable: an anti-choice billboard; a residential block (the only one I’d encounter, except for the glass towers by the water); quality lettering on the C. E. Sheppard Co. building and an auto body shop; a tempting warning; the murals on what I mistook for the Silvercup production facility….

I cut west, hoping I’d find something residential, but it was even more industrial. I entered the Long Island City Industrial Park, which isn’t quite as exciting as it sounds.

At night, the area might come alive in unexpected ways. Part of the former Albra metal foundry is now an event venue, and the Ravel hotel is quite the compound.

That’s the Queensboro Bridge in the background of the last photo. I don’t know that I had ever been under the Queens side of it. (Another item off the bucket list!) It was time to return to the ferry, and before long, I was right back where I started from. Next up: NYC Ferry’s route to Soundview in the Bronx, which debuts sometime this summer.

Previous Field Trip posts:
Two Bridges
Governors Island (Reprise)
Storm King Art Center
Red Hook
Sunset Park
Bay Ridge
The Met Breuer
ICP Museum
Noguchi Museum & Socrates Sculpture Park
The Fisher Landau Center for Art
The High Bridge
The Broad
Crown Heights
Spuyten Duyvil
New York Botanical Garden
The New Whitney Museum
The Rockaways
Wave Hill
Governors Island
F.D.R. Four Freedoms Park
Litchfield County, Conn.
One Wall Street
Behind the Scenes at Grand Central Terminal
The Howard/Crosby Microneighborhood
Federal Reserve Bank of New York
East River Ferry
Museum of American Finance



  1. Wonderful, Erik. We have to travel a bit far to get a fix of desolation these days.

  2. We had a fantastic time at the LIC Open Studios last week – highly recommended!