Pepsi sign in Long Island City moves closer to NYC landmark status

The iconic Pepsi sign is seen in Gantry Plaza  State Park in 2012.
The iconic Pepsi sign is seen in Gantry Plaza State Park in 2012. Photo Credit: NYPD

The most iconic symbol of Long Island City’s skyline — the Pepsi sign — is one step closer to being an official Big Apple landmark.

The 80-year-old neon sign, which currently resides in Gantry Plaza Square Park, was one of 30 locations that were selected for consideration by the Landmarks Preservation Commission Tuesday from its huge backlog of requests.

Preservationists, community leaders and admirers on both sides of the East River said they were thrilled that the commission is seriously considering placing the sign in the same league as other landmarks in the city.

“When you see it, you know you’re in Long Island City. At night, it’s a beacon for everyone who comes on the 59th Street Bridge,” said Rob Basch, a Gantry Plaza Square Park advocate.

An LPC spokesperson said the exact date for the Pepsi sign hearing hasn’t been determined, but it and the 29 other applications will be on the agenda for the 2016 calendar year.

An application for the red sign, which measures 60-feet-high by 120-feet-long, was first submitted in 1988 and it’s the first “free-standing commercial sign” ever to be considered by the committee, according to the spokeswoman.

Although developers promised not to demolish or move the sign out of the area when they built high end condos in Long Island City, residents still pushed for a landmark designation to guarantee that no future changes would affect its place in the community.

“I’m a New Yorker. For some reason, the sign to me … it’s kind of like a reassurance in some way,” said Nina Feinberg, 61, of Turtle Bay. “If it were gone, I would miss it terribly.”

Across the East River, in Long Island City itself, 35-year-old resident Jessica Acosta also approved.

“I think it’s great because this neighborhood, especially, is becoming very very popular and I think something like that would make it more official, that this is an established neighborhood in Queens,” she said.

Some New Yorkers, however, said landmarking what essentially is an old advertisement didn’t feel right.

“I think there’s a conflict of interest there and once corporations have rights on landmarks, I think it makes things tricky,” said Yamar Ba, 33, of East Harlem.

The sign used to adorn the top of the Pepsi bottling plant in Long Island City from 1936 until the years following its closure in 1999. It moved to different areas along the waterfront until it landed in the park in 2009.

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said the sign helped to kick off the resurgence of the neighborhood’s East River skyline — including the SilverCup factory sign, and, more recently, the JetBlue sign.

“It’s an important marker in a historical sense as well as becoming and aesthetic and a community gem,” he said of the Pepsi sign.

The LPC’s hearing was part of a yearlong process to clear its long-standing applications for designations, dating back to the ’60s. Ninety-five were up for prioritized designation and some of the other locations that made the cut were three structures in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery and the Bergdorf Goodman store in Manhattan.

Some of the locations that were dropped could be resubmitted to the commission for landmarking, including Union Square Park and the Coney Island Pumping Station. (with Ann W. Schmidt)