Real EstateCity LivingQueens Long Island City is home to new high-rises and a thriving art scene By Noel Duan Special to amNewYork Updated May 19, 2016 3:27 PM Print Share fbShare Tweet Email Young professionals are moving to Long Island City in droves to reside in the western Queens neighborhood’s new residential high-rises and to take advantage of its close proximity to midtown. They are joining the artists and other creative types who have found refuge in the waterfront area for decades. And while the nabe is known for having few amenities like stores, restaurants and even sidewalks, experts say that all will follow the real estate boom that’s going on there now. “The buildings have to get built first, and then the retail will come,” assured David Maundrell, the executive vice president of new development in Brooklyn and Queens for Citi Habitats. “You’ll see retail coming to Long Island City soon because there’s a strong need for it. There’s so many moving out there.” Despite the lack of retail, housing prices in LIC are rising. In 2005, the median sales price in the area was $210,000, according to data from the listings site StreetEasy — in 2015, it was $730,000. Rental prices rose at a slower rate, but the number of units expanded substantially. The median rent in 2006 was $2,523 and rose to $2,630 in 2015, while the number of rental units in LIC increased from 140 in 2006 to 3,672 in 2015, according to StreetEasy. High-rise apartment buildings are popping up along the edge of the East River, offering sweeping views of Manhattan’s skyscrapers and luxury amenities like pools, gyms and doormen. Molly Harrington, 31, and her husband, Tony Canu, 29, both personal trainers, said they moved to the new 21-story QLIC, at 41-42 24th St., in September 2015 because they were priced out of their Upper East Side studio and wanted a true one-bedroom in their budget. At QLIC, the pair got an apartment bigger than their Manhattan digs by 200 square feet for about $400 a month less in rent but with the same ease of transportation, they said. “We’re all over the place as independent trainers, so the access to all the different trains is really important,” Harrington said. Their building is one of several new developments on the more industrial side of LIC, which is north of the Queensboro Bridge. Another is the 11-story Luna at 42-15 Crescent St., which opened this spring. But the new construction can be a nuisance, some said. “There’s no sidewalks because everything is under construction,” said 30-year-old writer Sarah Schwartz, who moved to LIC two years ago with her fiancé. “It’s a major problem.” Sneha Basu, a 25-year-old financial analyst working in midtown, moved to LIC from Boston last month and was attracted to the area’s affordability. However, she said it could use some more nightlife. “When I go out, it’s usually to Manhattan or Brooklyn,” Basu said, noting that she has yet to socialize much in her neighborhood. “But there’s lots of subway lines I could take, and even a cab ride to Williamsburg is manageable.” But Long Island City Partnership President Elizabeth Lusskin, 51, said the area has plenty to offer if you look for it. “People don’t realize that they’re actually in a very established neighborhood,” she said. “You just have to walk a couple of blocks to get to all these places.” There are more than 30 cultural institutions in LIC, according to the partnership, from MoMA PS1 and the Noguchi Museum to the Secret Theatre performance space and the newly-opened Jessica Lang Dance Center, the eponymous school and studio of the famed ballet choreographer. These are evidence of the days when artists were the nabe’s residential pioneers, according the local Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. “Long Island City in particular has always attracted artists and will always attract artists, probably for all the same reasons that it’s been attractive to everyone else — which is that it’s really close to Manhattan,” said Van Bramer, a lifelong resident of western Queens. There are so many young families living in Long Island City that there was recently a shortage of pre-kindergarten seats, he added. To meet demand, two elementary schools are slated for Hunters Point South, a new middle-income development next to the river. A new middle school is also slated for construction in LIC, but its location isn’t yet disclosed, according to Van Bramer’s office. An eight-story public library is also currently under construction at Center Boulevard and 48th Avenue. Nicole Olver, who works at the branding firm Contently, said she likes that LIC is still quiet. “I never go to Brooklyn and I might go to Manhattan once on the weekend, but most of the time, I’m spending most of my time in Long Island City,” said Olver, 31. “Most of the people in my building are exactly the same. Most of the people there are young professionals, so we actually hang out with our neighbors.” Find it: Long Island City is a triangular neighborhood bordered to the west by the East River. It is bound to the north by 30th Drive from the river to 21st Street and 31st Avenue past it, according to StreetEasy. Its southeastern boundary goes from 49th Street to Skillman Avenue, down to Newtown Creek. Long Island City restaurants Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang Casa Enrique5-48 49th Ave.This is the first Mexican restaurant in New York City to earn a Michelin star. The portions are tiny, but the flavor makes up for it.Henrinyc.comMu Ramen12-09 Jackson Ave.Founded by Per Se alum Joshua Smookler, this trendy 22-seat ramen shop is a favorite for its Mu Ramen, made with brisket, bone marrow broth and sour pickle.Ramennyc.wix.com/popupJohn Brown Smokehouse10-43 44th DriveIt doesn't get more "Queens" than having kimchi served with your Kansas-style barbecue. There is also live music throughout the week.Johnbrownseriousbbq.com Bars and nightlife Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang Rockaway Brewing Company46-01 Fifth St.Visit this local brewery's taproom for a pint or a tasting tour. Personal and 64-ounce party growlers are available.Rockawaybrewco.comDutch Kills Bar27-24 Jackson Ave.This speakeasy-like establishment with a nondescript storefront features top-notch drinks and friendly bartenders.Dutchkillsbar.comPenthouse 8088-08 Queens Plaza S.Come here for the Meatpacking District-vibe and a gorgeous view of Manhattan, but without the crowd.Penthouse808rooftop.com Things to do in Long Island City Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang Long Island City Community Boathouse46-01 Fifth St.This volunteer-run boathouse offers beginner trips for paddling rookies and longer trips on the East River for more experienced kayakers.Licboathouse.orgGantry Plaza State Park4-09 47th RoadFor great views of Manhattan at no cost and upfront views of the landmark Pepsi-Cola sign, come to this newly-constructed 12-acre state park by the East River. Bring your pooch to the dog run while you enjoy the scenery.Nysparks.comNoguchi Museum33-38 10th St.Enjoy the sunshine and appreciate some art at the Noguchi Museum's sculpture garden.Noguchi.org Where to shop Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang Made in Queens27-24 Queens Plaza S.A pop-up shop set to open in June with goods from local merchants and artisans, curated around a monthly theme.Madeinqueens.nycMimi & Mo4545 Center Blvd.This clothing store caters to the growing community of young families along the waterfront, stocked with popular men's, women's and children's brands like Rock Your Baby and Feather Baby.Mimiandmonyc.comMatted LIC46-36 Vernon Blvd.Local residents can get their custom framing done here, and visitors can find artwork and unique gifts by local artisans.Mattedlic.com Long Island City real estate data Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang Median sales price: $730,000 Number of units on market: 437 Median rental price: $2,630 Number of rentals on market: 3,672 (Source: StreetEasy) Transit basics Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang Trains:N, Q to Queensboro Plaza, 39th Ave. and Broadway7 to Vernon Blvd./Jackson Ave., Hunters Point Avenue, Court Sq. and Queensboro PlazaF to 21 Street/QueensbridgeE to Court Sq./23rd St. and Queens PlazaM to Court Sq./23rd St., Queens Plaza, 36th St., Steinway St. and 46th St.G to 21st St. and Court Sq.R to Queens Plaza, 36th St., Steinway St. and 46th St.LIRR to Hunters Point Ave.Boats:East River Ferry to Hunters Point South/Long Island CityBuses:Q18, Q32, Q39, Q66, Q67, Q69, Q100, Q101, Q102, Q103, Q104B32, B62 Famous people who have lived in LIC Photo Credit: Getty Images / Harry How NasMarley MarlMobb DeepNew York Mets David Wright, Daniel Murphy and Jon Niese The buzz Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang The residential real estate boom in Long Island City shows no sign of slowing down.This week, developer Stawski Partners filed plans with the Department of Buildings to construct a 66-story tower at 43-30 24th St.Meanwhile, United Construction and Development Group is planning a 78-story building at 23-15 44th Drive, which would be the tallest structure in Queens.But some locals say the new developments in LIC don't guarantee that units will be affordable for already existing residents, particularly the area's artists."What do you make of it if you can't support the arts and culture with housing and subsidies?" interactive artist and LIC Community Boathouse President John McGarvey, 50, said of the neighborhood's new real estate.Local Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said the city is trying to address the issue."The [boom] in Long Island City is real, and it is welcome," Van Bramer said. "The city is committed to building and has started to build affordable housing and housing for lots of different income levels."For example, at the new Hunters Point South development, which is being managed by the city's Housing Preservation and Development agency, the roughly 1,000 units in the two towers that were constructed so far are all affordable housing, according to a representative from Van Bramer's office. About 60%, or 4,000, of the units in the other five buildings slated for construction are also expected to be affordable.The lotteries for the affordable housing in the first two towers -- which received 93,000 applications -- are closed, and there is already a waitlist for when they become available in the future, the representative said.There will be lotteries for the affordable housing in the remaining buildings when their construction is complete, she said. Q&A with Sheila Lewandowski Photo Credit: Noel Duan Sheila Lewandowski, 51, is a 20-year Long Island City resident and co-founder and executive director of the Chocolate Factory Theater, a performance space at 5-49 49th Ave. She also founded the Taste of LIC festival, an annual celebration of food and culture in the neighborhood. This year, it will be held on June 13 at Gantry Plaza State Park at 49th Avenue and Center Boulevard. We caught up with Lewandowski to chat about culture and community in LIC.Should artists worry about being priced out of Long Island City?The city of New York has a [real estate] crisis. It's not just Long Island City, [but] Long Island City is expensive. You can find things, but it's like a full-time job just to find something, whether it's a workspace or a live space. But it's getting harder and harder. I don't think I can honestly look you in the face and say New York City is affordable for anybody.What does the Chocolate Factory Theater do?We do residencies for artists in the experimental theater community. We give them the keys to our space and let them DIY in it without interruption. It's hard to be an artist if you don't have a space. Most recently, we have choreographer Beth Gill, who won a Bessie Award, with a new piece from May 18 to 28. It's almost sold out but people are always welcome to show up in person to the theater to be on the waitlist. If they don't get in the show, we give out drink coupons or something to make their trip to Long Island City worth it.What was LIC like when you first moved here?When I moved here, there were already speculators looking to develop the area. The shops that were here were really mom-and-pop shops. There were no chains yet. The church bells went off every morning at 8:50 a.m. It just felt like a community. There was a Caribbean bodega where we'd get rice and beans. You always knew the owners, and there were a lot of artists there. By Noel Duan Special to amNewYork Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Comments We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.