Long Island City in need of restaurants, survey finds

Long Island City is lacking restaurants despite its recent development boom, a survey finds.
Long Island City is lacking restaurants despite its recent development boom, a survey finds. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures

Long Island City is craving a bigger culinary scene, a new survey found.

As the neighborhood grows, a local development group called the Long Island City Partnership sought input on what local residents and workers would like to see in new retail spaces. The group found Long Island City has an appetite for restaurants.

“There’s a massive need for restaurants,” said Pedro Gomez, vice president of the Court Square Civic Association, who typically goes to Astoria to eat out.

Eateries were most frequently cited as a top commercial need in Long Island City, with 19 percent of more than 1,300 survey respondents listing them as one of the three most pressing needs in the neighborhood. More than one-third of respondents noted that they ate out or visited a local bar one to two times a week.

Patricia Dunphy, senior vice president at the Rockrose development company, said some retailers have been skeptical about opening in a neighborhood that would see them surrounded by construction and relatively few passersby. She said it is easier for her to recruit retailers now than it was eight months ago, in part because new residential buildings have opened and people are moving in.

She said Rockrose brought Foodcellar supermarket, M. Wells Steakhouse and Toby’s Estate Coffee to the area. She said they would soon be joined by Indie Food and Wine, a brick oven pizzeria called Levante, a sushi restaurant named Sapps, Book Culture and the City Chemist drug store.

“We’re trying to work together through the Partnership, actually, to try and influence each other to do the right thing so residents have variety,” she said.

The Partnership’s president, Elizabeth Lusskin, said the survey shows there is already opportunity in Long Island City. And over the next decade, the area will nearly double its housing inventory by adding some 10,000 homes.

But all the changes do not make life easy for existing eateries, according to Kalen Sakima, manager of Bia Bar and Restaurant, a cheap eats-style Vietnamese joint.

Sakima said Bia has had a hard time accommodating all the area’s clientele: long-time residents, newcomers who he said tend to be wealthier, and those working in corproate headquarters.

For instance, local residents enjoy listening to music at the bar, but Sakima said some customers who work in nearby business headquarters have requested that Bia turn down the volume so they can conduct meetings.

“This area is so young, it doesn’t know its identity almost,” said Sakima. “The main issue, I think, is the two different residential clashes and trying to figure out what’s happening and where do you want to go.”

He and others cautioned that the building boom may boost rents out of non-chain restaurants’ reach.

“You’re kind of seeing this issue spread throughout, for lack of a better term, trendy neighborhoods,” said Kevin Dugan, executive director of the New York State Restaurant Association. “The rents have kind of outpaced what restaurants feel the growth opportunities there are.”

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