We're headed to Queens! One of the most important elements of Neighborhood Champions is not to just highlight neighborhoods that you already know well, but instead, its purpose is to really tell a story about the places you think you know, but don't. Meet Erin from Long Island City!
Long Island City (LIC) is a residential and commercial neighborhood located on the extreme western tip of Queens, New York City, at the western edge of Long Island. It is bordered by Astoria to the north; the East River to the west; Hazen Street, 49th Street, and New Calvary Cemetery in Sunnyside to the east; and Newtown Creek—which separates Queens from Greenpoint, Brooklyn—to the south.
I met up with Erin over coffee on a Monday afternoon in between her work and having a Spanish lesson in the Empire State Building! She made a very good point that you really do have to hold on to the exciting things like HAVING SPANISH LESSONS IN THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING!? This city is huge, and sometimes it's easy to get lost in it, but with a view of the skyline from afar, Long Island City has so many offerings.
Is it friendly for people new to the city (is it safe throughout the day and night)?
It's such a friendly area, at all hours! When I first moved I thought it wasn't too welcoming, but that's mainly because it's just not that busy and there aren't as many people around. You do have to make an effort to reach out to the people in the area in order for you to be accepted by the community but the people are so lovely, and they will give back absolutely everything you give them!
Take for example my gym which is a small, local one. I did a one-week free trial when I first moved, and the second day I went back, they already knew my name. I signed up immediately.
It may feel a little closed to you initially, but once you go back to stores a few times, you will find that you immediately become part of a rich community.
I live alone and have gotten to know my immediate neighbor along with a few other people which is unlike many other areas in New York!
If I were to recommend areas within LIC to live, I would probably avoid being around the Queensborough Bridge as it gets a little strange on the border of Astoria, but everywhere else is lovely.
Why do you like (or dislike) living in the area?
I love the waterfront. I'll take a book down there and just watch the city skyline from afar.
Long Island City lets you appreciate New York without having to hear or smell it!
Living just off the 7 train with easy access to everything is perfect, it's only 25 minutes into work and there's always a spot to sit on the train.
If I had to pick some things that I don't like about the area it's the lack of supermarkets and the few that there are, are slightly expensive and a bit of a walk away. Grocery delivery has all but completely fixed that, but it's something to consider.
Would you say it was a cheaper neighborhood, an average-priced neighborhood, or an expensive neighborhood?
I'd say it was the average price. There are plenty of new fancy high-rise buildings with all the amenities that are expensive, but when you average that back with the other places that are available like the walk-up I'm in, you get a very good and reasonable deal for such a lovely area.
The view is worth it! You're removed from some of the hectic elements of the city, but you're not far away from anything.
How would you describe a clichéd person living in the area and how do they live?
I would describe them as a young professional with a dog. There are lots of dogs… and maybe a kid as well.
There are also Hispanic families who have been in the neighborhood for 30 years, have grown up there, and now have adult children of their own. Although it's not like some other areas of the city where there is a strong and loud cultural presence on the street, it's quieter and more subtle, and only found when you look for it.
What is your favorite bar in the area to go with friends?
BLVD Wine Bar is great with a small group. It's not a big place but it's got a fantastic happy hour after work.
I also love breweries and there's a really good one called Fifth Hammer Brewing where they will actually can your beer right in front of your eyes (they're called a “Crowler”)! It's a day-drinking and weekend style place with board games.
That reminds me, a fantastic way to see the neighborhood (and lots of Brooklyn) is to buy The Beer Book: For $20 you get “One free beer at 30 carefully curated bars”. It's a great way to try out some new places and find your favorites! Big Alice Brewing is another of my favorites for the book!
Do you have a favorite spot to go alone or quietly with others (venue or not)?
The waterfront is just beautiful and I spend a lot of time down there.
Hunters Point South is a relatively new space which looks like the bow of the Titanic poking out into the water, and is a lovely place to take friends (see the picture at the top).
Do you have a favorite café or deli and what is your order?
I'm more of a café person but the neighborhood doesn't have that many good places to choose from. The former Toby's Estate (now known as Partners Coffee) makes great coffee and is probably my go-to. Sweet Leaf has a fun atmosphere to hang-out and do some work, but the coffee isn't ideal.
Out of 10 how would you rate the neighborhood for: Overall? Kids? Going Out? Quiet Living? Food? As a tourist?
Partying: 6 – It's quieter, and that's a good thing
Food: 8 and the range is still growing
For tourists: 10 because the waterfront is so accessible
The best thing I can recommend to do if you're guiding visitors is to walk the LIC waterfront down to the East River Ferry. For $2.75 you then get a fantastic tour of all the major landmarks, with a great view of the city, and there's even a bar on board!
In a few words, how would you sum up the neighborhood?
An underrated hidden gem.
Anything else you’d like to add about the area?
There's a misconception that LIC is all high-rise buildings and lots of people only know it because Amazon was going to be there (and isn't now). There's so much culture though and it's such a great place to live.
The Baroness does a great value vege burger under the Queensborough Bridge!
Adda Canteen is an awesome Indian place that books out quickly in a quiet industrial area.
Mu Ramen is fantastic (there are no strict veg options) but I hear great things. There's a red light out the front of this broth..el!
If you're visiting, walk down Vernon Boulevard to get some feel of the character of the place. Bellwether is currently celebrating their first birthday with $1 beers and other great deals. It's a fancy restaurant that is really opening their doors to everyone!
All About Neighborhood Champion, Erin
How do you describe yourself in one sentence?
A speech pathologist with a penchant for daggy puns.
What is your favorite thing to do in the city (outside of your neighborhood)?
I love exploring new bars and cafes, and meeting new people! I love experiencing the city from a different angle, so I love finding a good rooftop bar!
Looking up at the Empire State Building I like to remember the feelings I get from living in such an amazing place.
Where do you call “home” and where are you “from”?
I'm from Geelong and that will always be home!
Now’s your chance to promote whatever you want (your business, your hobby, your cool idea, or something you love)
I'm a huge Geelong Cats fan, and I have a digital membership and projector to stream the footy. I'm always looking for people to watch games with me!
STRICTLY NO COLLINGWOOD OR HAWTHORNE FANS.
Others can apply, and we'll see.
Erin can be found at @blondvenitien on Instagram, and will happily say hello anytime (or enjoy some footy together)!
From America Josh
Long Island City was actually the first place I stayed when I arrived in New York so it holds a special place in my heart. Hearing how much Erin loved the area really makes me want to go and visit again, and with all these recommendations I'll be sure to get back soon.
Thanks so much, Erin, I really appreciate the time you took out of your afternoon!
Introducing Neighborhood Champions!
Other Champions: Meet Nico from Cobble Hill, Meet Erin from Long Island City, Meet Rachael from FiDi/Seaport, Meet Edwina from Williamsburg, Meet Scott from Greenwich Village, Meet Josh of Alphabet City
Getting to know a neighborhood in New York is one of the most interesting and fun parts of living here. Building community, understanding the nuances of streets, bars, cafés, and cultures, and knowing what’s cool (and what’s not) makes you feel like you’re really part of the city. So, I want to hear about yours!
So. Are you my next Neighborhood Champion for your neighborhood? If so, send an email to [email protected] and we’ll arrange a time to meet!