Astoria / Long Island City
Sculptures and the Silver Screen
The neighborhood of Astoria, once known as Hallett’s Cove, got its current name from John Jacob Astor, once the wealthiest man in America. (Interestingly, however, John himself never actually lived in Astoria.) Another early settler of note was Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg, the dynastic leader of the family behind Steinway & Sons pianos.
The area is also home to the quiet Socrates Sculpture Park at the intersection of Broadway and Vernon. It is considered an outdoor museum and stands atop a former landfill! Fortunately, sculptor Mark di Suvero changed this in 1986; today, the park contains many exhibitions as well as public events and workshops.
Fascinatingly enough, Astoria was one of the earliest sites for filmmaking in America. This part of its heritage is preserved today with the Museum of the Moving Image and nearby Kaufman Studios. The latter is one of the last true “Hollywood-style backlots” remaining in the country.
Nearby, Long Island City is the westernmost neighborhood in Queens and contains a high concentration of art galleries and studios. In the beginning, it was its own city, but got annexed to the borough of Queens 1898. Throughout the 20th century, a handful of tunnels and the Queensboro Bridge were built to connect L.I.C. to Manhattan, and the area began to gentrify. Fun fact: One of the oldest bakeries here now operates as the largest film production facility in New York (Silvercup Studios)!
One noteworthy spot is the Fisher Landau Center for Art, which houses a smattering of contemporary artworks. It is named for philanthropist Emily Fisher Landau and has been open to the public since 2003. Another set of galleries is located at the Noguchi Museum, named after famed Japanese sculptor Isamu Noguchi. His work includes not only statues, but stage/furniture design and sketches as well.
Speaking of sculpting, L.I.C. is also home to SculptureCenter, one of the few institutions to center only on sculpture development. It has been around since 1928 and is known for commissioning new works. Similarly, MoMa PS1 is one of the largest museums in the country dedicated only to contemporary artwork. As its name implies, it is affiliated with Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art and attracts 150,000 patrons each year.
Long Island City is also home to the LIC Flea & Food Market. Rain or shine the market is always open on the weekends. And with over 80 vendors selling unique foods and vintage pieces, you can never go wrong with stopping at LIC Flea & Food.