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These days, Long Island City—one subway stop away from midtown—is starting to feel a lot like Manhattan. Flashy new condos are being built at lightning speed, a speakeasy-style bar serves handcrafted cocktails, MoMA's edgy PS1 has spawned a world-class contemporary-art scene, and a thriving community of musicians—this year saw the arrival of the neighborhood's first-ever jazz and folk festivals—is calling it home. Long Island City still may flaunt an appealing industrial grit with warehouse-strewn streets, but its bohemian vibe and growth spurt of glamorous new buildings make this one of the city's most desirable old-meets-new destinations.
Valerie Green, artistic director, Green Space and Dance Entropy
"My favorite spot for inspiration is Gantry Plaza State Park. The view is breathtaking and awe-inspiring. And the sunset is amazing. Walking out the distance of the pier and taking everything in makes me thankful for all the experiences and opportunities I have had here."
Gantry Plaza State Park, 4-09 47th Rd at Center Blvd (718-786-6385, nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/149/details.aspx)
"I enjoy the diversity of people in the area and the sense of neighborhood among artists and residents. I love that I can stay close to home and have plenty of amazing restaurants to choose from, as well as bars, cafs and entertainment. It is also a great convenience to live and work all in close distance. Long Island City, and Queens in general, have embraced my organization, offering us a beautiful home base and community to grow along with.
"I enjoy Socrates Sculpture Park. It's a great park in which to hang out, and I appreciate the wide-open space, the grass and trees. It also has a wonderful view of Manhattan and plenty of interesting sculptures and activities."
Socrates Sculpture Park, 32-01 Vernon Blvd at Broadway (718-956-1819, socratessculpturepark.org)
"I like WunderBar. Often by the time I get out of performances and close up Green Space, a lot of restaurants are closed. At WunderBar you can get a great beer, some yummy German food to fill your belly and hear music, too, no matter how late."
WunderBar, 37-10 11th St at 37th Ave (718-937-2337, wunderbarlic.com)
Zhana Galjasevic, owner, The Yoga Room
"I love being close to the river, close to the city, and at the same time feel like I live in a small town."
"I grew up in Croatia, in a little village on the Adriatic Sea. I spent most of my childhood there, and being close to any source of water is very calming. I love to sit by the river and read when I have time."
"I stop [at Paris Health] often for fresh-squeezed juice or a smoothie, and as a pet lover, I love Kitty & Dog Lounge."
Paris Health, 49-11 Vernon Blvd between 49th and 50th Aves (no phone) * Kitty & Dog Lounge, 49-02 Vernon Blvd at 49th Ave (718-806-1219, kittyanddogloungeny.com)
"I like Manducatis Rustica for pizza, Testaccio for duck salad, and El-Ay-Si for arugula salad and sweet-potato fries. In the winter, I love to sit next to the fireplace at Masso. Of course, I can't skip Shi; I love their rolls, and views from the restaurant are out of this world."
Manducatis Rustica, 46-33 Vernon Blvd between 46th and 47th Aves (718-937-1312) * Testaccio, 47-30 Vernon Blvd at 47th Rd (718-937-2900) * El Ay Si, 47-38 Vernon Blvd between 47th Rd and 48th Ave (718-389-8781, elaysi.com) * Masso, 47-25 Vernon Blvd at 47th Rd (718-482-8151) * Shi, 47-20 Center Blvd between 47th Ave and 47th Rd (347-242-2450, eatdrinkshi.com)
"I live in Avalon Riverview North, one of the buildings by the river, and I love the view from my living room: the sunset over the Manhattan skyline."
Avalon Riverview North, 4-75 48th Ave between Center Blvd and 5th St (877-578-8592, avaloncommunities.com)
Meres, 5 Pointz graffiti artist/curator
"Long Island City is close to Manhattan and accessible to all boroughs. I like that PS1 is our neighbor. People come to visit the museum and they happen to see 5 Pointz. Or people will be here looking at graffiti and then notice PS1. It's a good union."
5 Pointz, 45-46 Davis St at Jackson Ave (317-219-2685, 5ptz.com) * MoMA PS1 , 22-25 Jackson Ave at 46th Ave (718-433-4807, ps1.org)
"There is so much art here now with galleries like Space Womb and Local Project. And PS1, with its DJs playing outside, it's bringing a lot of people to our neighborhood. They are building a lot of condos here now, but it's nice to have all this [art]to give the neighborhood heart. It offers a community. What we have here is valuable."
Space Womb, 22-48 Jackson Ave between Crane and Davis Sts (917-670-1342) * Local Project, 45-10 Davis St at Jackson Ave (localproject.org)
"There are so many different types of individuals who come through LIC. Because of 5 Pointz and PS1, there is tons of foreign traffic. We're bringing in a range of people here, unlike other neighborhoods."
"I like to eat at Masso. It's a real relaxing place after working here all day and making myself insane. The Shannon Pot is our second home, where we gather for any birthday parties or the Super Bowl. The Court Square Diner I'm in right now. I think I paid for their renovations, all the times I've been here."
Shannon Pot, 45-06 Davis St at Jackson Ave (718-786-6992) * Court Square Diner, 45-30 23rd St at Jackson Ave (718-392-1222)
"I love walking right along the water, but being on the roof of 5 Pointz is an incredible 360-degree view of the city; each time it's like I've never been up here before."
Theo Sgouros, plumber
"I have worked in Long Island City for 11 years, and have lived here only a month, so I'm just getting used to the neighborhood, but there's a lot of good energy. Little by little I am getting to explore: Riverview, Domaine Bar a Vins, Madera, and Food Cellar for groceries."
Riverview, 2-01 50th Ave at Center Blvd (718-392-5000, riverviewny.com) * Domaine Bar a Vins, 50-04 Vernon Blvd at 50th Ave (718-784-2350, domainewinebar.com) * Madera, 47-29 Vernon Blvd between 47th Rd and 48th Ave (718-606-1236, maderacubangrill.com) * Food Cellar, 4-85 47th Rd between Center Blvd and 5th St (718-606-9786, foodcellarco.com)
"None of the buildings were up when I started working here. I like the development and the stores opening, but [I'm glad that]it's still nice and quiet."
"Oh yeah, the view is amazing. I fell in love with my balcony immediately; it goes with the name of the building—The View."
"[I'm excited to try] Kayaking with LIC Community Boathouse. I see the guys going up and down the water and I want to do that for three hours."
Long Island City Community Boathouse, 46-01 5th St at Anable Basin (licboathouse.org)
"Waking up in the morning, it's so beautiful here; it cannot get better than this."
Gustavo Rodriguez, booker and event producer, LIC Bar and the Secret Theatre; founder, licnotes.com; director of creative development, rockethub.com; and musician who plays under the name Silbin Sandovar
"I love that Long Island City has that 'best kept secret' appeal about it. There is a tremendous potential to do great and new exciting things in this neighborhood. It still astonishes me how much is still untapped."
"Music scenes can happen anywhere and they usually pop up in the least likely of places—Minneapolis; Seattle; Detroit; Athens, Georgia. Why? Because music scenes are made, they don't just appear overnight. It started to happen in LIC when me and a few other like-minded folks recognized that there's some terrific talent dwelling here, and ever since, we have been devoting a lot of our time and energy to creating a foundation on which a scene can be built. No one else was really doing it, so it seemed like a good idea."
"Gantry Plaza State Park gets lovelier every year as it keeps expanding. That view of Manhattan is just fantastic. I never tire of it."
"I don't believe in breaks from creating. I create for pleasure. I always have my sensors on. If I'm refueling on anything it's inspiration. And for that I might go to Socrates Sculpture Park, the rooftop of the Ravel Hotel during off hours or just a stroll down the main drag on Vernon Blvd. M. Wells, Cranky's, and LIC Market are also great spots to meet friends and take meetings."
Ravel, 808 Queens Plaza South at Vernon Blvd (718-289-6101) * M. Wells, 21-17 49th Ave at 21st St (718-425-6917) * Cranky's, 48-19 Vernon Blvd at 49th Ave (347-738-4921) * LIC Market, 21-52 44th Dr at 23rd St (718-361-0013)
"I get [inspiration] from the great people of Long Island City. I get ideas from their personalities, their energy, their stories, when I see them as I walk down the street or talk to someone at the grocery store or the post office. Everywhere you go, there's a story, and LIC has some of my favorite ones."