This interview is part of the Long Island City in Context project, and will be used as a resource for finding specific places in the neighborhood where public history projects may be developed. We are also working with the Greater Astoria Historical Society to provide an oral history snapshot of the neighborhood. This interview will thus be part of an archival historical record of the neighborhood. Although Long Island City is often defined as encompassing Astoria and Sunnyside, we are limiting our focus to the areas on the attached map.
You may choose not to answer any of the questions below, but the more information we can collect, the more successfully we can document the project.
What is your name?
What is your age?
What is your connection to LIC (i.e. live there, work there, have family history, study it, etc.)
Work --- Director of government and community relations at MoMA
4.5 years at Moma and PS1-- 2 yrs working in LIC
Please give us some details about your connection to the neighborhood.
How would you define LIC geographically, socially, physically, politically?
Huge, well-served by trains from manhattan, hard to be mobile in the city.
Difficult to have sense of community bc big,
Community in transition, old residents, new residents, political polarization btw old timers and newcomers; ones that want change vs stay same
Place to live vs. place to do business
Politically polarized btw ones who want change and don’t
Jackson Avenue will be spine; natural corridor for cultural institutions; increasingly important intersection is: Purves St with Courthouse and Citibank building
-then other area by Astoria – Socrates Sculpture park and Naguchi museum
-must put in effort to keep connected – shuttle to art institutes ended bc people mostly go to moma, too expensive
“Design Trust”---ask questions about how to market lic as cultural center: break into different areas, or market as one place?
Do you feel like LIC has a clear identity as a neighborhood? What are the borders?
Please describe something you love, hate or find amusing about the neighborhood.
- most fascinating place in NYC: so many different uses, people, agendas
-property owners, artists, etc
- filled with energy of the unknown, excitement in the air; people who are trying to make something happen
Is there a personal story about the neighborhood that helps illustrate your feelings?
---For grand opening of MoMa Qns, opening ribbon was wrapped around corner of deli, photo taken from deli corner (New Amsterdam). Moma brought copy of photo to deli owner for memorabilia. Woman in the deli comments that in the picture, people were eating her sandwiches. She says: those were my sandwiches. Proud of her personal contribution
-- story illustrates that one can see individuals experiencing the impact of change
--Another story of adaptation to community changes:
--La Vuelta (sp?) (great restaurant), dad owns greek restaurant across the street, son opened up this Cuban-Latino restaurant in response to changing demands in community
Talk about the physical changes in the neighborhood since you arrived. What’s better, what’s worse?
– more and more people; metlife; ymca; tremendous investment needs to be more organized
---confusing organization of space and commerce
Can you think of a specific place that no longer exists that you were sad to see go?
– queens plaza needs to be cleaned up/reorganized
Can you think of a specific place that you were pleased to see go?
Are there particular places in LIC that you think merit some kind of public marker, regardless of their “historical import”? Please be as specific as possible.
--Gantry state park needs more attention; seeing Gantry park makes one think about LIC in a different way: waterfront vs. inland
--waterfront deserves more attention and integration
Are there places you would mark for personal reasons?
Do you have an opinion on the Olympic Village proposal for Hunter’s Point?
--Would be great.
-Pros are: investment, faster development. But harder for people to make investments during this economic downturn
--LIC was poised for major economic investment prior to Sept.11; suffered after Sept. 11—lost attention and investment focus
With more specific regards to MOMA in LIC:
Do you think there is a cultural district in LIC? If so, how would you define it? If not, why not?
-- not district. More of a cultural collaboration; cultural institutions work together to bring visitors. informal collaboration
How did you choose the Swingline building and how did you approach its conversion?
---chose Swingline because physical attributes matched needs: big, 2 loading docks, close to airport and big roads to bring in art, close to transport system for visitors,
-originally intended for storage anyways
--renovation and expansion meant to aggregate storage facilities, needed big building to accommodate
--people questioned whether visitors would come all the way to LIC for moma. Attendance has been within expectations; percentage of queens visitors has risen appreciably, almost the same as from manhattan
--hired architect, Michael Malten to work with Cooper Robertson to design the space
18. How do you perceive the connection between cultural production (or consumption) and industrial production?
--using former industrial building; creates new-used industrial building
--worked well for moma
--connection does not necessarily impact the other sector
--sculture center in trolley
--connection btw two kinds of uses needing similar spaces, the exit of one (industry) provides opportunity for the other (culture)
--reflection of changing economy: industrial to cultural; economics driving changed use of land, real-estate
Two big challenges for LIC:
--needs to sell itself as an alternative location for companies to diversify their bases
--sensitive to changing group of people that live and work there now.
(These represent an external and internal challenge)
18. Are there other issues you would like to discuss?