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The Long Island City Clocktower building, also known as the Bank of Manhattan building, is under threat of demolition following a recent sale. In spite of its recognizable stature in Long Island City, the building is not landmarked, despite its historical significance. The Bank of Manhattan building was built in 1924, the first skyscraper in Long Island City and the tallest building in the borough. The Long Island Star Journal proclaimed that it would make Bridge Plaza, then a gardened promenade in the City Beautiful style, “the new Times Square of Queens.” The Bank of Manhattan itself was founded by Aaron Burr originally as the city’s first water delivery service. Those operations were old to the city in the 1808 as the banking side of the company became more profitable.

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Today’s Daily What?! is this view of the East Side Access construction snapped from atop the Long Island City Clocktower.  Underground, massive tunnels have been constructed that connect Sunnyside Queens to a new Long Island Railroad Terminal that will sit underneath the current Grand Central Terminal tracks.

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This past Saturday evening, Untapped Cities, Local Roots NYC and No Longer Empty produced a dinner in the Clocktower in Long Island City, the  abandoned Bank of Manhattan. The 5-course meal by Chef Will Griffin, using locally sourced food, was complemented by docent tours of the exhibition on its final weekend, a trip up to the Clocktower with 360 degree views of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, and a performance by artist Hayoon Jay Lee.

The evening benefited arts non-profit No Longer Empty, which curates exhibitions in unused storefronts in New York City. Special thanks to our liquor sponsor Punzone Vodka. The night also marked the launch of the Untapped Cities/Local Roots NYC Dinner Series, pairing local chefs and fare with New York City’s most unique locations. The next Untapped Cities Event: Prohibition NYC, an over-the-top speakeasy event at a secret location curated by Bravo chefs Rob McCue and Adam Banks.To stay in-the-know of Untapped Cities events, sign up for our mailing list.

 

This Saturday, March 16: Join Untapped Cities and No Longer Empty for an evening of food and entertainment celebrating the closing of “How Much Do I Owe You?”, a site-specific art installation housed in the abandoned Bank of Manhattan in Long Island City. No Longer Empty is a non-profit arts organization that sponsors public art exhibits in empty storefronts in New York City. The No Longer Empty Dinner is a chance for Untapped Readers to experience curated local cuisine and meaningful art in an extraordinary setting. Seating is limited to 30, and the dinner is almost sold out. Tickets available here.

The evening will kick off with cocktails in the Clock Tower, followed by a tour of the “How Much Do I Owe You?” exhibition. Next, guests will enjoy a five-course seated dinner by Chef Will Griffin. The night will conclude with a special performance by Korean artist Hayoon-Jay Lee.
The No Longer Empty Dinner is organized in collaboration by No Longer Empty, Untapped Cities and Local Roots NYC.

The dinner menu is inspired by the era of big banks and robber barons, whose personal chefs and those in their favored restaurants were often imported from Europe. This Saturday’s dinner will include:

  • Oysters, horseradish, red wine vinegar
  • Steak tartare, trout roe, radishes, toast
  • Broccoli soup, cloth-bound cheddar
  • Orecchiete, cuttlefish ink, egg, scallions
  • Goat’s milk yogurt panna cotta, Meyer lemon

The No Longer Empty Dinner will take place on Saturday, March 16 at 7:30 p.m. The event is located in the Clock Tower at 29-27 41st Avenue, in Queens, NY. Tickets cost $125 and can be purchased here.

Invite-Fundraiser Dinner

Inside the former Bank of Manhattan in Long Island City for the No Longer Empty exhibition, How Much Do I Owe You?

The theme for No Longer Empty’s exhibition opening on Wednesday is broad and anything but simple. In a way, the title says it all. ‘How Much Do I owe You?’ A straightforward question we use in our everyday lives. Yet, if we delve a bit deeper, it could take on a vast array of different meanings, depending on the social and political context. Each artist featured in No Longer Empty’s upcoming exhibition in the abandoned Bank of Manhattan  in Long Island City was asked to create a site-specific work commenting on financial exchange.

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Bank vault in the former Bank of Manhattan in the Clock Tower, Long Island City

Urban explorers, architecture buffs and art lovers alike will relish this opportunity to fully explore the former Bank of Manhattan  in Long Island City’s Clock Tower when the latest No Longer Empty exhibition, “How Much Do I Owe You?” opens to the public on Wednesday, December 12th. As the event’s media sponsor, Untapped New York was given the chance to do some exploring so we can share with our readers this space, which has been closed to the public since the mid-1980s. We will also be offering an exclusive tour led by No Longer Empty and Untapped New York to a select number of lucky readers in January, please sign up  here.

Today we want to show you all the spots to check out when in the Bank of Manhattan you come to the exhibit, but do also check out this  preview of the unique installations  from the 26 participating artists.

The Bank of Manhattan later became the ubiquitous Chase Manhattan Bank, but the financial firm actually began as the first organized water delivery service, a private enterprise run by Aaron Burr called the Manhattan Company, which had exclusive rights to supply water to New York City. According to Kate Ascher in her excellent The Works: Anatomy of the City,  

Rather than bring water from the outside as planned, the company sank more wells locally and stored it in a reservoir at Chambers Street; thus the quality of the water was no better than that drawn directly from Collect Pond itself. The company prospered nonetheless and used its surplus to start a bank–the Bank of Manhattan Company–that was more profitable than its water delivery business. As its banking operations expanded, its water delivery operations shrank, and in 1808 the company sold its water operations to the city.

The Bank of Manhattan building was built in 1924, the first skyscraper in Long Island City. The Long Island Star Journal proclaimed that it would make Bridge Plaza, then a gardened promenade in the City Beautiful style, “the new Times Square of Queens.”

Bridge Plaza, Long Island City. The elevated rail arrived in 1915. (Image Source: Greater Astoria Historical Society)

Andover Realty currently owns the building and approached No Longer Empty to raise awareness of the historic space on the ground floor (the upper floors of the Clock Tower are occupied by law offices). Lucy Lydon, communications manager for No Longer Empty, tells us that the interior reflects the history of finance. As the Bank of Manhattan evolved from venerated institution to a more personal banking approach, so the architecture shifted from  an imposing neoclassical interior to dry wall, with more opportunity for communication with customers.

For example, from the main lobby area you can see the original moulding and pilasters above the wall:

Main entrance of Clock Tower lobby being prepped for the exhibition

Above the drywall, you can see the original lobby details such as the Corinthian pilasters and moulding.

The highlight of your visit will likely be the vaults in the basement:

View from inside the main vault

The main vault

Additional safes in the main vault

Former storage area

Filing cabinet in storage area

A second vault in the basement

Just outside the vault area is this elaborate shower, “artist” and origins unknown:

In the back of the first floor lobby, the assistant to South Korean artist Hayoon Jay-Lee is preparing an installation using rice bags:

In one room, artists fill the wall with bank slogans like “Grow with us,” and “What’s your dream?” around the word “TRUST.”

Closeup of bank slogans

And don’t miss the balcony area, where you can get up close and personal with the ornamented columns and the backside of the building:

Please join us for the opening of No Longer Empty’s “How Much Do I Owe You?” on Wednesday, December 12th from 7-9pm with  Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, Chair of NYC Cultural Affairs Committee and the staff of Untapped New York. Sign up for our exclusive tour of the exhibition and building here.

Get in touch with the author @untappedmich.