In recent years, Long Island City has evolved significantly. Forlorn factories, warehouses and small tenements have been rapidly replaced with residential apartment towers. This evolution began on the East River waterfront in the 1990s and has more recently moved inland. Based off current development plans, it has been estimated that up to 20,000 new residents will move to Long Island City in the next five to ten years – doubling the neighborhood’s current population. This is a huge departure from the Long Island City’s industrial roots. Census data from 2010 shows a little over 10,000 people living inLong Island City. Prior to 2010, the population was still lower, with industrial spaces dominant. This shift from industrial to residential, driven by a 2001 rezoning, has resulted in one of the most significantly changed neighborhoods in New York City in architectural terms.
With this change, Long Island City’s once proud industrial history is also disappearing. Factories that once mass produced light switches, cleaning products and water meters have all been replaced with residential housing. The stories associated with these buildings, ranging from tragedy and greed to invention and innovation, have largely faded away.
As a life-long resident of the area, I feel compelled to document this change as best I can. In doing so, I recently produced a 218 page book, filled with 332 color photos and detailed histories of twenty-one buildings located along the 7 line subway route as it runs above ground, between Queens Plaza and the tunnel at Hunterspoint Avenue. Nearly half a million daily commuters ride the 7 train, viewing a rapidly changing landscape along the way. Writing a book about the buildings located (and formerly located) along this route seemed an interesting way to frame both neighborhood history and the dramatic changes taking place which will eventually render the much of this route surround by high rise apartment buildings.
Here’s are ten of my favorite such buildings. Some still exist for the moment, while others have recently been taken down.
To purchase a copy of “7 Line L.I.C.”, click here and receive 20% off using promo code “untappedjanuary” – offer ends January 31st.
1. C.N. West Chemical Factory
The C.N. West Chemical factory at Queens Plaza made a large variety of cleaning products. Founded in the late 1800s, C.N. West was eventually renamed West Disinfectant, and moved out of New York City in the late 1970s. The factory became an outlet mall called “QP’s Marketplace” in the 1980s, an artists cooperative studio called ‘The Space’ in the 2000s, and in its last years of existence (2013), an abandoned space which became a bespoke illegal graffiti gallery. One very little known fact is that one of C.N. West’s principal owners was a victim of the Titanic sinking in 1912.