Undiscovered New York: Modern art in Long Island City

It’s no secret New York is downright spoiled by a world-class modern art scene. Art lovers flock to great museums like MoMA, galleries in Chelsea and the famous annual Armory Show. With all this great creativity so close at hand, it’s hard to believe that one of New York’s best neighborhoods for modern art isn’t in Manhattan – it actually lies just across the East River in Long Island City.

Long Island City is a neighborhood on the rebound. Thanks to the nearby Queensboro Bridge, which dumps a steady stream of traffic into the area, this industrial neighborhood was long bypassed by visitors headed toward other points beyond in Manhattan and Long Island. Yet this feeling of a gritty zone time forgot is exactly what attracted the area’s first artists back in the 70’s and 80’s. Slowly, Long Island City began a remarkable transformation, replaced by an influx of artist studios, top-notch museums and monuments to New York’s influential role in street art.

Today, Long Island City is an art lover’s paradise. Ready to check out a less crowded version of Manhattan’s MoMA in Queens and dance at one of the city’s best outdoor dance parties? Or perhaps an outdoor sculpture park with views of the NYC skyline is more your style? It’s time to investigate one of New York’s best (and lesser known) neighborhoods for art. This week Undiscovered New York visits Long Island City. Click below for more.
P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center
Just off the 23rd St – Ely Avenue Subway stop, the first stop from Manhattan, lies P.S.1, one of Long Island City’s best museums and a mecca for up-and-coming artists. First opened in 1976 in a formerly deserted public school building, P.S.1 focuses on the shows of cutting edge art, resulting in an often delightful and eyebrow-raising mixture of works across all types and mediums from sculpture to painting to photography and beyond.

One of the most enjoyable parts of P.S.1 is the museum’s outdoor courtyard, where during the summer it plays host to Warm-Up, a series of outdoor weekend dance parties featuring DJ’s and live music. The backdrop for the party is a colossal ever-changing outdoor sculpture (see left) that is updated each Summer.

Socrates Sculpture Park
Another great reminder of Long Island City’s gritty industrial past is the Socrates Sculpture Park, located along the neighborhood’s East River waterfront. Named in honor of the area’s historically Greek residents, the sculpture park was built on the site of what was once an illegal dumping ground. Today the trash is long gone, having been replaced by large-scale sculptures, outdoor movies and art workshops.

Museum of the Moving Image
Just last week, we told you about New York’s long history with television. But we actually left one great museum out – the Museum of the Moving Image in Long Island City. In addition to galleries of movie and TV equipment, the museum features screenings of landmark movies, and has an extensive collection of costumes, photos and fan magazines. Museum-haters and those with ADD take note: it even has its own video game arcade as part of the exhibitions.

Undiscovered New York: King of Corona Park

It’s good to be the king. All the world lies before your gaze, waiting to be discovered. You entertain visitors from far-away lands. Someone is ready with refreshments whenever you desire. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Then we suggest on your next trip to New York, you stop in Queens, home to an area little-known to tourists called Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Corona Park is staring New York visitors in the face every time they visit, yet most don’t even know it. Ever been to Shea Stadium or to the National Tennis Center for the U.S. Open? Corona Park is literally across the street. Caught a flight at LaGuardia Airport? Those crazy looking towers you saw on the highway are part of Corona Park.

Yet this little known attraction is jam-packed with enough crazy monuments, open green space and hidden Summer fun to ensure the royal treatment for just about any visitor. This is an area, after all, that’s been home to two World’s Fairs: one in 1939-40 and another in 1964-65. Did we also mention it was the temporary home for the United Nations from 1946 to 1950? AND it has two museums and its own zoo? To top it all off, Corona Park is increasingly an area that’s home to a diverse patchwork of immigrant communities, each showcasing its own unique culinary pride – who could forget to mention the self-proclaimed “King” of Lemon Ice?

Have you ever wanted to feel like king for the day? This week is your chance. Come along as Undiscovered New York takes you inside the amazing ruins, interesting museums and lush greenery of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
New York State Pavillion and Unisphere
Two giant landmarks dominate visitors’ view of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park: the New York Pavillion and The Unisphere, both remnants of the 1964-65 World’s Fair. It was one of the largest World Fairs ever organized, boasting an early version of Disney’s famous “It’s a Small World” ride, a showcase of Michelangelo’s Pieta on loan from Italy, and a life-sized robotic Abraham Lincoln among its exhibits.

Though the exhibits have long since packed up and been moved back to Italy and Orlando, you can still get a sense of the site’s greatness and scale. The giant Unisphere rises 140 above the park, still a popular meeting place for park explorers and local skateboarders. Looming nearby is the ominous New York State Pavillion. The modernist structure was designed as a showpiece of local culture, including a huge mosaic map of the state of New York, three observation towers and a theater called “The Circarama,” showing a 360 degree film. Today the entire structure sits decayed and rusting, a lonely ghost of a future that never came to pass. Haunting and beautiful.

Museums, Zoos and Halls of Science
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park isn’t just a place to dig up the glories of the past. It’s also the site of some great Queens-based culture. Onsite at the park are great local institutions like the Queens Museum of Art. The museum, which was the temporary home of the United Nations from 1946-50, houses works of art by Salvador Dali as well as an amazing Panorama of the City of New York composed of over 890,000 scale-size buildings.

If you have any kids, make sure to stop by the New York Hall of Science. In addition to two huge rockets donated by the U.S. Space program, the museum contains around 400 hands on exhibits focusing on physics, chemistry and biology. After all that if you’re still looking for things to do, check out the Queens Zoo featuring a collection of animals native to North America and a geodesic dome designed by Buckminster Fuller.

The Lemon Ice King of Corona
Word has spread far and wide of Queens’ reputation for delicious, unique food. In addition to an amazing selection of delicacies from across South America, Corona Park also boasts an establishment better known as the Lemon Ice King of Corona. The famed Benfaremo Family, who started their local business more than 60 years ago, churns out the most refreshing Italian Ices this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Each paper cup is scooped full of one of the Lemon Ice King’s 30 plus flavors, each made with real pieces of fruit. It’s a refreshing treat to finish any hot summer day, one that is best enjoyed on a bench in the nearby park watching old gentlemen hurl Bocce on the local court. It’s exactly the kind of unique New York experience you’ll find in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park – a wealth of options fit for a king.