Paula Maestro-Salat, a senior creative director for an advertising agency, and Perry Salat, an executive for a telecommunications company, both grew up in the suburbs – she’s from Long Island and he’s from Westchester. Yet they find themselves very happy in one of the most intensely urban environments in New York City, Long Island City, a place where the warehouses of the waterfront meet the Mid-Town Tunnel and the Long Island Expressway. A place they found surprisingly peaceful and where they could feel part of the community.
Paula and Perry, and their French bulldog, Remi, live at Solarium, a boutique condominium building on 48th Avenue just north-west of Vernon Boulevard across from the Hunters Point Community Park. They’ve owned in Westchester and Florida, but when the call of New York City brought them back here in 2006, while renting in Midtown, a friend invited them to visit Long Island City. At first a little frightened at the darkness and quiet in this obscure neighborhood behind the Pepsi-Cola sign, their friend spelled it out, saying, “there’s no one here to do anything to you.” Of course today Long Island City is filled with gleaming towers, yoga studios and happy toddlers, but it’s long been considered one of the safest areas in the City.
Perry thought: maybe we should investigate Long Island City further. Paula thought: I am not living in Queens. But they had indeed hit upon something because within a year, they were renting a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment with million dollar views of the Manhattan skyline for considerably less money than anything they could get in Manhattan. They saw it as an experiment but they fell in love with the authenticity, peaceful vibe and friendliness of the neighborhood. Without the kind of amenities they were used to, they had to rely on Fresh Direct and E&I Deli and Grocery for grocery sources, but they felt so comfortable there, listening to water lapping on the edge of the park and hearing birds chirping. In Paula’s words, “what was scary became sweet.”
In 2010 they bought a sleek and spacious two-bedroom, two-bath apartment with a sizeable private balcony – and a walk-in closet to die for – in the Solarium building, then a new development with eight floors and 35 units and a two-floor townhouse nearby. Solarium is rated Silver (although not by LEED) for Green practices, which have been implemented wherever possible – the use of recycled concrete blocks, steel and masonry, Thermopane windows, eco-friendly appliances and bamboo floors. Both heating and cooling are powered by electricity and controlled by each unit, an arrangement that contributes to lower common charges.
Residents can access a large roof terrace that has stunning 360º views of the surrounding neighborhood, the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge and the waterfront skyscrapers nearby. There’s also a gym, children’s playroom, part-time doorman and private storage. The kitchen finishes in each of the units are beautiful – brushed nickel hardware, stone countertops and Italian tiles.
Perry, who has a enviable work schedule that allows him to be home intermittently during the week, has contributed significantly to the neighborhood. He serves as President of the Board of 543 Ventures LLC, and was instrumental in advocating for the establishment of the Vernon Dog Park (at 48th Avenue), which received support from the NY State Parks Department and the Queens West Development Corporation to incorporate plumbing, lighting and shelter. It’s a hub of the community that adds tremendously to the quality of life in the area.
On any given weekday, Paula sets out on her two-block walk to the 7 Train and, since it’s one stop from Vernon Boulevard/Jackson Avenue Station to Grand Central, is in Manhattan in a matter of minutes. On any typical weekend, you can find the two of them indulging Paula’s passion for tea at Sweetleaf LIC, enjoying a slice at San Remo Pizza, taking in art at Ten10 Studios, or having a laugh at the Laughing Devil Comedy Club. And, of course, hitting the dog park with Remi.