Since the weather has warmed up, I’ve found myself walking through and around Queens Plaza quite a bit of late. The construction boom under way in this section of Long Island City is staggering, and you’d be hard pressed to turn your head in any direction and not see cranes and concrete trucks at work. The biggest change to the horizon is actually over in Manhattan, with 432 Park Avenue now visible from everywhere in western Queens and possibly the entire eastern seaboard.
The City people always have to show off, don’t they? 1,396 feet, really? An apartment building 150 feet taller than the Empire State? Woof.
A few years ago, local controversy in LIC and Astoria was centered around a pair of Dutch era artifacts known colloquially as “The Queens Plaza Mill Stones.” The mill stones date back to the 1640s and were originally part of Burger Jorrisen’s homestead. For most of the 20th century, the artifacts were embedded in a sidewalk in Queens Plaza. When the “Queens Plaza Improvement Project” began, the mill stones were uprooted and stored in a decidedly dangerous manner. The Greater Astoria Historical Society led the charge on protesting this, and there was quite a hullaballoo about the matter, one which ended up being fairly divisive.
In the end, Jimmy Van Bramer stepped in, calmed the warring parties, and arranged for the stones to be moved from the construction zone and stored at the Queens Library until the construction was done. The ultimate home for the things was always meant to be the new Dutch Kills Greens Park, the creation of which was the whole point of the ”Queens Plaza Improvement Project.” I was wandering around Queens Plaza last week and decided to check in on the Mill Stones, which ended up being a disturbing visit.
A Festivistmas Kwanzaannukah holiday tradition, the MTA runs vintage Subway cars on the M line on Sundays in the month of December. The rolling stock is maintained by the MTA’s Transit Museum, and I make it a point of attending the event every year. This Q’stoner post from last year goes into some detail on what to expect onboard these relics of NYC’s golden age, but I wasn’t too happy with the quality of the photos from 2013, and have been practicing my subway shooting skills in the intervening interval.
Yesterday, I put myself to the test, and rode the Shoppers Special with my camera. Lots of shots from what I saw onboard follow, after the jump. (more…)
The Deal: Crescent Grill opened last summer and, during our long, brutal winter, endeared itself to local residents by offering a free shuttle service to the restaurant. The menu features modern American cuisine that highlights the best of local ingredients, and the décor highlights the works of local artists and doubles as an art gallery.
The restaurant has developed a long-standing relationship with Upstate Farms, which delivers 90 percent of the restaurant’s vegetables. Originally, Crescent Grill opened as a partnership between two brothers, Shaun and Dan Dougherty, until Milton Enriquez, a winner on Chopped, joined the team last November as executive chef. The team has taken full advantage of these partnerships.
“My inspiration [for the menu] is that everything comes from the farm,” Enriquez says.
The Dish: The signature dish at Crescent Grill is no exception. Enriquez can trace the route each ingredient has taken to become part of the Magret Duck on a bed of fricasseed vegetables which include baby turnips, spring garlic, fiddlehead ferns and strawberry paint in a natural jus. Strawberry paint is simply a natural reduction of pure strawberry juice – “With no added sugar,” the chef emphasizes.
“Personally, I love duck and like to have it on the menu,” Enriquez says. “I leave as much fat on the skin as possible so the skin becomes crispy like bacon.
As the seasons and in-season vegetables change, the underlying bed of spring vegetables can rotate to include shiitake mushrooms or baby carrots.
“Everything possible comes from the farm,” says Enriquez. “When I call in the order, they cut the vegetables.”
The preparation of the menu’s duck will change in line with the seasons but whatever the preparation, guests of Crescent Grill can expect the freshest local ingredients to be included in its preparation.
Welcome to the Q’Stoner food feature, Signature Dish! Once a week we check in with Queens restaurants and ask the owners about the all-time favorite dishes they serve. If you know of a dish you’d like to see featured here, please email email@example.com.
The Spot: The Baroness, 41-26 Crescent Street, Long Island City.
The Deal: The Baroness Bar exploded – almost literally – in a vastly underserved area of Queens dining landscape. The craft beer and wine bar has drawn the attention of the city’s bloggers by teaching customers “the art of Sabrage a Champagne,” or how to open a bottle of champagne with a saber. In a cordoned-off area of a bar, patrons who purchase a bottle of champagne are handed a saber and told to slide it down the bottle hard and fast to make the cork pop off. The bar also offers some perfect bar nibbles of cheeses, meats, and flatbreads.
The Dish: The flatbreads have quickly become a popular accompaniment to the specialty wines and beers. Out of the regular selection of seven pizzas – including a rotating special – one has stood out above the rest: the Som’bitch. The house-made crust is dusted with fennel and topped with chorizo, hot dry milanos, spicy tasso ham, and the homemade spicy sauce and blistering mozerella.
“It is definitely set apart from your traditional ‘pizzas,’ considering the level of quality of the ingredients. It is not reinventing the wheel ‑- more like making it work better than others,” says owner Kyle Radzyminski.
Try with caution. The name was chosen for a reason.
The New York Times profiled the $45,000,000 facelift that came to Queens Plaza: new crosswalks, bike paths, sidewalks, a pedestrian walkway, timed traffic signals and a park that replaced a commuter parking lot. Since the 2001 rezoning, development flourished along Queens Plaza. Of the 5,000 new apartments, about half of them are within two blocks of Queens Plaza, and developers have already built more than a dozen hotels in the vicinity. Two more hotels are under construction near the new park.
Turning the area into a central business district, however, didn’t quite meet the Bloomberg administration’s expectations. Met Life moved two-thirds of its employees back to Manhattan in 2006, although Jet Blue moved its headquarters into the area in 2012. And according to the Times, Tishman Speyer worked hard to find a tenant — ultimately the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene — for 2 Gotham Center. (Tishman Speyer did not comment on its inaction regarding the rest of the Gotham Center plan.)
Overall, the plaza upgrades have made a notable difference in the area, especially when compared to the days when Queens Plaza was known for drug-dealing, prostitution and its dangerous lanes of traffic. Justin Elghanayan, the president of Rockrose Development Corporation, says this of all the small changes in motion: “They have laid out the canvas that all these developments are going to be painted on.”
A few days ago, the redoubtable MTA announced that their tradition of presenting vintage Subway trains during the holiday season will continue in 2013. There will also be vintage buses running on 42nd street in the city, but let’s face it, fellow Queensicans — we don’t go there on the weekends unless we absolutely have to. Why would you, if you live in a place as great as Queens?
The “Nostalgia Special,” as MTA calls it, will be running along the M line between Queens and Manhattan again this year during the first four Sundays in December and offers a ride on trains which can date back as far as the 1930′s.
Heatherwood Communities will develop a 58-story tower at 42-12 28th Street, right near Queens Plaza and Heatherwood’s luxury rental development 27 on 27th. BuzzBuzzHome spotted a Department of Buildings application for 477 units, ground-floor retail, storage, bike storage, parking, a third-floor pool, gym and roof terraces. It’ll be designed by Goldstein, Hill and West Architects. Heatherwood’s development joins this planned twelve-story project off Queens Plaza North and The World-Wide Group’s under-construction rental at 24th Street and Queens Plaza North.
As many will recall, there used to be a gas station in Queens Plaza, one which has been shuttered for at least a couple of years at the time of this writing.
I’ve probably been walking past this sign for better than a year. Never actually took the time to notice it, let alone grab a shot or two. A casual glance caused me to register its message and delightful usage of the English language, and froze me in my tracks. You’ll notice a lot of signage in usage around Western Queens which betrays the fact that for the signmaker, English is their secondary tongue.
A new bar named The Baroness is coming to 41-26 Crescent Street, near Queens Plaza in Long Island City. The yellow legal paper taped in the window promises a new locally owned and operated establishment serving “wine, craft beer, flatbreads, cheese, charcuterie, and more.” The new watering hole will be a welcome addition to the blocks north of Queens Plaza, an area that is growing rapidly but currently lacks a neighborhood joint. Tucked in an older building next to two new luxury apartment buildings, the bar seems well-positioned for success. (Packard Square is located next door, and the Crescent Club is across the street.) Queens Plaza South is also seeing a new diner and bar opening soon. Peeking through the windows, work has barely started on the interior, so it could be a while before The Baroness begins pouring drinks for residents and JetBlue employees. Click through for one more photo. GMAP(more…)