View Full Version : Long Island City after MoMA QNS

May 16th, 2003, 05:33 AM
May 16, 2003

Queens Ponders Post-Modern Life


People lining up to visit the Museum of Modern Art’s temporary home in Long Island City, Queens, have helped bring a resurgence to the neighborhood.

An exhibit featuring Matisse and Picasso closes on Monday, and art lovers have been enjoying the show at the Museum of Modern Art in Queens.

It breezed into the neighborhood like a Hollywood film crew. Its big-name stars drew crowds of the curious, creating lucrative opportunities for the resourceful.

But after Monday, the stars — the dueling modernists Matisse and Picasso — will be packed away, and by September 2004 the Museum of Modern Art will return to its newly expanded home in Manhattan.

Everyone in Long Island City, of course, knows that the Modern's charmed visit to Queens will end. But they still wonder whether the museum will leave anything enduring behind. Will it help reshape a raw Queens neighborhood, known for its factories and warehouses and the gridlock around the Queensboro Bridge, into the next SoHo or TriBeCa?

Cultural institutions have long been seen as a shrewd way to invigorate neighborhoods. Lincoln Center transformed the decaying West Side of Manhattan. Newark is betting on its performing arts center to bring foot traffic back to a devastated downtown.

Long Island City, whose seven other scattered museums have allowed it to style itself as a museum district just a 15-minute subway ride from Times Square, hoped for a similar jolt of electricity from the Modern. But museum officials made clear from the beginning that the world-class collection was just passing through. Its royal blue building in Queens, in a revamped Swingline stapler factory on Queens Boulevard and 33rd Street, was intended for storage and study. Its use as an exhibition hall began last summer and is supposed to last for only two and a half years, until the museum's headquarters on West 53rd Street are refurbished.

For the moment, the Modern has indisputably enriched the surrounding industrial streets, particularly since the "Matisse Picasso" exhibition opened on Feb. 13 and doubled attendance to more than 4,000 people a day. The hot-dog vendors and fruit peddlers arrayed alongside the lines of visitors as well as the restaurants a few blocks east in Sunnyside are making far more money. Manna from heaven, they might call it.

Hemsin, a once quiet Turkish restaurant on Queens Boulevard, now has lines of diners waiting for its shish kebab and baba ganoush. Hilmi Yurdusever, 34, one of the restaurant's partners, had to hire three waiters and is hoping to use his bonanza to open another restaurant in Manhattan.

"The quality of people has come up," he said last week of his clientele. "Before I had ordinary people. Now I'm meeting vice presidents, presidents and executive officers."

Down the block, Dazies, an Italian restaurant and a 30-year Sunnyside institution, has tripled business and created the MoMA Cocktail, a bluish drink made with Bacardi orange rum, Grand Marnier, blue Curaçao and a drop of orange juice.

Most of the museums in western Queens, like the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center — a Modern affiliate since 1999 — the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum and the Sculpture Center and the Museum for African Art, report sharp surges in attendance as a result of culture vultures unsated by the riches of "Matisse Picasso." The African art museum joined with Noguchi in draping a banner across the street from the Modern and the African museum offers free admission and cups of coffee to the exhibit's ticketholders. Carlyn Mueller, public relations director for the African art museum, said 200 extra visitors a day have been counted.

"It was important that we get the right traffic," she said, "have new visitors spread the word about the Museum for African Art and its relationship to Matisse's and Picasso's work." (One example: Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" features tribal masks as faces on some of its five angular nudes.)

There are also more than a few cases of clever entrepreneurship in the neighborhood. Michele Bonelli, a veteran painter, was urged by a real estate agent to hang 17 colorful motion studies in the oblong lobby of a cosmetics factory next door to the Modern. The gesture has produced at least two sales.

But there are skeptics. Mike Matthews, president of the company that produces the Electro-Harmonix sound modifiers used by many rock bands, said of the neighborhood, "Once this special exhibit is over, it will become dead again, though I hope not." Mr. Matthews, a genial cigar chomper, lives in an apartment, complete with whirlpool, that he set up in his factory. As something of a nighthawk, he knows how desolate the streets become once the workers leave.

In fact, most businesses in Long Island City are manufacturers or commercial enterprises like Citigroup and MetLife that have not directly benefited from the museum. Don Valentine, the manager of Branded Leather, which makes black motorcycle jackets for a rarefied coterie of customers that include Hell's Angels and F.B.I. agents, said visitors to the museum stop by his ground-floor retail shop, but few buy. "The museum crowd," Mr. Valentine said, "is not very into motorcycles."

Despite such demurrals, Mitchell L. Moss, director of the Taub Urban Research Center at New York University, said he thought that the museum's brief tenure had made many more people aware of Long Island City. Now the neighborhood must find ways of keeping the momentum alive, perhaps with another blockbuster. "Once you've proven you can get people to come there, now you've got to get people to stay there," he said.

Helen M. Marshall, the Queens borough president, has been urging the Modern to retain part of the 160,000-square-foot building as permanent exhibition space. But Glenn D. Lowry, the Modern's director, said that possibility "is very highly unlikely." In a telephone interview, Mr. Lowry said a satellite operation would cost millions of dollars and compete with the Manhattan site. Then why, he was asked, did the museum tantalize Queens with an event like "Matisse Picasso"?

"I wish I could tell you it was a strategy, but it was dumb luck," he said, citing an accident of timing.

Ms. Marshall and the others see a Modern satellite as a linchpin of a museum district, one that is currently joined by a weekend bus loop and reaches the American Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.

A museum district would continue to attract people like Stacie Webb of Harrison, N.Y., and her sister Nora Jacob of Orange, Calif. On a visit last week, they were dazzled by "Matisse Picasso" in the morning, savored Hemsin for lunch, then delighted in the spare Noguchi sculptures nearby.

Gayle Baron, president of the Long Island City Business Development Corporation, said the neighborhood would never be the same after this exhibit. "Nothing ever goes the way it was after a whirlwind," she said.

The museum's presence, she said, has spurred trends already enhancing the neighborhood. More than 1,000 artists have settled in Long Island City, drawn by cheap light-flooded lofts, million-dollar views of Midtown and a gold mine of art materials among the metal fabricators and lumberyards. Two apartment towers known as Queens West have gone up along the East River, housing that is essential for street life. The city has rezoned 37 blocks surrounding the 48-story Citigroup tower to allow more office and residential uses.

The Modern has also been changed by its encounter with Queens. Bret Eynon, an administrator at La Guardia Community College, practically next door to the museum, said officials at the Modern, through programs with the college, were cultivating the kinds of visitors that the museum seeks. Immigrants, for example, make up 74 percent of the college's 13,000 students.

Borough officials like Veronique LeMelle, director of culture and tourism, say it must be remembered that the Modern was never Long Island City's only attraction.

"If we were a one-horse show, then yes, it would go back to what it was," said Ms. LeMelle, adding that the Modern "is an integral part of the revitalization, but it's not the only part."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

February 15th, 2004, 02:03 AM
February 15, 2004


Maybe It Should Be Called Museum Warehouse Mile


Western Queens has been enjoying a brief turn on the stage of New York's cultural big time. The temporary home of the Museum of Modern Art in Sunnyside, Queens, or MoMA QNS, as the outpost is called, has averaged 1,000 to 2,000 visitors a day since it opened in June 2002, and it pulled even bigger numbers during a blockbuster Matisse-Picasso show last spring.

Local community leaders and merchants worry that with the closing of the MoMA QNS exhibition space in September, the visitors will disappear and the area will revert to its mundane self.

But City Councilman Eric Gioia thinks he has a solution. He is developing a plan to coax large cultural institutions in Manhattan to follow the Modern's lead and set up storage and satellite exhibit space in some of the area's underused and low-cost warehouse spaces. He envisions a "museum mile'' of such spaces, stretching from Long Island City to Sunnyside and overlapping an area that already has small cultural fixtures like the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum and the P. S. 1 Contemporary Art Center.

"Every cultural facility has more art or artifacts than they can show," Mr. Gioia said last week. "They spend an enormous amount of money for storage. My idea is to store their art in Queens and put some of it on display in gallery space." As for other, failed, attempts to build museum outposts - like the Guggenheim's satellite in SoHo, which closed two years ago - Mr. Gioia said that one difference in his plan was that museum-size space in western Queens was plentiful and cheap.

Mr. Gioia has already approached administrators at institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History. Although the American Museum of the Moving Image is not far away, in Astoria, its director, Rochelle Slovin, is intrigued.

"If part of the plan is for the city to subsidize museum-quality storage in Long Island City that many cultural institutions could use, and the requirement would be that you need to open a gallery to go along with it, I'd do it in a minute," Ms. Slovin said.

The key word, and possible sticking point, is subsidy. Tax breaks, the city's main incentive to draw businesses to neglected areas, are unavailable to nonprofit institutions like museums, which operate largely tax-free.

And at least one major Manhattan institution, the Metropolitan, is unlikely to open a satellite exhibit, said Harold Holzer, a spokesman. "Our policy is to keep the collection at its core," he said.

But Mr. Gioia may entice the Met to acquire local storage space, and Mr. Holzer added that if a first-rate exhibition space opened, the Metropolitan would consider lending it works of art.

Ben Adams, a lawyer from Sunnyside, suspects that Mr. Gioia's museum mile would draw plenty of visitors. MoMA QNS proved not only that Manhattanites would travel to western Queens, he said, but that nearby Brooklyn and Long Island hold a large untapped audience of cultural consumers.

"Some old Irish immigrants in my building who never would have gone to MoMA in Manhattan popped by MoMA QNS one day,'' he said, "and came back and talked to me about it for an entire afternoon."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

February 15th, 2004, 02:12 AM
Like so many New Yorkers, my first trip to Long Island City was to see the collection at the MOMA-QNS. I went twice actually and wandered about the neighborhood with some friends. We're all outer-boroughers, living the Heights, Slope and Boreum Hill.

We all though the area had potential, but was yet unformed. Too many desolate streets, even a few steps behind Williamsburgh, which still looks a little underdeveloped to someone from the Heights.

But it definately seemed like it COULD be a cool area just a few minutes from midtown. Can they capitalize on this moment of attention?

March 20th, 2004, 09:50 PM
March 21, 2004


Hard by the East River, It's Power-Plant Chic


To know the future of Long Island City, look to the T-shirts that have begun to issue from Ten63, a cafe on Jackson Avenue. They are showing up on everyone from artists to babies, bearing moody renderings of several of the neighborhood's industrial holdovers: gantry towers that once hoisted railroad cars from barges on the East River, the dimmed neon cursive of a giant Pepsi sign, and a power plant designed by McKim, Mead & White.

Clearly, a threshold of self-consciousness has been crossed. Long Island City, long downtrodden and neglected, is short on supermarkets and hardware stores. But it has a T-shirt.

Adam Collett, a 24-year-old marketer for a nonprofit arts group, who moved to the neighborhood last summer, explained it this way: "When the creatives move in, you wind up with a visual. The creators find a way to present themselves because that's what they do."

In other words, this low-rise neighborhood of row houses and warehouses hard by the Sunnyside rail yards and the entrance to the Midtown Tunnel is developing a stylish urban image. Can boutiques with commissioned graffiti on their walls be far behind?

The designer of the T-shirt is Monte Antrim, who with his wife, Talitha Whidbee, owns the cafe where the shirts are being sold. Like many local residents, he lives with the tensions of a neighborhood in transition. He looks at pricey waterfront high-rises, like the 42-story Citylights building, and sees the uninspired architecture of a project that nonetheless created a riverside park and promenade. More such towers are to come as part of a development called Queens West, which will most likely send more customers his way. But he worries that they might overwhelm distinctive structures like the power plant or the subject of his next T-shirt design: a pair of concrete silos in nearby Hunters Point.

"It's a question of place," he says. "What makes Long Island City particular? The Queens West towers don't look any different than any condo tower in the country. They're bland. I contemplated making an image out of them, but they don't interest me that much.''

The shirts have gained a foothold in that free-floating zone of trendiness that stretches from artists' enclaves in former industrial areas to upscale shopping districts. Rachel Melis, a barista at Ten63, said a customer recently said he had seen a Long Island City T-shirt adorning a child at the Beverly Center, a chic mall in Beverly Hills, Calif.

According to Ms. Whidbee, more than 100 shirts have been sold since they went on sale in December, some to European tourists. "It's the wackiest T-shirt they could find,'' she explained. "It doesn't say, 'I heart New York.'

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

June 20th, 2004, 04:49 PM
June 20, 2004


Mourning MoMA

After two years in Queens, the Museum of Modern Art returns this fall to its splendidly renovated headquarters in Manhattan. If art lovers around the world are cheering, many Queens residents are not. They have become attached to this magnificent collection right in their neighborhood. Even though they knew from the beginning that the relationship was only temporary, some confess to feeling like MoMA's jilted lover. A Queens Tribune editorial wondered, "Why is Queens just a spot for storage and nothing more?"

Nobody can blame the Queens crowd for feeling a little bruised as MoMA QNS prepares to shut its doors to the public in September and open them in Manhattan two months later. With all the attention on the move, there has been little time to soothe those who will be left behind. But now that some of the world's best modern art has been introduced to a diverse new audience in Queens, it makes sense to keep that expanded audience engaged.

Museum officials have already promised not to abandon their Queens following completely. The Big Blue Box of a building in Long Island City will be kept for storage and offices, and for use by scholars. MoMA also plans to maintain its connection to P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, a former elementary school that now houses more advanced and experimental art. And lovers of modern art know that as short as the subway ride was from Manhattan to the Long Island City site, it's just as short going the other way. But everyone recognizes things won't really be the same.

State Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, whose district includes MoMA QNS, has offered one promising idea for maintaining the ties between the museum and its temporary host. She is lobbying to have part of the Queens museum site used as an educational center, to work with students across the city and with the growing arts community in Queens. That sounds like something worth pursuing after the museum settles back in Midtown Manhattan.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

July 28th, 2004, 09:50 AM
MoMA Moving — What Remains?


After September 27, MoMA QNS will no longer be opened for exhibits.

The end of September will mark the end of the Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMA) physical presence in Queens as the museum moves into its newly renovated Midtown Manhattan location.

The $65 million, 41,500-square-foot multi-use arts facility at 33rd Street and Queens Blvd. in Long Island City, which has served as a temporary home to MoMA since June 2002, will close its doors to visitors on September 27. For almost two months the museum will be in limbo, as the exhibits are removed and some of them relocated to displays at the new, $425 million, 630,000-square-foot facility between West 53rd and West 54th Streets in Manhattan. MoMA is scheduled to reopen its doors to the public on November 20, with free admission that day to show appreciation for the citizenry’s unwavering support.

A considerable number of the MoMA exhibits will remain behind, in Queens—in storage. True to the original plan, the LIC location will be converted into the center of study and a storage facility for the masterpieces not currently on display. MoMA’s conservation lab will also be moved to the Queens location permanently from its previous Manhattan residence.

Back when the Manhattan renovation project was just getting underway, some people in the art community, as well as borough elected officials, harbored hopes that MoMA would still offer some of their exhibits for viewing in Queens even after its permanent residence reopened. The New York State Council on the Arts, the Arts & Business Council the City of New York and then-Councilman for the 26th District Walter McCaffrey, with support from MoMA director Glenn Lowry, combined on an initiative that led to an opening of a free shuttle bus service, dubbed the Artlink Shuttle, between the MoMA’s Manhattan location and four artistic landmarks in Queens: P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park and the American Museum of the Moving Image.

The idea behind the Artlink Shuttle was to offer tourists wishing to visit the museum an easier transportation alternative to mass transit, at the same time creating more exposure for the four Queens artistic destinations, sometimes called the Art Loop. One shuttle bus would travel from MoMA’s Manhattan location to P.S. 1, and the second one would start at P.S. 1 and connect the other four artistic hot spots.

It took four years of combined efforts by the borough’s business people, art professionals and elected officials to open what they believed would be the missing link in an effort to keep at least some of MoMA’s exhibits in Queens permanently.

The shuttle service was discontinued in September 2002, however, having lasted for less than a year. MoMA officials did not offer an explanation for this, claiming only that the shuttle was not solely MoMA’s resposibility, even though its informational page is part of MoMA’s official website.

Some are of the opinion, however, that even though MoMA’s exhibits are leaving Queens, the spirit of MoMA does not. Councilman Eric Gioia, McCaffrey’s successor for the 26th District in Woodside, credited MoMA for its active and continuous involvement in creating and developing art programs throughout the borough.

“If not for MoMA’s joint projects with P.S. 1 and its assistance with art programs in many local schools, art awareness and appreciation throughout the borough would not be where they are today,” Gioia said. “I am also certain that MoMA will continue working with us on many future projects.”

MoMA itself insists that its influence in the borough would hardly diminish with the removal of its exhibits.

“We are still very active in many projects throughout the borough, both with cultural institutions and educational activities in public schools,” said Ruth Kaplan, MoMA’s deputy director of marketing and communications. The museum also continues its close cooperation with LaGuardia Community College, where it offers in-class and auditorium lectures, reduced admissions to all MoMA exhibitions and special events and museum internships for selected students.

“Even though MoMA is moving back to Manhattan,” Kaplan added, “the essence of MoMA remains in Queens.”


August 6th, 2004, 01:55 AM
MoMa in Queens:


March 1st, 2005, 06:58 AM
March 1, 2005


A Museum Grew in Queens

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/t.gifhe neighborhood around the 33rd Street stop on the No. 7 subway line doesn't bustle the way it did before Nov. 20 last year. For more than two years before that, the Museum of Modern Art displayed its fabulous collection in a nearby warehouse while a new home in Manhattan was built. Now that MoMA is triumphantly back in Midtown, the city should not forget its transformative venture in Queens and the neighbors it left behind.

There had been a fear that tourists and New Yorkers from other boroughs would not be convinced that they should stray from their beaten paths for culture. But they did, especially for a special exhibition of works by Matisse and Picasso. That allowed MoMA to exceed expectations and stay vital during its stay on the other side of the East River, even though the crowds - about 800,000 in two years - were smaller than in Manhattan.

The visitors in the lines became part of the attraction in Queens. They were a mix of local art lovers and tourists, many having their first non-Manhattan cultural experience. And there were people from the surrounding neighborhoods, who knew that MoMA would not remain in their midst for long.

Now, three months gone from Queens, the museum says it is working to maintain ties to the borough. Next month, it will partner with one of its Queens collaborators, the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, for an exhibition of New York artists. But, of course, nothing can replace the museum's powerful physical presence and influence. MoMA was the draw to Long Island City, leading even longtime New Yorkers to discover how much other notable art they've been missing, including the incomparable Noguchi Museum and the Socrates Sculpture Park.

It's too early to know whether the crowds will return without the lure of the superstar MoMA. The cross-pollination of borough cultures was great while it lasted, though, and maybe now more New Yorkers view those bridges and tunnels as going both ways.

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)