Long Island City

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Here’s my short list of three destinations in Queens worth visiting even if you live outside the borough. They all offer some great outdoor scenery, whether in the form of street art, architecture or beautiful green space. Two are parks.

Welling Court Mural Project

Missing 5Pointz in Long Island City? That renowned graffiti spot may be no more, but you can get your fill of grassroots urban art at Welling Court, where the Ad Hoc Art Group has been curating public street art since 2010. There’s some fantastic stuff here, and it’s all free to enjoy.

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‘Tis the season to enjoy the great outdoors, and Long Island City is the place to do it this Saturday. Many cross sections of the Western Queens community will come together to celebrate the second annual LIC Springs! 

There will be live music, dance, and theater. There will be fitness classes, sports contests, and pop-up activities.

There will be sculpture- and wood-making, a site-specific art gallery, and printmaking. There will be children’s activities, such as a scavenger hunt and glitter tattoos.

And finally, there will be freshly shucked oysters, BBQ, and a gelato-eating contest.

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Today is the birthday of Long Island City. Here’s her origin story.

In the mid 19th century, Newtown was a municipal entity that encompassed many, many towns, cities, and villages, whose borders stretched from the East River all the way into modern day Nassau County and from Newtown Creek to Bowery Bay. The center of gravity, politics-wise, was in Flushing and Jamaica, where baronial agricultural operations ruled the roost.

In the 1850s, the only railroad connections offered to the local populace went from Jamaica to Brooklyn. The city of Brooklyn was eager to reduce the amount of rail traffic flowing through it and passed a series of laws hindering or outright forbidding the passage of trains. By the 1860s the railroad people were looking for new routes in and out of Manhattan, and decided on one that traveled through Newtown.

Political resistance from the eastern side of Newtown slowed them down — those baronial farmers were worried about competition for the lucrative Manhattan market emerging from Eastern Long Island — so the owners of the NY & Jamaica railroad were forced to get creative.

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Many times have I shown you Cool Cars, Queensicans.

There was the Zombie Response Jeep in Astoria/Woodside, the Cool Cars of Astoria and Industrial Maspeth, that 1949 Plymouth on the Woodside/Maspeth border over by Mt. Zion cemetery, and that nearly perfect 1957 Pontiac Star Chief encountered on 38th avenue in Astoria. Cool Cars, but all production model automobiles.

What I saw the other day on Jackson Avenue at the corner of Queens Street was some sort of bizarre chimera, however.

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It’s TGIF and FFF. On May 1, Noguchi Museum will launch Free First Friday, a true-to-its-name program that will repeat on every first Friday of the month during spring and summer. The Long Island City sculpture garden/art gallery will not charge an admission fee during these times, and its doors will open to the public at 10 am with extended hours until 8 pm.

Guided tours will be offered in Japanese and English at 2 pm, and a cash bar with wine and beer will open at 5 pm. Plus, the venue will bring back its popular Center of Attention program, on some occasions a staff-led conversation on one of the collection’s pieces,  and at other times film screenings co-hosted with the Architecture and Design Film Festival.

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I was over in Greenpoint last weekend for a Newtown Creek Alliance event, and since it was such a beautiful and clear day, I decided to wave the camera about and see what could be seen. Over on the LIC side of my beloved creek, I noticed something surprising. The Wheelspur Yard of the LIRR, which hasn’t been active since the late 1950s, had a series of freight cars sitting in it.

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It first hit the literary scene in 1962, when arguments about deinstitutionalization were raging. The book’s author, Ken Kesey, researched the subject by interviewing patients while working as an orderly in a mental health facility in California. (He also claimed that he took a variety of mind-altering drugs as part of his research.)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest tells the story of life at a psychiatric ward via narration by a huge, Native American inmate who is believed to be deaf and mute. The head nurse, Mildred Ratched, rules with an iron fist, but she constantly butts heads with the ever-rebellious patient Randle Patrick McMurphy, who faked insanity to avoid prison for various crimes.

This week, Cuckoo’s Nest comes to Queens. More information and another image are on the jump page.

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It all began in 14th century France, when the Black Plague was raging. A desperate monk decided that the best remedy was to “let them die laughing,” so he jaunted through devastated villages with a red-nosed group known as “God’s Zanies,” providing his version of sacred relief.

This Peter Barnes play, Red Noses, was first produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1985. This month, it comes to Queens, but Nicu’s Spoon Theater Company will set this Olivier Award-winning drama in modern day New York City with a score featuring contemporary music.

Directed by Stephanie Barton-Farcas, performances will begin with a special opening night gala on April 8th at The Secret Theatre in Long Island City, and they will continue through April 19th. More information and another dramatic photo are on the jump page.