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Nestled in the northern reaches of Astoria lies the Steinway & Sons piano factory – yes, that’s right, the Steinway & Sons, makers of some of the most glorious pianos in the world. And did you know that you can take a tour of the factory itself? Indeed you can – Forbes has rated this factory tour one of the top 3 factory tours in the country, and we agree that is is pretty awesome.

So here’s how to tour the factory. These guidelines are the most up-to-date ones, as of October 2012.

Factory tours are offered from September through the end of June; factory tours are not available in July and August.

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Astoria’s Steinway & Sons Factory is redoing its parking lot, and this isn’t just any old repaving. The 53,500-square-foot parking lot, made up of a non-porous concrete surface that produces massive amounts of runoff during storms, is going green. The New York Restoration Project, with help from the City Parks Foundation and the Greening Western Queens Fund, is transforming the lot into a storm-resilient space by installing storm water capture systems and plantings. The greenery will help absorb approximately 404,000 gallons of water annually.

The landscape architecture firm Quennell Rothschild and Partners designed the new parking lot, which features 340 feet of bioswales (streets designed with plants and low curbs to absorb and filter rainfall) along the perimeter, 30 to 40 shade trees, 1,000 new plants, and an irrigation system to feed the new plants with collected storm water. The project will wrap in the next two weeks as Kelco Landscaping and Construction installs railings, adds soil and final plantings. Once finished, the catchment of 404,000 gallons of storm water will significantly reduce flooding and simultaneously feed an irrigation system that supports the growth of the new green landscape. Click through for another picture of the lot pre-renovation. And stay tuned for photographs of the parking lot when this major overhaul is complete! GMAP

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Image source: Seabamirum on Flickr

Legendary Steinway & Sons pianos are made right in Astoria, and the factory played a huge part in the development of the neighborhood starting in 1870. The history of this company town is just one of the many fascinating topics we learned about on the highly recommended Steinway factory tour.

Steinway & Sons was founded in 1853 in Manhattan by Henry Steinway (originally Heinrich Steinweg), a cabinet maker from Germany who had built his first piano in the kitchen of his home.

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Image source: Courtesy of Steinway & Sons, by photographer Chris Payne

Business Insider has a nice article about the Steinway & Sons factory, located in the northern reaches of Astoria (up the street from SingleCut brewery). The economic downturn did affect them negatively, but they feel that they are moving out of that and things are looking brighter. During the recession, the factory laid some people off – reducing staff from 300 to 215 – and made less pianos (hobbyist pianists were not spending their money on pianos for a while).

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Storybox it up and tell your tale

LIC tech startup Storybox caught our eye this week and they are doing something pretty cool. It’s a new web application – a visual social network – allows users to tell a story with photos, creating a collage of images (16 maximum) from various sources. Founder Angie Min says “This way [people] can tell a story. We want it to be like a daily scrapbook page, which would be both personal and aspirational.” You can make your collage then share it on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and G+. It’s really great to see so many creative startups make their home in LIC. So give Storybox a try and let us know what you think.

Make alternate transit plans – the 7 train in LIC will be suspended on consecutive weekends this fall

Yes, it’s true – more work is being done on the 7 train this Fall, on the portion between Queensboro Plaza and Manhattan. That said, they will run a FREE shuttle bus to get you to where you need to go in LIC. The train will be out on these weekends:

Oct 5-8
Oct 19-22
Oct 26-29
Nov 9-12
Nov 16-19

It looks like the weekends of October 12 -14 and November 2-4 have been spared. That said, we will also also see suspended train service from 11:45pm Monday (10/22) to 5am Tuesday (10/23).

Beware – your polling place may have changed

The November election is a month away, can you believe it? If you plan to vote, it’s helpful to know where to go. We’ve been hearing rumblings from various people around Queens who’ve been startled to learn that their long-time polling place has changed. To double check your polling place, use this handy-dandy poll site locator from the Board of Elections in the City of New York.

Here’s how to tour the Steinway & Sons factory in Astoria (the tour is awesome, by the way)

Astoria is home to Steinway & Sons, makers of some of the most super gorgeous pianos EVAR. Seriously. And you can take a tour of the factory – it’s a fascinating experience, and when you go on the tour you’ll see so much of what goes on in the secret life of pianos, since this place is an actual working factory. You might not know what to expect before you go on the tour (which was rated one of the top 3 factory tours in the US by Forbes), so we’ve got the info. Just for you.

A love for punk (and fashion and culture) in Astoria

We were tickled by this video of culture and fashion (including punk) in Astoria from the perspective of Astorians. Don’t miss the trucker hat that is full of stories (he “shot it with a revolved a few times”).

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Image source: Christopher Payne, via Bonni Benrubi Gallery 

The Steinway & Sons piano factory at the northern tip of Astoria (GMAP) has gotten a lot of love recently. Photographer Christopher Payne took a series of fascinating shots of pianos at all stages of the manufacturing process. He has captured the beauty of the wooden materials, mechanical parts, and precise work that goes into making the legendary instruments.