Island City lies in western Queens, across the East River
Long Island City, just across the East River from Manhattan, is the largest
community in Queens with 250,000 residents. The history of Long Island
City spans more than 360 years from its humble beginning as Dutch farmland
in the 1640s to its growth into a residential and commercial hub. On the
western shore of Queens, the city borders East River to the north and
west, Newtown creek to the south, and 51st/Hobart Street to the east.
Although it has been an integral part of the history of New York City,
Long Island City has its own unique past.
Chartered in 1870, Long Island City was the consolidation of the village
of Astoria and several hamlets such as Steinway,
Ravenswood, and Hunters Point.
Long Island City existed independently from New York City for 28 years
until it was incorporated by the City of New York in the consolidation
Flag with the Long Island
City coat of arms
In the beginning of the 1640s, the fertile farmland encouraged the Dutch
to settle the area that is now Long Island City. The first part of Queens
to be settled, this area continued as an agrarian community until the
nineteenth century. In 1839, Steven Halsey, a fur merchant, founded a village at Hallet's Cove and started
the 92nd Street Ferry service to Manhattan. Halsey then petitioned the
state legislature to name the area for the prominent fur trader John Jacob
Astor. Wealthy New Yorkers built mansions on 12th and 14th streets and on 27th Ave. The original village still
exists today, with many antebellum mansions, cottages, churches and cemeteries
The Long Island Rail Road terminal was built on Hunters
Point in 1861, which helped the district become an industrial center
during the Civil War. After the villages were consolidated into Long Island
City, the new city government encouraged the industry, which spread northward
with gas plants and chemical and glass factories lining the East River
waterfront. By the end of the 19th century, the city had the highest concentration
of industry in the United States.
In 1909, the biggest transformation began with the opening of the Queensboro
Bridge, immediately changing the community from a remote suburb to
a destination minutes from Manhattan. Continuing this expansion, the Second
Avenue elevated train opened in 1917 connecting Long Island City even
more closely to Manhattan. Queensborough Bridge and the Second Avenue
train proved only to be the beginning of the routes in and out of the
Long Island City. Today Long Island City is connected with the rest of
New York City by six tunnels and five bridges.
The development of bridges,
tunnels and roads helped make Long Island City an accessible industrial
area for New York City.
Learn more of the story by visiting the monthly series, the Queens