Sights Set on Long Island City

All eyes have been on Long Island City since its partial triumph in Amazon’s urban beauty pageant. Alongside criticisms about the lack of transparency and alleged benefits of the city and state’s economic development strategies, and speculation about the real estate market, is the question of the impact of a new corporate campus on the neighborhood’s residential and commercial landscape. But if the equivalent of three Empire State Buildings is coming to Anable Basin, in one oft-repeated analogy, whatever materializes will only join several generations of towers signaling a new era for the district, formerly a mix of small-scale residences and industrial uses. Where the Citibank Building (SOM, 1988) stood solitary sentinel above Court Square, 42 floors of apartments perched on a barren waterfront at Citylights (Pelli Clarke Pelli, 1997), and Two Gotham Center (MdeAS, 2011) rehoused municipal offices off of Queens Plaza’s tangled infrastructure, once sparse surroundings have been filled in thanks to a series of rezonings and a rate of development unlike anywhere in the country.

Queens native Kris Graves has kept his eye on Long Island City continuously since moving there ten years ago. Photographing what presents itself outside his door in Hunters Point South and as he walks around the neighborhood, Graves never intended to create a record of a vanishing scene (RIP 5Pointz notwithstanding). Instead, his photos, accumulating over time, represent an additive process. As the neighborhood acquires new parks and towers, the views are what disappear. Many of the photos below, selected from Graves’ ongoing body of work, A Queens Affair, could no longer be replicated today. Their perspectives have been obstructed by new construction. And where open space or low-slung buildings remain, we can be sure someone has their redevelopment in their sights.

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