Former industrial site transformed into a park
On the Long Island City waterfront stand two large, corroded gantries, all that remains of industrial structures that once teemed with life. Manufacturing jobs brought workers from all over the world to the city’s shores. The gantries, built in the 1920s, hoisted freight cars from trains that pulled in from Long Island, then hoisted them on to East River barges that supplied the nation. Towering structures with pulleys and cranes that raised transfer bridges eighteen feet up or down, they accommodated hundred-ton cars and were topped with corrugated black metal control rooms. As manufacturing dwindled and decayed, the gantries rusted.
In 1998, they found a new purpose, as the centerpiece of the Gantry Plaza State Park, created by Queens West Redevelopment and the landscape architecture firm of Thomas Balsley Associates. Repainted black, the two giant structures retain the words Long Island in bright red letters, giving Manhattanites something to gaze...
Jeff VanDam “A Famed Skyline Fixture, Standing Tall Another Day” The New York Times, February 6, 2005.
Directions: To get to Gantry State Park Plaza you take the 7 train to Vernon-Jackson, which lets you out on Vernon Blvd. Make a left-hand turn on 48th or 49th Street, walk two blocks toward the water, and there you are.
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
Municipal Arts Society article
The original gantries are still standing surrounded by the newly refurbished piers on the East River. This delineated where Long Island began and ships would bring goods, produce and supplies to load on trains to be delivered to Long Island. This was a mostly industrial area, comprised of sandy soil where tanneries, and other factories coexisted; before too long all the factories will be gone and the burgeoning complex of buildings will eradicate all signs of the past from this amazing waterfront area directly opposite the UN.
On the site of the Pepsi plant which has already been demolished, the Pepsi sign still stands maintaining its landmark status, but for how long? Within walking distance is the PS 1 Museum of Art, it houses very immediate contemporary art that is often cutting edge. The Noguchi Museum is further down the waterfront, north of the 59th Street Bridge.
I am already missing the changing landscape, as the daylight factories are being demolished or transformed. My favorite building, the chemical plant which stood behind the gantries, has had its four smokestacks torn down to create a condominium. There used to be tennis courts at the top of one of the two buildings where very high profile politicians and actors would come to play tennis undisturbed by the media.
If you want to be transported without leaving the city, just walk out on the piers, day or night, and listen to the sounds of the city from afar; as you stand out on the piers and look at the view, it will take your breath away. You will also feel like you are on a ship at sea. If you are a sky person, the view of the sky and skyline is the best view in NYC.
When you step into this village even the air feels different, the sound is quiet and late at night or early in the morning you can hear the long whistle of the Long Island railroad. It feels so far from the city and so soothing.