Queens Memory Celebrates Astoria History and Culture
Join us for each event in this two part series celebrating the culture and people of Astoria. On November 12th, celebrate the 5 year anniversary of the 30th Avenue project with blogger Annabel Short and historian Dr. Robyn Spencer. On November 19th, join musicians and dancers celebrating the musical culture of the neighborhood. The Queens ...
Dutch settlers were the first inhabitants of the area that is now known as Long Island City. This area was the first part of Queens to be settled. The name Long Island City was created by Captain Levy Hayden in 1853. After selling a large number of shares from his Hunter’s Point Marine Railway to the Beebe family of Ravenswood Captain Hayden named the area with the hope that one day all of the Hunter’s Point, Astoria, and Ravenswood would be unified. The idea of a Long Island City came from these areas wanting their own self government. A public referendum was passed on February 16, 1869 by a vote of 299 for and 150 against. The city was charted as a merging of the villages of Astoria, Steinway, Ravenswood, and Hunter’s Point. It borders the East River in the North and West and Newton Creek to the South.
The charter to establish Long Island City was signed on Wednesday May 4, 1870. Abraham D. Ditmars, of Astoria, was the city’s first Mayor. Early problems for the new city were a lack in decent roads to travel upon. Due mainly to the financial resources and tenacity of James Thomson many of the major roads of Long Island City were completely paved by 1880. This included the complete drainage of Ravenswood swamp. Most of the inland territory of what is now Long Island City was made up mostly of marshland. The city was prosperous due to thriving community industries in oil and glass. The city quickly gained the reputation of being a commercial and industrial district. One of the most prominent families were the Steinways. The German family, headed by Patrick Henry Steinway, were responsible for many upgrades to the Long Island City community and industry. They created streetcar lines, a piano factory, and a successful amusement park called North Beach which operated from 1886 to 1920. This park was located on the spot that is now known as La Guardia Airport. Riker’s Island once belonged to Long Island City until it was purchased by New York City in September 1884 for the price of $2,500.
Long Island City operated as its own separate entity outside of greater New York City. Mayor Henry S. Debevoise was arrested on a warrant by the citizens for fraud and his ineffectiveness as mayor during a tense battle with gamblers that had invaded the city in the early 1880’s. Patrick Jerome Gleason won the mayoral election of 1886 and became just as notorious as Henry Debevoise. Mayor Gleason appointed himself chief officer of the Police board, Fire Department, and Board of Education while appropriating funds of over $245,000 for a school that was not completed until he was removed from office. Gleason’s acts of corruption gave the once highly touted community a reputation of political crime that was looked at badly by the rest of the country. These acts of corruption led to the Consolidation Act for a Greater New York which led to Long Island City becoming a part of greater New York in 1898.
The creation of the Queensboro Bridge in 1909 opened the isolated suburb to commuters who now had quick access into and out of Manhattan. The opening of the Penn Tubes in 1910 opened Long Island to travel from the Southern section of the city. People now had accessibility to other parts of New York and the once strong economic clout of Long Island City was slowly taken away by Manhattan. Over time many immigrants from various European countries such as Italy and Iceland came to settle in Long Island City. By far the biggest ethnic group is from Greece as Long Island City boasts the largest number of Greek people outside from the country of Greece.
Today Long Island City stands as one of the most industrialized melting pots of New York City and the United States.
In 1893 a movement to establish a Free Public Library began in the Long Island City community. The first Broadway Branch was opened in 1906 on 9th Avenue. It was the sixth library unit built for the Queens Public Library system. Circulation for the first year was 36,000. Circulation grew steadily leading to several changes in location.
Children’s services in particular lead to two major moves. The first move led to a Children’s facility created in 1930 on Steinway Street. Children’s programs became so popular that they had to be discontinued due to lack of space. The need for more room led to the opening of the library’s current location on April 25, 1958. The three story building is 15,800 in square feet and is located at 40-20 Broadway in Long Island City.
Seyfried, Vincent F. , 300 Years of Long Island City 1630-1930, Queens Historical Society Publication 1984
There is limited metered parking on Broadway (one hour) and on 41st Street (two hours). There is also a municipal parking lot on Steinway Street between Broadway and 32nd Avenue, next to the Queens County Savings Bank.