Last week we went to a barbecue at the home of a couple we are friends with in Long Island City. The building they live in has a sort of rooftop patio on the 32nd floor. It’s actually not the rooftop, because there are more floors above, but it’s high enough.
Our friends, Olya and Nicolai are from Russia, and they met Danusia in her association with the Russian Arts Theater studio, or RATS as the director likes to call it. They are a very sweet couple and Nicolai made lamb skewers and beet salad and some other light fare and we took everything up to the roof to use one of the gas grills the building provides to the tenants.
There are two patios, a large one that boasts two grills; an AstroTurf lawn and two giant binoculars mounted on pedestals faces west, towards Manhattan.
The smaller patio faces Queens, Brooklyn, and Long Island. There are two grills divided by a fence. The patios themselves are divided by an indoor lounge that contains a large screen TV, a small kitchen and a pool table.
We tried the big patio first, and there were already a half-dozen groups of tenants and their guests using one of the grills. The free grill was out of order. One of the guys using the grill suggested we go to the other side, and seeing the crowd I convinced Nicolai to give it a try. Most of the people on this side were young, late 20s early 30s, and loud.
We were by ourselves on the east side patio, and discovered the igniter did not work on the grill. With the help of some matches and trail and error, we got the grill lit and got to cooking.
I looked at the expanse of the city that stretched to the horizon, and I could see the Williamsburg clock building in the distance, and with a lot of work I spotted the housing projects I’d grown up in. Newton creek was less than a mile away, and we could see the cars crossing the Kosciusko Bridge into Brooklyn. The First Calvary Cemetery lies between LIC and the Bridge. I pointed it out to the others and asked, “Have you ever seen The Godfather?”
Of course, everyone had.
“Well, the scene where Don Corleone is laid to rest was shot in that cemetery. You can see the Kosciusko Bridge in the background in the shots.”
We ate and chatted, and being on the east side in the shade, started getting cold.
We decided to go on the other side to watch the sunset.
On the west side you can see most of Manhattan, but you can also see the Ravenswood Con Edison plant with its four stacks painted red and white. I worked there the summer I was 19. I got to go into the largest generator on the east coast, Big Allis. It was very hot inside, 140°.
You can also see the back of the Silvercup bread sign. I think it’s a movie studio now. The Queens Citi Corp building was only blocks away, and I remembered when it had been built in the early ‘80s, the beginning of the LIC revival.
The summer I worked for Edison I would walk through LIC and the Ravenswood houses and there wasn’t a lot there. The Citi Corp building changed all of that.
Ironically, you can see the Citi Corp building on 53rd Street just across the river, with its distinctive angled roof. I got a picture of it through one of the binoculars.
The moon was almost full and beautiful, and I was able to aim the binoculars at it and see the craters. Everyone had a look and marveled at the image. But I couldn’t get a picture with my iPhone.
Later on, after it was dark, we all walked over to the new esplanade on the river to get a closer look at Manhattan. It was a nice cool night and there were hundreds of people on the pier. It got late and I suggested we go home, and there was a 7-train stop nearby.
I really didn’t want to take the 7, but it was either that or walk back the mile or so to the E train station at Court Square, where their home is. We said goodnight and descended the stairs to the 7 train. There was no train, or explanation. I felt bad for the token clerk who had to endure the ire of hundreds of stranded people.
On the sidewalk above people milled around trying to find the nearest subway stop, or fighting over the few cabs in the area.
Danusia and I had a brief disagreement on which direction the E train was, and I have to admit her way was right. We walked through the warehouses of the old LIC dotted here and there with restaurants of the new LIC.
For me it was like a walk through the past, having worked nearby or wandered around as a teen exploring the city. It was interesting to see how things had changed in the past 40 years.
But some things, like trains that don’t work, never change.