More New Yorkers and tourists are finding themselves in Long Island City – and now the city wants to help them find their way around.
The city Transportation Department unveiled a plan this week to add signs and maps to the up-and-coming Queens neighborhood in an effort to help tourists and residents alike navigate the often confusing streets.
The initiative, which is seeking design proposals, underscores the city’s growing interest in Long Island City, where residential and office developments are on the rise, new institutions are moving in and business is booming.
“Long Island City is certainly transforming,” said Gayle Baron, president of the Long Island City Partnership. “We want to keep encouraging tourism. This can be such an economic engine for New York City.”
In a system called “wayfinding,” maps would show pedestrians their current location with directions to local landmarks.
This would be useful in Long Island City, where streets seem disconnected, said Patricia Dunphy, senior vice president at Rockrose Development Corp., which develops locally.
“We want to connect the waterfront to Vernon Blvd. to Court Square to Queens Plaza,” said Dunphy. “It really is all in walking distance, but people don’t realize it.”
The not-quite rectilinear grid is made worse by arbitrary street names, said Gary Kesner, the executive vice president of Silvercup Studios.
“In Queens, there’s 44th Drive, 44th Road, 44th Ave. – it confuses people,” said Kesner, adding that wayfinding could make the area “much better for residents, businesses and people visiting.”
The city conducted pedestrian surveys citywide – including 100 interviews in Queens – and found 9% of New Yorkers admitted being lost in the past week around the city and 27% out-of-towners could not even name the borough they were in, according to the Transportation Department.
The agency, rolling out the project in four city districts, chose Long Island City as one of them because it’s an evolving mixed-use area where maps would help pedestrians explore the diverse neighborhood, a spokeswoman said.
For David Brause, 40, president of Brause Realty Inc., which owns the Queens Plaza MetLife building, the city’s choice of Long Island City is an important recognition.
“It’s no longer an emerging, pioneering neighborhood,” said Brause, who is the chairman of the Long Island City Business Improvement District. “It’s happened. It’s really here.”
Pedestrians passing through recently said they would appreciate some navigation help.
“I see a lot of people spinning around looking for the right direction,” said River Soma, 32, of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a student at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City.
“Right now, I’m lost,” added Angel Garcia, 40, of Bushwick, Brooklyn, walking on 44th Drive.
In 10 minutes, six people asked him for directions, he said.
“I can never find my way around Queens,” said Garcia.