Tag Archives: LIC Arts Open

Q&A: Modern Spaces CEO explains real estate in LIC


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Donna Dotan Photography Inc.

Eric Benaim founded real estate firm Modern Spaces in Long Island City in 2008, and within a handful of years led the explosion of residential interest in the neighborhood. Over the years, he expanded the company from LIC to Astoria, Manhattan and Brooklyn, and recently, Modern Spaces announced the launching of its commercial and investment property division, tapping into another side of the market.

In a question-and-answer session with The Courier, Benaim explained the current status of real estate in Long Island City and the transformation of the neighborhood.

Courier: How did you get inspired to start working in Long Island City?

Benaim: I guess I was always a Queens boy, and I started focusing in LIC back in 2005. I was a broker focusing mostly in Manhattan and at the time there were pretty much no brokers in the neighborhood over here, so I figured I would try to make this my niche. Just walking around you see the views of Manhattan, you see there’s a lot of potential over here and I stuck with it, and obviously it paid off. The neighborhood has changed dramatically since 2005.

Courier: Did you really think it [the transformation of LIC] would happen so quickly?

Benaim: No. Literally, from my window I see cranes everywhere, and it’s just crazy to see my skyline changing every day.

Courier: What is the real estate market in LIC like now?

Benaim: There is a lot of development. There was not that many condos being developed over the last couple of years, but condos are about to come back strong. We are seeing a lot of condo projects that are going to be coming online probably by first and second quarter of next year. And in regards to rental projects, a lot developers are doing stuff now whereas before it was predominately TF Cornerstone and Rockrose. now you are seeing a lot of big developers coming into the neighborhood that were never here before.

Courier: Why do you think there is a switch from rentals to condos?

Benaim: Because land prices have gone up a lot and when land prices go up so much it just doesn’t make sense to do a rental because the return on your investment does not really pay out. So it just makes more sense financially to do a condo rather than a rental. Rental projects that are coming along, these are projects sites that were acquired probably a year or more ago when land prices were a little more affordable than they are now.

Courier: Is LIC already a successful live, work and play community?

Benaim: I think [live, work, and play] has been established here. I remember when I first started showing clients around the neighborhood, there really wasn’t anything here. Not even a supermarket. Now we have three supermarkets already, and a fourth is opening up at the LINC, the Rockrose project in Court Square. There are a whole lot of restaurants— you know, restaurants open up here every week and now we are seeing more and more boutiques and stores opening up. Pretty much everything you need is here now. And regarding play, so we do have the bars and the night life now and LIC is a huge cultural destination. We have the LIC Arts Open, the Taste of LIC, MoMA PS1, the Chocolate Factory Theater and the LIC Flea. So there’s really a lot to do as well.

Courier: What has spurred you to go into the commercial side?

Benaim: We’ve done a little commercial these past few years, mostly like retail leasing. But a lot of our clients, whether it’s landlords who we’re doing their rentals for in walk-ups or if it’s a developer who we’re marketing their building or working with them, they never really came to us in the past, because they knew us as being residential brokers. So it was kind of like business that we lost out on. And it just seemed like the right time. Queens as a whole is in the spotlight right now and there’s not really a commercial company that can offer commercial services but still insight in the residential market.

Courier: What is the next neighborhood that has potential?

Benaim: We do see a lot of potential in Astoria, and other areas like Woodside, Sunnyside, Flushing and areas like Rego Park, where we just opened up a building called The Rego Modern. We rented 10 in the first open house [at The Rego Modern] and for high prices also, which they weren’t used to seeing. So that just shows that there is a lot of interest in Queens. Being a Queens boy myself it’s just nice to see that Queens is getting the spotlight that Brooklyn had stolen from us.

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LIC scheduled for a weekend of fun


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ File Photo

Long Island City is the place to be this weekend.

Three events will be taking over the western Queens neighborhood, bringing residents and visitors from near and far the best in food, drinks, activities, the arts and much more.

The first of these events is the ongoing LIC Flea & Food located at the outdoor lot on the corner of 5th Street and 46th Avenue. Items for sale include food and drinks, collectibles, antiques, arts and crafts, and fashion. For the remaining weekends in March, the LIC Flea will only be running on Saturdays.

During the weekend the 2014 LIC Arts Open, which began Wednesday, will also be taking over with local artists holding open studios on Saturday, and on Sunday hosting a closing party and silent auction.


             LIC ARTS OPEN POSTER © Luba Lukova

On Saturday, the first-ever free LIC Springs! block party, which is part of the city’s Department of Transportation’s Weekend Walks program, will shut down Vernon Boulevard to vehicular traffic from 50th to 46th avenues. From 1 to 6 p.m. the block party will feature performances, activities, and food and items sold by local business owners.

“Together these events show that there is something for everyone in Long Island City and should draw New Yorkers of all ages to LIC,” said Elizabeth Lusskin, president of the Long Island City Partnership. “Arts, culture, lively performances, activities and, of course, a cornucopia of culinary options — and all from local participants.”

Also for this weekend, the MTA has announced the No. 7 train would take a break from its weekend disruptions and will be running to help visitors get to and from Long Island City.

Just a neighborhood away, the Astoria Flea & Food at Kaufman Astoria Studios will be entering its third of eight Sundays of operation. After paying a visit to Long Island City, don’t miss out on the numerous vendors at the Astoria Flea.

 

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Looking into the artwork of LIC artist Luba Lukova


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Aeroblue © Luba Lukova


What was only supposed to be a one-week visit to New York for an international exhibition has turned into about 25 years of success for Long Island City artist Luba Lukova.

As a young girl in Bulgaria, Lukova never had a doubt as to what she wanted to be when she grew up. Influenced by her grandmother who was an artist, Lukova began to attend art classes and then graduated from an art academy.

Through an invite from Colorado State University, where school officials had seen some of her early artwork, Lukova came to New York for an organized exhibition featuring artists from all over the world.

Her initial idea was to stay in New York for a week and then return to Bulgaria, but she decided to stay indefinitely, and in 1991, she began drawing illustrations for the book review section of The New York Times. She then moved on and drew for the publication’s Op-Ed section covering subjects such as the Middle East.

These illustrations opened up doors for Lukova, exposing her to a larger audience, which got her into theatre work creating posters, and years later she even got a call from then-presidential candidate Barack Obama’s campaign to use one of her images months before his inauguration.

“It was just a miracle. I never went back [to Bulgaria],” she said. “For a young artist, it was a mind-blowing experience and when I saw the reaction of the people, it was really very exciting for me.”

Lukova’s pieces, whether they are on a canvas or theatre poster, all convey social and political issues in what she calls a “simple and accessible way.” She tells a whole story with just a few colors and images and creates visual metaphors for viewers to take in.

“[My artwork] involves thinking and the viewer’s participation,” she said. “All of my work is like that — it’s always provoking stuff. I try to make it accessible and bring something to the contemporary viewer that can stop them and make them think.”

Her “Social Justice” poster portfolio, the first publication from her own publishing company, has gotten her national and international acclaim. Currently some of her work is part of a show at the Museum of Modern Art and Denver Art Museum.

After moving out of Manhattan following 9/11, Lukova has been working and living in the booming art scene found in Long Island City. Last year she took part in the LIC Arts Open festival, which introduced her to a community she has now become a part of and loves.

“I think it’s a great group of artists with a lot of energy,” she said. “The art community here is growing and it is so huge.”

This year Lukova designed the poster for the LIC Arts Open, and her exhibition “Drama on Paper: Posters for the Stage” can be found at The Local at 13-02 44th Ave. throughout the festival.


     LIC ARTS OPEN POSTER © Luba Lukova

“I’m excited to be a part of it again,” Lukova said. “I think what [the festival organizers] do is very admirable and I hope we will keep the community here and we will expand. Because New York without the arts would be a very sad picture. We don’t just want New York to be the city with museums; we need the real art here.”

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Wednesday: Cloudy skies. High 64. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph. Wednesday night: Cloudy skies this evening will give way to light rain and some fog overnight. Low 59. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 40%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: LIC Arts Open

The art scene in Long Island City is heating up and opening its doors during the fourth annual LIC Arts Open – a 5-day extravaganza where over 250 artists will occupy galleries, performance studios and open their studios to visitors. The event, which this year begins Wednesday and runs through May 18, started several years ago as a two-day, open-studio event, mainly showcasing visual artists and now just keeps on getting bigger. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

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2014 LIC Arts Open kicks off Wednesday


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

© Luba Lukova

The art scene in Long Island City is heating up and opening its doors during the fourth annual LIC Arts Open – a 5-day extravaganza where over 250 artists will occupy galleries, performance studios and open their studios to visitors.

The event, which this year begins Wednesday and runs through May 18, started several years ago as a two-day, open-studio event, mainly showcasing visual artists and now just keeps on getting bigger.

This year the festival has more than 85 exhibitions and events taking place, with over 160 artists holding open studios. Every event is free and open to the public.

“We were a hidden gem for years, but that’s quickly changing,” said Festival Director Richard Mazda. “Word is getting out that LIC is home to a community of tremendously talented artists, from the emerging Stef Duffy, to rising stars like Luba Lukova—who designed the festival’s poster—to the celebrated, like Matthew Barney, Murakami and legendary sculptor Joel Shapiro. LIC Arts Open continues to be a fantastic way for us to showcase the thriving arts community in Western Queens.”

The schedule for the festival is:

May 14-18, 12 -6 p.m. Exhibition hours
May 14-16, 5-10 p.m. Most openings happening by district over three days:
Wednesday: Vernon Blvd district
Thursday: Court Square district
Friday: Queens Plaza district
May 14, 7:30 -10 p.m. Opening Party
May 16, 6 – 9 p.m. 10Squared exhibition and reception at Gotham Center
May 17-18, 12-6 p.m. Open Studios
May 18, 6 – 10 p.m. Closing Party and Silent Auction

Some highlights of the 4th Annual LIC Arts Open include:

  • Luba Lukova, whose striking images are currently on view at the Museum of Modern Art and Denver Art Museum.
  • Four vacant apartments in a TF Cornerstone waterfront development overlooking LIC’s iconic Pepsi-Cola sign that will be transformed into pop-up galleries.
  • Best known for his WWII photography, and his fashion photography, Tony Vaccaro in his exhibit “The Golden Age of Formula One: Through Tony’s Lens.”
  • After laboring for years as an art fabricator for artists like Frank Stella and Louise Bourgeois, Bernard Klevickas is emerging as an artist in his own right.
  • The Sunhwa Chung/Ko-Ryo Dance Theater, reviewed in The New York Times, will premiere “Life is Every Day: So Close Yet So Far Away.”
  • Over 100 artists are creating original works for the 10Squared exhibition. During the Closing Party, the works will be sold at silent auction for charity.
  • Eleven of Matthew Barney’s assistants formed the Crew, and created a provocative, unexpectedly interactive exhibition.
  • Big Whirlygig will feature Gary Lucas (Captain Beefheart), Ernie Brooks (Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers) and Peter Zaremba (Fleshtones).
  • Acclaimed comedy group Face Off Unlimited will bring BATSU!, NYC’s only live Japanese game show and a Time Out New York critics pick to LIC.
The complete festival guide can be found on here. For the latest updates on artists and exhibitions, visit licartsopen.org/new-blog, and follow @LICArtsOpen on Facebook and Twitter.
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7 train suspension lifted for LIC weekend of events


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File Photo

There is a little light at the end of the tunnel for No. 7 train users.

Three weeks after coming face to face with the Long Island City community and listening to their concerns about the No. 7 train weekend suspensions, the MTA will keep the line running on May 17 and 18.

During the March 27 town hall meeting, community members and business owners asked the transit agency to alter its initial plan because of events such as the LIC Arts Open, LIC Flea & Food and LIC Springs!, a block party along Vernon Boulevard.

“Finally the MTA has not only listened to our community on this issue, but taken action,” State Sen. Michael Gianaris said. “LIC Springs! and other events like the LIC Flea and the LIC Arts Open are wonderful displays of how much our neighborhood has to offer, so I appreciate the MTA making it easier to get people here for this one weekend.”

The MTA said that the work previously scheduled for the weekend of May 17 and 18 will have to be rescheduled, however won’t increase the number of closures for 2014. Some of the closures will be rescheduled for 2015.

“The community spoke and the [MTA New York City Transit] listened. The No. 7 Line shutdown for needed repairs has caused ongoing hardship for the businesses, residents, cultural organizations and institutions in Long Island City,” said Elizabeth Lusskin, president of the Long Island City Partnership. “That weekend is expected to draw significant numbers of visitors from across Queens – and New York City – to our neighborhood for arts, culture, food and fun.”

Although the MTA has agreed to keep the No. 7 line working for the one May weekend, Gianaris wants to continue working with the agency to put an end to all weekend disruptions.

“Of course, when everyone wants to come back and enjoy the weekend in Long Island City for the rest of the summer, we’ll run into the same old problem, so I will keep fighting until the 7 train actually running on weekends is no longer news,” Gianaris said.

The suspensions are expected to be in effect from 2 a.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday between Times Square-42nd Street and Queensboro Plaza. On some weekends, there will also be reduced or express-only service between 74th Street-Broadway and Queensboro Plaza.

The MTA has also released the following additional changes for the No. 7 train suspensions:

  • May 3-4 will now be a shutdown between Queensboro Plaza and Times Square-42 Street.
  • May 31-June 1 will now be shut down between 74 Street-Broadway to Times Square-42 Street.
  • Sept. 20-21 will now be shut down between 74 Street -Broadway to Times Square-42 Street.
  • Nov 15-16 will now be a limited service to Queensboro Plaza with no service between Queensboro Plaza and Times Square-42 Street weekend.

 

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LIC community voices outrage against upcoming No. 7 train suspensions


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Long Island City residents and business owners are telling the MTA enough is enough.

The No. 7 train will soon be going through another round of suspensions causing it to not run in parts of western Queens and Manhattan for more than a dozen weekends this year, starting in the end of February, according to a notice from the MTA.

This news again upset residents, business owners and local politicians who gathered in front of the Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue subway station on Friday to tell the MTA they are fed up with the constant disruptions and the lack of notice.

“Real people’s lives are affected in real ways here, this is not a game,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “This is about human beings, they’re trying to survive and the MTA is trying to kill us. We’ve got to stop this now.”

From February through July, there will be 13 weekend suspensions. Those dates are finalized, the transit agency said. There are nine tentative weekend shutdowns scheduled for August through November.

Business owners are tired of potential financial losses, residents are sick of longer commutes and local politicians just want the MTA to finally listen to their ideas and communicate with the neighborhood.

“It outrageous and all we are asking for is the opportunity to be heard, to present some common sense ideas that we have presented to them year after year after year,” said Senator Michael Gianaris, who has suggested the MTA offer a shuttle bus from Vernon Boulevard through the Queens Midtown Tunnel into the city. “The MTA needs to listen to us once and for all.”

Rebecca Trent, LIC resident and owner of The Creek and The Cave on Jackson Avenue, said the area has grown by 500 percent and the suspension will only make business owners’ jobs harder.

“I don’t know how I’m going to survive this, I do not know and neither do many of my neighbors,” Trent said holding back tears. “What they are trying to do to this neighborhood is disgusting, we deserve better, enough is enough.”

Along with the shuttle service through the Midtown tunnel, Trent also said that in order to compensate the Long Island City community for the “irresponsible shutdowns,” the MTA should give local businesses, who will suffer, free ad space at the E and G subway stations and on the trains.

Richard Mazda, artistic director for The Secret Theatre, said he has had to put up with the disruptions to his business every single year and has faced problems during the annual LIC Arts Open festival, with artists and friends not being able to attend.

“You must have known that you were going to do this work, you have stage managed the release of this information so that we couldn’t fight you, but we will,” Mazda said to the MTA. “This is like the worst movie you have ever seen.”

The latest round of work, including continued installation of Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC), replacement of critical track panels and reconstruction inside the Steinway Tube under the East River, is expected to modernize, improve a fortify the Flushing No. 7 line, according to the MTA. The work will also include tunnel duct reconstruction and replacement and improvements on components damaged during Superstorm Sandy.

“We understand that these service disruptions are inconvenient to the customers who depend on the No. 7 train and we appreciate their patience,” said MTA NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco. “We have made every effort to schedule these project simultaneously to get as much work done as we can during these periods.”

 

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LIC Arts Open puts Queens artists on the map


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

The creative colony of Long Island City blazed with inspirational energy during the second annual LIC Arts Open – a 10-day extravaganza in which local artists welcome the public into their studios. Festival-goers experienced the cutting edge in painting, sculpture, photography, theatre and ceramics, crafted by many of the city’s most forefront and promising artistic talents. Hundreds participated in more than 200 exhibitions and performances – demonstrating the masterful skill and breadth of mediums Long Island City artists bring to the creative world.

“I’m delighted with how the festival went,” said Richard Mazda, LIC Arts Open director and artistic director at The Secret Theatre. “It’s definitely a higher quality festival than last year.”

The event began several years ago as a two-day, open-studio event, mainly showcasing visual artists. Mazda sought to transform LIC Arts Open into a multi-studio event, larger and more widely encompassing than ever before.

“The event mushroomed in size,” said Mazda. “It was kind of like a hit record. I knew it would be successful.”

This year’s festival brought art unseen at previous gatherings to the foreground, marking the debut of performance pieces at the LIC Arts Open. Mazda also revealed that sculpture, a medium he believed was underrepresented at previous festivals, was more abundant during this year’s celebration.

“It’s hard to present more sculpture, especially the larger pieces,” said Mazda. “It’s hard to transport them and display them. Painting generally gets shown more in galleries. Sculpture is a less accessible form of art.”

Ten years ago, Gotham Center at Queens Plaza was a desolate industrial hall. During the festival, hundreds of one-of-a-kind, 10 X 10 pictures lined the walls of the now-revitalized hub. The works, donated by both well-known and underground artists, were available to be purchased by browsing patrons. Half of the proceeds went to future LIC Arts Open events and the other half helped continue a program run by the Queens Council for the Arts.

Mazda remarked that many of the Gotham Center affair attendees had never seen an art exhibit before. He believed the event’s locale brought commuters passing through Queens Plaza station into the building, drawn by the crowd and the excitement.

“[This kind of event] makes art accessible to ordinary human beings,” said Mazda.

Photographer Orestes Gonzalez displayed his photo essay, “Portraits of Artists 2010-2012,”depicting LIC creatives in their studios.

“I think [the festival] went really well,” said Gonzalez. “We had twice as many participants this year. There was a lot more traffic as far as the public was concerned. There were a lot more interesting exhibits. It’s gaining force in other parts of the city as well.”

Gonzalez believes the LIC Arts Open publicizes a group of artists formerly flying under the radar.

“The festival is about making a statement about the artists of LIC,” said Gonzalez. “It puts the artists of Queens on the map. Everyone’s always looking at Manhattan and Brooklyn, but we have a huge amount of artistic activity here.”

Bertille De Baudiniere, a local artist whose works were on display during the LIC Arts Open, curated a contest where 780 kids from across the borough, ages five to 18, created postcards in line with the theme of De Baudiniere’s latest collection, “Green Earth.”

“It was perfect to do [the contest] with children because they will be the next generation to deal with Earth and these problems,” said De Baudiniere. “They can speak freely. The kids are very imaginative and full of ideas. They express themselves differently. It was very unique.”

 

Joel Shapiro Receives LIC Arts Open Lifetime Achievement Award


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Jesse Winter

World-renowned sculptor Joel Shapiro was honored with the inaugural LIC Arts Open Lifetime Achievement Award.

Shapiro, whose work has been on display in galleries across the globe, was born in Sunnyside and has a studio in Long Island City.

“[Shapiro’s] work is iconic,” said Richard Mazda, director of the LIC Arts Open. “There is something about his work that speaks very directly to art lovers, but there is also a common touch to it. It is very distinctive.”

Mazda went on to say that Shapiro was one of the pioneers of the art movement in L.I.C., keeping his studio in the neighborhood and leading by example.

“There are false impressions of Queens which are beginning to be altered,” he said. “Queens is not the Queens of 50 years ago. We have inherited a lot of art institutions, but it has taken along time for people to realize Queens is a borough that is more than a place filled with people. A lot of it is driven by the arts community, including Joel. By putting his large studio in LIC, Joel indirectly influenced many other artists to do the same.”

The award was presented during a fundraiser for the LIC Arts Open on March 26 at Manducatis Rustica, located at 46-35 Vernon Boulevard. The fundraiser was a quintessential L.I.C. event, with the award donated by Green Mountain Graphics, the food provided by LIC Market and M. Wells and a sizable donation made by the Court Square Diner.