Tropolism Books: LIC In Context
Author: Paul Parkhill and Katherine Gray
Publication Date: 2005
Publisher: Furnace Press, Brooklyn, New York
Continuing with our month-long theme of Your Hidden City, we came across LIC In Context: An Unorthodox Guide to Long Island City. The book is a collaborative project of Place In History, an organization devoted to a deeper understanding of the city, so as to effect better urban design. The book is one of the infinite possible mappings of New York City, in this case with the sometimes-beloved but rarely cozy 'hood called Long Island City, in Queens.
LIC includes a short forward by Paul Parkhill explaining how the project is intent on "evoking what is compelling and unusual about the neighborhood." He explains that the book is not an encyclopedia about Long Island City; in fact, the impossibility of such a project is implied. Some of the buildings and places catalogued have been demolished or never built. Some, like the Terra Cotta Building, are facing radical and immanent changes. Also of interest is the collection of information from people's memories. Because industrial areas tend to be a little light on historiographers, this seems as suitable a method as poring over maps in the New York Public Library's Map Room for collecting vital information about what was there, and why what is there is there.
The introduction to the book is a four-page essay telling a brief history of Long Island City. The essay focuses almost entirely on the 19th century, with everything after 1930 being wrapped up in the last two paragraphs. The introduction betrays a bias: that the actual neighborhood documentation speaks for itself, and so recent history can be reduced to a few notations in the larger essay. The rest of the book is devoted to expanding these notations: 54 sites are brought to our inspection, with notes, photographs, illustrations, and sketchbook drawings. They are a wonderful walking tour of this sprawling neighborhood, without all the long distances or tiresome walking. They are also a valuable snapshot of LIC before its denoument as another center of residential and commercial density in New York.
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