What is with the abandoned building on Vernon Boulevard under the Queensboro Bridge in Long Island City?

Abandoned Building Under Queensboro Bridge

It’s a question I asked just today on Facebook and was pleased to get an answer within minutes. From the New York Times‘s Christopher Gray in a March 1987 Cityscape story:

The Queens Terra-Cotta building, built in 1892 as the first structure solely for offices of the growing concern, was designed by Francis H. Kimball, the architect of the Montauk Club and, later, the Gertrude Rhinelander Waldo Mansion that rose at 72d Street and Madison Avenue and now is occupied by the Ralph Lauren store.

As architectural terra-cotta slipped in popularity (replaced by concrete), the company fell on hard times and closed in 1928. In the ’70s, locals began campaigning to grant the building landmark status; it eventually received the designation in 1982. But, as the article points out, that doesn’t mean much:

The Terra-Cotta building is a fair demonstration of what landmark designation can and cannot do. A building is not automatically saved upon designation, and buildings without economic uses are almost as vulnerable before as after designation. But designation can nominally preserve a building through the ups and downs of neighborhood renewal until all possible solutions for the building are exhausted.

Oh, and one last quote from the story. And, keep in mind again that this was written in 1987: “Long Island City is ‘hot’ right now, abuzz with options and waterfront proposals.”

I’m not going to say that LIC is not hot. It’s actually a cool neighborhood, and there’s certainly been a lot of development there. Just that for as long as I’ve lived in NYC (10 short years), LIC has been described as “up and coming.” Looks like that trope goes all the way back to the late ’80s.