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Thousands attend two events in LIC

By Bill Parry

Long Island City was the place to be with thousands of people drawn to two events, the fourth annual LIC Arts Open and the first LIC Springs!

“I couldn’t be more pleased,” Open founder Richard Mazda said. “We achieved so many of our goals that we set for ourselves. It was definitely the best one yet — everything came together. We had nearly 8,000 visitors, many more than usual from outside the borough, and the weather was fantastic and even the No. 7 train was running.”

Nearly 160 artists opened their studios to the public while others exhibited their work in 54 venues ranging from Open Door Restaurant in the southern end of Hunters Point to the Museum of the Moving Image to the north over the five-day period from May 14 through Monday.

The Open even spread east to the Warehouse District with several events taking place in the Falchi Building for the first time.

Another hosting venue was The Local, a 37-room European-style hostel that opened at 13-02 44th Ave. in an old elevator manufacturing plant two months ago.

“It’s fun to have people just stop in and take a look at the place for the first time,” manager Lauren Gonzalez said.

The Open hosted the kickoff party May 14 in addition to encore screening of the winning films from this year’s Queens World Film Festival over the weekend.

“The Local was also packed wall-to-wall on Saturday night’s “BAT SU!,” a Japanese comedy show,” Mazda said. “The Local and that show are very popular with young people, and as the neighborhood changes it’s important to involve the youth in our future.”

The larger crowds and visitors from other boroughs are the other key to the LIC Arts Open.

“I even bumped into a group of 30 people from a Manhattan meet-up group,” Mazda said. “We’re starting to see recognition as a cultural destination in Queens and that should help bring more funding for year five.”

Mazda added that next year’s festival will stretch further north into Astoria and east into Sunnyside for the first time.

“We might possibly end up as a festival of international renown,” Mazda said.

While the Open was in full swing, the city Department of Transportation closed Vernon Boulevard between 46th and 50th streets Saturday so the LIC Partnership could present its first block party, LIC Springs!

LIC Partnership President Elizabeth Lusskin had promised “a neighborhood celebration, not just a commercial street fair where you go and buy tube socks.”

Several thousand visitors listened to live performances and took part in yoga classes and weigh-lifting. There were pony rides for the kids.

And replacing tube sock vendors were information tables for local businesses and services. The real estate company Modern Spaces even set up a living room right in the middle of Vernon Boulevard.

“We have such a great community to showcase here,” Lusskin said. “The turnout is phenomenal and you couldn’t ask for better weather. This worked out great.”

The return of the No. 7 was a key to both events’ success. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority relented and restored subway service to Long Island City during the weekend after an impassioned plea from Mazda and Lusskin in March.

“When we brought the MTA for a town hall meeting, they heard about this weekend,” state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said. “And they responded. Too bad it hasn’t worked out for all those other weekends.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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