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Pepsi-Cola sign in LIC may become an official landmark by the end of 2016

The Landmark Preservation Commission voted to prioritize the designation of the Pepsi-Cola sign as a landmark.
Photo courtesy of Flickr/Fraser Mummery

The iconic Pepsi-Cola sign that overlooks the Long Island City waterfront may soon become a New York City landmark.

The Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) held a public hearing Tuesday to vote on whether to prioritize 95 properties around the city for landmark designation. All of the properties have been backlogged ― many for decades ― on the LPC’s calendar.

The Pepsi-Cola sign, which was constructed in 1936 and located on top of a two-story bottling plant, was preserved and moved to Gantry Plaza State Park in 2009. It is now located at 46-00 Fifth St. According to LPC documents, several public hearings were scheduled to vote on the sign’s status, including two in 1988 and one in October 2015.

LPC announced that 30 properties were prioritized for designation by 2016 and 50 were removed from the agency’s calendar either because they lacked merit or had site-specific issues.

Constructed by Artkraft Signs, a sign company responsible for several Times Square displays, the Pepsi-Cola sign spans 120 feet by 60 feet. It can be spotted in several movies including “Munich,” a 2005 Steven Spielberg drama based on the Munich Olympic massacre of 1972, and “The Interpreter,” starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn.

Initially, the LPC announced it would clear its backlog by removing 94 buildings and two proposed historic districts from its calendar. That plan was met with resistance from the public and instead the agency announced a three-phase plan to clear its backlog. Beginning in 2015, the agency held public review hearings to gather input from communities interested in designating certain structures as landmarks.

“Our actions today represent an important step in addressing this backlog,” said Commission Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan. “While challenging, I believe it was very much needed – the Commission’s designation process should be open, fair and reasonable, and this is a necessary step to achieve that goal.”

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said he was happy to hear that this “pop art” may be preserved for years to come.

“I’m pleased and proud that the LPC has listened to our community’s requests to move forward in recognizing the Pepsi-Cola sign as the New York City landmark that it is,” Van Bramer said in a statement. “The Pepsi-Cola sign has been an iconic part of the Long Island City landscape since 1936. This staggering piece of pop art brings character to our neighborhood and reminds current residents of Queens’ history as an industrial powerhouse.”

The LPC said it will move to vote on each of the 30 sites before the end of 2016. The City Planning Commission will have 60 days after the vote to review and submit a report to City Council about the impacts of the designation on zoning, any public improvements that should be made and other city development plans.

City Council will have 120 days to modify or disapprove the designation, though their approval is not required. After the vote, Mayor Bill de Blasio has five days to veto the decision, which can then be overridden by the City Council after 10 days.

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