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Inside a To-Be-Converted Long Island City Warehouse

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Welcome back to Camera Obscura, Curbed's series of photo essays by Nathan Kensinger. This week, Kensinger explores the past, present, and future of a Long Island City warehouse.


[Built in 1920 for the Anchor Cap & Closure Corporation, this former Eagle Electric warehouse will soon be transformed into luxury loft apartments by Rockrose Development. All photos by Nathan Kensinger.]

A tide of residential development continues to wash over Long Island City. In the past year, it has reached into the furthest depths of this former industrial stronghold, pushing east of Jackson Avenue to the very edge of the Sunnyside Yard. Next to this vast tangle of train tracks, new towers and development projects are populating a final strip of enormous warehouses. One of the most striking new plans will transform a 94-year-old warehouse at 43-22 Queens Street, which was purchased in 2012 by the Rockrose Development Corporation for $48 million. Inside this empty six-story building, the last remnants of a fading industrial past will soon be replaced by 780 luxury loft apartments.

However, instead of demolishing this historic warehouse and building a new tower in its place, Rockrose plans to keep the building largely intact, while creating an adjacent residential structure. Justin Elghanayan, the young president of Rockrose, has an infectious enthusiasm for this old warehouse and its long history, which becomes clear as he ventures down into its dark, half-flooded basement and up onto its roof, near the building's iconic turret. "We are preserving around 80 percent of the existing warehouse," said Elghanayan, who plans to make its basement boilers and coal burner into a retail space and its roof turret into a tenant lounge. "The building will have old and new," he said. "That's one of the things we really liked about the building… the cool history."

Built in 1920 by the Anchor Cap & Closure Corporation, the warehouse was designed by Ballinger & Perrot architects to hold 3.1 acres of floorspace, "equipped for four distinct businesses: rubber gasket manufacture, lithographing, metal cap making, and bottle sealing machinery manufacture," according to Manufacturers Record. After World War II, the building became part of the Eagle Electric Manufacturing Company's network of warehouses in Long Island City, and was known as Eagle Electric Plant #7. In addition to producing basic electrical items, Elghanayan explained, they were the first company to produce surge protectors. Before Eagle, the warehouse was occupied by an instrument company that made military precision gyroscopic air navigation compasses. 

Today, the warehouse is largely gutted, with few artifacts remaining from the past. Shipping charts and paper American flags are taped up in empty offices. Vintage safety posters cling to concrete pillars in the ground floor loading dock. Employee graffiti is scrawled on several walls. Like the neighborhood around it, the final vestiges of the industrial era are slowly being peeled away. "It's pretty tricky to do a new glass building in a way that is industrial or historical, but what we are trying to do is preserve as many things as we can," said Elghanayan. "People feel this great sense of loss for authenticity. And I think that old things are a connection to that authenticity… so I think if we can preserve any of that, we are giving people something they crave." With the Eagle Warehouse project, he hopes to navigate the wide gulf between past and future, preserving some portion of Long Island City's history, while also building a tower filled with luxury apartments.

The empty floors of Eagle Electric Plant #7 will soon be converted into loft apartments, turning open halls into 780 units of housing.

For now, empty offices and locker rooms still contain some artifacts from the various businesses that have used the building. Eagle Electric once employed thousands of workers in the neighborhood, under its famous slogan ''Perfection Is Not an Accident."

Safety goggles, hearing protectors and work boots remain in the space. Eagle Electric owned at least six buildings in Long Island City, according to The Real Deal. Rockrose purchased this former Eagle warehouse for $48 million.

As industrial businesses have moved out of the area over the years, several other warehouses between Jackson Avenue and the Sunnyside Yard have been shuttered or abandoned, including the Neptune Meter Company (aka 5 Pointz) and the West Disinfecting Company.

Safety posters cover the pillars of the first-floor loading dock. "We've taken out the things we thought were interesting," said Elghanayan, including sinks, scales, and other artifacts.

Some sections of the warehouse are currently being demolished, including this ground floor space. 

A handful of offices remain, waiting for demolition. The base of the building will end up becoming mostly loft units, with 13- to 15-foot ceilings.

An old American flag, one of many posted throughout the warehouse. During the Eagle Electric years, workers were supported by a strong union presence as members of the UAW.

Many floors of the building are nearly identical.  The most recent tenant used them for storage, while Rockrose has allowed some film shoots in the space, including the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film.

"The basement, which has 30-foot ceiling heights in some areas, will be preserved in close to its existing form and converted to retail use," said Elghanayan. "With any luck there will be people sipping awesome drinks, dancing, experiencing art, or eating inside the 25-foot-high existing coal burner, which we are cleaning out."

This ground floor skylight area may be part of a similar post-industrial retail space. "We are also doing the same thing on Jackson Avenue, where we have a lot of little industrial buildings that we chose not to demolish," said Elghanayan, who owns the building in the same block that houses the Dutch Kills bar.

Alongside the rooftop turret, the changing skyline of Long Island City is visible, including the Linc LIC building, a 42-story luxury rental tower which is also owned by Rockrose. The current balance between old industrial spaces and new modern buildings may be upset by a coming wave of condos.

"I think this neighborhood's development will be the fastest development probably of any neighborhood ever in New York City," said Elghanayan. "I think its just going to spread, just spread more and more and more… everyone who owns a piece of land is either going to develop it or sell it. And you are seeing that happen."
· Nathan Kensinger [Official]
· Mapping Long Island City's Insane Number of New Apartments [Curbed]
· Camera Obscura archive [Curbed]