Why LIC Has the Best Waterfront Running in New York

City runners are missing out. It doesn't get better than this award-winning park.

April 28, 2023 6:14 am
A runner running along the Long Island City waterfront.
Hunters Point South has undergone a dramatic transformation in the last 20 years.
Tanner Garrity for InsideHook

Last Friday could’ve been a couple notches chillier, I guess, but for all intents and purposes it was perfect running weather.

I left my apartment in Williamsburg around 4 p.m. and jogged into Greenpoint. There was a line already forming outside Taqueria Ramirez; hardhats playing cards over tall boys on Franklin; a dog celebrating its birthday at Threes. I usually forget which street lines up with the Pulaski pedestrian entrance, but this time I guessed right, and merged onto the weary incline, rising 40 feet above the Newtown Creek.

It’s not much to look at it — the estuary still awaits its 2032 cleanup, like an Olympics host hopeful, and owns an history equal parts oil and blood. But a good New York running habit is about seeing different things, not necessarily beautiful ones. I’m a sucker for houseboats, anyway.

My endgame was in the borough just north: a mile and change of waterfront in Long Island City that I happen to find both different and beautiful. Running from the kayak ramp at Hunter’s Point South to the terminus at Gantry State Park — less than a quarter mile up past the famous Pepsi Cola Sign — you can spot Freedom Tower, Empire State, the UN and the Chrysler.

But there’s a lot to look at on the east banks of the East River, too. The linear park, supported by its own conservatory, has a dog run, a biergarten, a basketball court, a luminescent sculpture garden, a multi-use turf oval and a cantilevered platform perfect for watching ferries chug in and out of two nearby terminals.

There were strollers, cherry blossoms, kids in backpacks playing keep-away with a soccer ball. I hugged the coast as close as I could, for as long it would allow, until it was time to either turn in or turn around. I chose the latter, keen to double my time with New York’s best (or at least, most underrated) waterfront running. In the 15 minutes or so I spent along the water, I saw only a half-dozen other runners.

The LIC waterfront offers running in its purest, chillest, Zone 2-est form.
Tanner Garrity for InsideHook

New York, New Publics

I don’t want to blow up LIC’s spot. It’s clear that LIC locals primarily treat their waterfront as a place to stroll, not sweat, unlike the tank-top zoo over on the West Side Highway. (That said, LIC does have a running club and a 5K.)

But I’ll be back, and I think other runners should visit, too. Green exercise is pretty enough to pull off in this city, even with Central Park and all the bridge there-and-backs. And Hunter’s Point isn’t just an example of affordable housing units getting some trees. It’s a triumph for the city and the firm, Weiss/Manfredi, that designed it. An industrial wasteland back in 2005, the area now produces moments like this. The project has over 20 architectural awards to its name.

It’s also featured in MoMA’s “New York, New Publics,” currently on display through the end of July. The exhibition showcases 12 developments and installations throughout the city where hope and environmentalism prevail: from a research center in Jones Beach, to triptych murals at subway stops Sunset Park.

This is a public space to be proud of — native grasses, pleated steel canopies, gabion ledges and all (the last of which will protect LIC from floodwaters). I don’t know what you do when you come across a public space you’re proud of and inspired by. I typically run on it.

How to get there

That depends on where you’re coming from and where you’re going. LIC is minutes from Grand Central. It’s well-serviced by the E, G, M and 7 trains, plus the Long Island City and Hunters Point South ferry terminals. If you just want to pop by for a couple miles, hop on MTA in your running shoes and get it done.

I do recommend the dramatic jog in, though, either over the Pulaski from North Brooklyn or over the Queensboro Bridge (which is perfect for Manhattanites entrenched in marathon training). The bridge spits you out a little over a mile from the main hunk of waterfront pictured here.

The neighborhood has a dizzying array of candidates for a post-run cold one.
Tanner Garrity for InsideHook

Take it easy

By and large, I feel comfortable sending city runners to any neighborhood, as they’re an empathetic, community-minded, “leave no trace” kind of people. But one thing to keep in mind along the LIC waterfront: this isn’t really a place for speed intervals. Especially if you’re running through the entirety of the Hunters Point extension, which in parts turns into a single track footbridge.

People come here to walk their dogs, hang with their kids, take photos of their girlfriends, listen to podcasts while smoking a cheeky joint, whatever. I’ve found its best to meet that lack of intensity where it is, and take the LIC waterfront very slow. Think: the Zone 2 stuff you’ve been neglecting anyway. (If you want to race pedestrians, go strain a hamstring sprinting next to the Rapha-clad cyclists in Prospect Park.)

Post-run brews

Finally, if you’ve made it out here and gotten a run in, you’d be remiss not to stay for a beer. LIC uses its huge blocks to its advantage, and has a number of breweries and taprooms: Fifth Hammer, Focal Point, LIC Beer Project, Rockaway, Big aLICe Brewing, ICONYC Brewing Company. Stay a while, take a load off. You ran today. And if you happen to order another…you might as well amble back down to Hunters Point for sunset.

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