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Neighborhood Journal: Long Island City Scales New Heights with Gym


Sometime last fall, Josh Bowen, owner and pit master of John Brown's Smokehouse in Long Island City, got a request from a new neighbor. “He asked if we could stay open late on Thursday nights,” Mr. Bowen recalled. And why not? The restaurant did a great lunch business, but the evenings were slow.

That new neighbor was the Cliffs at LIC, a rock-climbing gym that had recently opened on the largely industrial stretch of 44th Drive a few blocks from the East River. On weeknights, it stayed open until 11, pumping dozens of hungry, thirsty climbers out onto the street, where there was little to offer them—until Mr. Bowen agreed to extend his closing time on Thursdays to 11 p.m.

He's thankful he did. “Some nights you'll look in and it's 100% climbers,” he said. “Before, we'd close up and go home by 10 because there was no one out on the streets.”

The smokehouse isn't the only local business falling for rock climbers. Since opening in the spring of 2014 in a former warehouse, the gym has helped transform its little stretch of Long Island City from an almost lifeless industrial block into one teeming with young people.

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