With Winds of Change, the Smell of Donuts in Long Island City

“Oh, look, it’s Dunkin’ Donuts,” a man said to his companion as they passed the new Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin-Robbins franchise location on the corner of 49th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City. “No, no,” he said, answering her eye-roll with a laugh, “don’t be depressed.”

Stretching across Vernon Boulevard in Hunters Point, shiny pink and orange pennant strings waved in front of the old-time spire of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church just two days after the store opened. The strings, along with three white Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin-Robbins flags drilled into the sidewalk, signaled a changing neighborhood for many Hunters Point, Long Island City, residents.

“I liked all the flavor of all the non-franchise related stores,” said Naz Khan, a four-year Long Island City resident. “It’s right across the street from this beautiful church. It cheapens the neighborhood.”

Like Ms. Khan, Jason Carpenter said he felt the neighborhood’s appeal is in its local stores.

“I love the mom and pop feel of Long Island City and that blue-collar workers are rubbing elbows with local artists,” said Mr. Carpenter, three-and-a-half year resident.

“When you see a Dunkin’ Donuts come in, it doesn’t fit in with that perception.”

Though Mr. Carpenter said he’d go to the store if he wanted a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, he said he’d also make an effort to support local businesses.

Two-month resident Pat Haggerty also expressed concern over the new store threatening neighborhood businesses.

“It’s kind of weird because, in a way, you’re happy that there’s an extra cup of coffee if you want,” Mr. Haggerty said. “But then you realize the individual spots like Sweetleaf are the ones hurting.”

Despite Mr. Haggerty’s concern, an employee of Sweetleaf, a coffee and espresso bar a block away from Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin-Robbins, shrugged off the new competition.

Nikkita Flavius-Gottschalk, a month-long employee, said she doesn’t think the franchise will hurt the store’s business.

“Consumers will decide for themselves,” said Ms. Flavius-Gottschalk. “It’s all about an atmosphere.”

While Mr. Haggerty will continue getting his coffee fix at Sweetleaf, 10-year resident Nancy Bicchetti is pleased with the neighborhood gaining a franchise.

“We don’t have anything here, anything at all, so it’s good,” she said, noting the lack of corporate retailers.

Michelle King, a Dunkin’ Brands spokeswoman, said in an email that Long Island City residents, like Ms. Bicchetti it seems, will appreciate the franchise.

“Long Island City has a wide variety of coffee retailers, but people who live and work in the area recognize Dunkin’ Donuts as offering a great cup of coffee served in a friendly environment at a great value,” Ms. King said.

Even though people may enjoy Dunkin’ Donuts, Mr. Carpenter said, the store is only recently in the area to serve certain residents.

“They’re here to serve a particular kind of crowd and that’s the gentrified types,” he said.

For Mr. Carpenter, the new franchise is a sure sign the of neighborhood’s gentrification. After several luxury residential buildings were developed along the East River in Hunters Point, more commuters now live in the area, he said.

“Dunkin’ Donuts isn’t like a five-star restaurant,” Mr. Carpenter said. “But it’s for those commuters who want to grab a cup of Joe before going into the city. And I think that’s who they’re catering to.”

I wrote this piece for a journalism class called “The Beat: New York Neighborhoods.” I was assigned to cover Long Island City, Queens, and this is the first in a series of stories I’ll write about the neighborhood. If you are a resident of LIC with story suggestions or tips for stories for the class, feel free to email me at anna [dot] sanders [at] nyu [dot] edu.

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