April 24, 2023, By Michael Dorgan
It once stood — or floated — as one of Long Island City’s most preeminent dining destinations with a spectacular view of midtown Manhattan, but is now destined to be sent to the scrap heap of history.
Waters Edge, a dilapidated former restaurant that sits atop a barge on the Long Island City waterfront, is to be destroyed once the city secures the necessary funding to carry out the job.
The two-story shuttered restaurant, which hosted countless weddings, birthday bashes and political fundraisers — including scandal-hit dinners for former mayor Bill de Blasio — is set to be taken apart, having fallen into disrepair, according to the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS).
DCAS had put the decades-old restaurant — and the barge on which it sits — up for auction in November, but the city agency has ditched those plans and intends to dismantle the entire structure instead.
The agency told the Queens/LIC Post that the floating barge, located at 4-01 44th Dr., was pulled from auction after DCAS determined that the structure could not be soundly moved in its current state. The barge had been put up for auction, but the winner was required to provide a plan to remove the barge “safely within 15 days of purchase.”
DCAS said it now aims to have the barge destroyed efficiently and ethically.
Once funding is secured, DCAS said it will take at least eight months to destroy the structure and get rid of the debris. The agency said that is the typical estimation for similar destruction projects. The news was first reported by Crain’s New York Business, a business news publication.
The destruction of the barge will bring a conclusive end to the storied life of the venue.
Waters Edge opened in 1980, according to the New York Times, years before Long Island City became a bustling neighborhood known for its high-rise apartment buildings with eye-dropping views of Manhattan. It became a classy, go-to destination for diners and various social events. It also had a pier where small boats could dock.
In 2008, restaurateur and philanthropist Harendra Singh and his Singh Hospitality Group acquired the premises.
But by the early 2010s, Singh began getting into financial difficulty and was reported to have owed the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in back rent on the Water’s Edge barge lease.
DCAS was threatening to terminate the lease and Singh had also failed to pay for renovations to the pier where the barge was docked, which the agency said were required by his lease, according to THE CITY.
Singh held two fundraising events for Bill de Blasio at Waters Edge in the hope of currying favor with city hall: one in 2011 when de Blasio was still public advocate; and the second in October 2013 shortly after he beat former city Comptroller Bill Thompson in a runoff before taking the general election.
De Blasio’s campaign did not pay for the events until it forked out a check for $2,613.01 after the city’s Campaign Finance Board began auditing the campaign. Until that moment, the events were essentially an illegal free gift from Singh to de Blasio that the mayor’s campaign had failed to disclose to the public as required, according to THE CITY.
When he got into office, De Blasio instructed one of his top aides to step in with regard to resolving Singh’s lease. But before the matter could be sorted out Singh was arrested in September 2015 on federal corruption charges in Nassau County unrelated to the Water’s Edge restaurant.
The restaurant then abruptly closed leaving brides and grooms out of pocket for the large deposits they had put down and Long Island City without one of its most esteemed eateries.
Singh cooperated with the federal government and informed them of his interactions with de Blasio. He also testified that he explicitly told de Blasio about an illegal scheme to raise money for the mayor’s political allies whereby Singh would personally reimburse donors to get around campaign contribution limits.
Singh told prosecutors that this financial support of the de Blasio, and the fundraising events at Waters Edge, were bribes to the mayor in exchange for help getting the lease extended and getting the pier issue resolved.
In 2016, Singh pleaded guilty to several bribery counts, including to a scheme to provide campaign contributions “in exchange for official actions from an official in the City of New York for the benefit of Mr. Singh’s restaurant.”
De Blasio, meanwhile, denied any personal error and was never charged with criminal wrongdoing regarding his interactions with Singh.
DCAS formally evicted Water’s Edge and retained possession of the barge in 2020, according to THE CITY. The agency then put the beat-up craft on the auction block in November.