Long Island City lies directly across the East River from York Avenue, one of the most fashionable neighborhoods on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Reachable by the Queensborough Bridge, aka the 59th Street Bridge, Long Island City has always been a blue collar area packed with small houses and big factories such as Swingline Staplers.
"Silvercup" was the brand name for bread made by the Gordon Baking Company, who during the initial Long Island City factory building boom of the 1920s, constructed a massive 500,000 square foot production facility with four flour silos on the premises.
Silvercup Bread was very popular, and became a household name for decades, particularly in and around New York City. The brand was so famous that businesses named Silvercup Meats and Silvercup Fruit opened in the neighborhood, though they had nothing to do with the bakery.
Silvercup Bread sponsored radio and television programming in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.
In 1974, Silvercup closed its doors rather suddenly. Silvercup had an exclusive three-year contract with the New York City Board of Education and needed to but could not raise its contracted price for bread after President Nixon sold grain to the Soviet Union, causing bread prices in the United States to double. At the same time, the Teamsters Union demanded that a ten percent surcharge be put on bread products. Silvercup could not meet their stated demands. Neither the School Board nor the Teamsters were willing to take what Silvercup could offer in response. With New York City in its worst recession in recent history, Silvercup sold its trucks and machinery and ceased all operations in early 1975. Six hundred employees were let go.
The massive white Silvercup factory with its landmark sign still loomed over Long Island City. It was purchased for a paltry $2,000,000 in 1980, and the new owners converted the massive factory floor into movie sound stages.
Beginning in 1983 with one 3,000-square-foot sound stage, Silvercup Studios has grown to 18 sound stages, totaling 400,000 square feet. Most New York-based television production (including The Sopranos and the Law & Order franchise) occurs at Silvercup Studios. The massive white building with its landmark sign still looms over Long Island City.