By Katie Honan
For the first time in its more than 80-year history, the famed Pepsi-Cola sign along the East River in Long Island City, Queens, will look different -- at least for a while. And some residents find the change hard to swallow.
The nearly 60-foot sign, which was added to the city's list of landmarks in 2016, will include an illuminated JetBlue logo for the next couple months. A lit-up blue arrow and a picture of an airplane in a cloud will also be temporarily added to the sign.
The additions to the sign started going up this week after New York City granted Pepsi and JetBlue approval for the changes. The JetBlue signage will stay up until Oct. 1, according to the city, as part of a promotion announcing a partnership between the two companies in which the airline will serve PepsiCo drinks.
Some Queens residents were alarmed by the addition to the sign. Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, a Democrat who represents Long Island City, said concerned residents contacted his office, some asking if it was permanent.
"It's a pretty significant change to a pretty visible, iconic sign," he said. "Even if it's temporary, it shouldn't be there."
PepsiCo and JetBlue applied for a permit for the temporary installation in July, and it was approved by staffers from the Landmarks Preservation Commission on Aug. 14, according to the city. A spokeswoman for the commission said the permit didn't require a hearing or further community approval since it is temporary, and won't be up for more than 180 days.
A spokesman representing both PepsiCo and JetBlue said the companies also received approvals from the other entities that control the park. The airline's headquarters is in Long Island City and already has an illuminated JetBlue sign on its roof.
The curlicue Pepsi-Cola sign was built in 1936 and put on top of Pepsi's two-story bottling plant along the neighborhood's waterfront. When that building was torn down, the sign was moved to its current location in Gantry Plaza State Park.
It was originally included on a list of nearly 100 sites that almost didn't get a hearing with the landmarks commission. After being up for consideration by the commission for nearly 30 years, the sign was finally added to the landmarks list in 2016.
The city has given more than 36,000 buildings landmark status since the commission was created in 1965. Once a location receives the designation, it has greater protection from demolition and also requires the commission's approval for changes.
The Pepsi-Cola sign is "one of those landmarks that really captures people's attention and hearts," said Simeon Bankoff, the executive director of the Historic Districts Council, a group that advocates for landmarked neighborhoods in New York City.
"It doesn't surprise me people are upset," he said. "It's a pure visual form, and people have a very visceral reaction to it, and it becomes part of their cityscape in a way that not even some buildings do."
Sabina Omerhodzic, a physician and mother of three who lives in a high-rise behind the sign, said she noticed the changes but had bigger things to worry about.
"The planet is melting down," she said. "Our existence is in question."
--Leslie Brody contributed to this article.
Write to Katie Honan at Katie.Honan@wsj.com