06/09/15 9:45am

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Tucked close to Flushing’s bustling downtown and along fast and furious, pedal-to-the-metal Main Street is Queens’ own official Botanical Garden at 43-50 Main Street at Elder Avenue. It may be smaller than the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx or Brooklyn’s Botanic Gardens at Prospect Park (Brooklyn, just to be different, loses the -al) but it is no less beautiful.

QBG evolved from the “Gardens of Paradise” exhibit at the 1939-1940 World’s Fair, continued after World War II as the Queens Botanical Garden Society. It opened in its current location in 1961.

Among the original plantings from the 1939 site are two blue atlas cedars framing a tree gate sculpture at the park’s entrance. Today the park is a 39-acre oasis in one of New York City’s busiest neighborhoods. (more…)

05/26/15 9:45am

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The Shops at Atlas Park

Glendale is a well-kept small town in western Queens filled with local restaurants and dining options as well as one of New York City’s largest malls (constructed atop a former industrial park) and the vast Forest Park.

Glendale was formerly one of New York City’s most populous German-American bastions, and home to a number of restaurants specializing in German cuisine, such as Gebhardt’s, Durow’s and Von Westernhagen’s. Zum Stammtisch is the lone survivor, although it was the new kid on the block when it was founded in 1972 by Bavarian immigrant John Lehner at 69-46 Myrtle Avenue, just west of Cooper Avenue.

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05/19/15 11:00am

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You could call Ridgewood’s Stockholm Street the yellow brick road of Queens. The street’s main claim to fame is a charming landmarked block boasting 36 homes built with yellow brick from the Balthazar Kreischer kilns of Staten Island. The street itself  is constructed with red-brown brick from the same kilns — and it’s the only brick-paved street in the borough.

There are similar rows of yellow brick houses elsewhere in Ridgewood and in Long Island City, but only these have the added attraction of thin, Doric-columned porches.

It makes for one of the most distinctive parts of Ridgewood — an area that’s seeing an influx of newcomers arriving via neighboring Bushwick and other Brooklyn neighborhoods. It’s an area worth a visit for those thinking about following suit, or just exploring Queens. (more…)

05/15/15 1:00pm

Pyramid

The Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City was founded specifically to show large artworks in an outdoor setting, but even so, its next project is remarkably huge. On Sunday, Agnes Denes will unveil The Living Pyramid, a site-specific earthwork consisting of several tons of soil and planted grass that will span 30 feet at its four-sided base and rise 30 feet in the air by the East River.

The Budapest-born Denes has used pyramids to examine environmental priorities and social hierarchies for five decades. (more…)

05/14/15 9:45am

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On Tuesday, I was invited to bring the camera to the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, as the Queens Economic Development Corporation held the 13th annual Queens Taste, an expo showcasing the borough’s amazing restaurants.

The first Queens Taste, I’m told, had just twelve tables and was held in a tiny space at JFK airport. This one needed an entire floor of the Hall of Science, and even that was barely big enough. (more…)

05/12/15 9:45am

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Dutch Kills Green

Williamsburgers and Greenpointers curious about the vast territory above Newtown Creek need do no more than take the B62 bus to the end of the line — or walk or bike across the Pulaski Bridge and take Jackson Avenue to Queens Plaza — to take a look at one of Queens’ most interesting revivals in recent times.

Until a couple of years ago the east end of Queens Plaza, where Northern Boulevard begins a nearly 90-mile run (as Route 25A) to the end of Long Island, was home to a run of the mill parking lot called the John F. Kennedy Commuter Plaza. Its southern end, running along the elevated Queensboro Plaza station, was home to fast food restaurants and strip joints.

But a recent multimillion dollar, five-year restoration has  converted the once moribund spot into a green oasis replete with separated bike and pedestrian paths. (more…)

05/11/15 9:45am

Here’s my short list of three destinations in Queens worth visiting even if you live outside the borough. They all offer some great outdoor scenery, whether in the form of street art, architecture or beautiful green space. Two are parks.

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Welling Court Mural Project

Missing 5Pointz in Long Island City? That renowned graffiti spot may be no more, but you can get your fill of grassroots urban art at Welling Court, where the Ad Hoc Art Group has been curating public street art since 2010. There’s some fantastic stuff here, and it’s all free to enjoy. (more…)

05/08/15 9:45am

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12th Street near 27th Avenue, Astoria Village

Queens has been a county since 1683. Just as the USA originally had 13 states, the state of New York has 12 original counties: Albany, Cornwall, Dukes, Dutchess, Kings, New York (Manhattan), Orange, Queens, Richmond, Suffolk, Ulster and Westchester.

Nassau County, you say? It’s a Johnny come lately. In 1898, when four counties voted to become part of New York City, becoming Greater New York, half the county of Queens — the eastern towns of North Hempstead, Hempstead and Oyster Bay — chose to become independent, and in 1899 they created a county of their own, Nassau.

Had these towns not separated from Queens, our present task — examining the origins of the names of the borough’s neighborhoods — would call for entries on Lynbrook, Long Beach, Port Washington, Oyster Bay, Massapequa… and I’d be writing till Christmas. As is, Queens is large enough. (more…)

05/06/15 1:00pm

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Brazil is very popular these days. The South American country hosted the World Cup last summer, and it’s preparing to host the Olympics next year. This Friday, the Museum of the Moving Image catches this wave with O Brazil: Contemporary Brazilian Cinema, a series that will screen three contemporary films made in a country where the movie scene is booming.

The thread that runs between these movies is music, as they all feature tremendous soundtracks as well as Portuguese dialogue with English subtitles. Here’s a short description. (more…)

05/06/15 9:45am

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Today is the birthday of Long Island City. Here’s her origin story.

In the mid 19th century, Newtown was a municipal entity that encompassed many, many towns, cities, and villages, whose borders stretched from the East River all the way into modern day Nassau County and from Newtown Creek to Bowery Bay. The center of gravity, politics-wise, was in Flushing and Jamaica, where baronial agricultural operations ruled the roost.

In the 1850s, the only railroad connections offered to the local populace went from Jamaica to Brooklyn. The city of Brooklyn was eager to reduce the amount of rail traffic flowing through it and passed a series of laws hindering or outright forbidding the passage of trains. By the 1860s the railroad people were looking for new routes in and out of Manhattan, and decided on one that traveled through Newtown.

Political resistance from the eastern side of Newtown slowed them down — those baronial farmers were worried about competition for the lucrative Manhattan market emerging from Eastern Long Island — so the owners of the NY & Jamaica railroad were forced to get creative. (more…)