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…)

05/05/15 9:45am

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When I moved to Flushing in 1993, my building was a few blocks away from the Long Island Rail Road station we are taking a look at today — the (to some) inexplicably named Broadway station. Broadway in Queens runs from the East River at the Socrates Sculpture Park on Vernon Boulevard to the heart of Elmhurst at Queens Boulevard — miles to the west of fabulous Flushing. Yet here the Broadway LIRR station sits. How can this be?

Until about 1920, all of Northern Boulevard from the Flushing River to the city line in Little Neck was named Broadway. West of the Flushing River, Northern Boulevard was known as Jackson Avenue, because it was built as a toll road by John Jackson in the 1850s from the waterfront through Astoria, Woodside and the Trains Meadow area now called Jackson Heights. (more…)

05/04/15 9:45am

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Many times have I shown you Cool Cars, Queensicans.

There was the Zombie Response Jeep in Astoria/Woodside, the Cool Cars of Astoria and Industrial Maspeth, that 1949 Plymouth on the Woodside/Maspeth border over by Mt. Zion cemetery, and that nearly perfect 1957 Pontiac Star Chief encountered on 38th avenue in Astoria. Cool Cars, but all production model automobiles.

What I saw the other day on Jackson Avenue at the corner of Queens Street was some sort of bizarre chimera, however. (more…)

04/27/15 11:00am

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Yesterday, I was invited to come along on the Newtown Historical Society’s walking tour of Ridgewood Reservoir, which actually straddles the border of Brooklyn and Queens. Now, I’m sort of known for my explorations of a very different part of this border — Newtown Creek — so this was terra incognita for me.

Having never visited the spot, nor the New York City park, Highland Park, which surrounds it, attending this event was a no brainer. Lots of photos after the jump. (more…)

04/24/15 4:04pm

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The Long Island City hotel boom just echoed again. Today, the Hilton Garden Inn New York Long Island City/Manhattan View opened for business.

Located just north of Queens Plaza at 29-21 41st Avenue, this new property boasts 183 guest rooms, four meeting rooms with about 1,410 square feet of space, and a presidential suite with views of the Midtown Manhattan skyline. According to statistics provided by LIC Partnership, this is the area’s 25th operating hotel and it brings the guest room count to more than 2,500.

Plus, another 25 hotels are planned for the neighborhood.

Photo: Hilton Garden Inn New York Long Island City/Manhattan View

04/24/15 9:45am

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The Orange Hut at Broadway and 54th Street still carries the outlines and contours of its former life as a White Tower hamburger chain restaurant. The last White Tower closed in Toledo, Ohio, in June 2008; the chain originated in 1926. There were about 230 White Towers at the chain’s height in the 1950s.

The restaurants have operated in at least 14 states, including New York, Illinois, Michigan, Connecticut, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida.

The interior of the Orange Hut still contains some hints of its origins, such as swivel stools adjoining a counter. Here it is in its original incarnation, below. Pretty spiffy looking.

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Outdoor, nighttime marketplaces are very popular throughout the Asian world, so it only makes sense that one is about to open in Flushing Meadows Corona Park this Saturday. The Queens International Night Market will launch in the New York Hall of Science’s parking lot (above) at 6 pm with special music and dance performances. Vendors will sell a diverse array of culturally authentic street food (arepas, crepes, dumplings), art, and merchandise. This is the grand opening, but the founder, John Wang, plans to operate the bazaar on Saturdays throughout the spring and summer.

Photo: Queens International Night Market

04/23/15 9:45am

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There’s a house in Astoria where I’ve always wanted to rent a room, so I could write a gothic horror novel while living there. It’s a Second Empire home with a turret and a porch. It’s seen better days — but more about that below.

The house is nearby one of those intersections that can only occur in Queens: 31st and 31st (street and avenue, respectively). These intersections twixt time and space are thoroughly modern, as in 20th century.

That’s 31-70 31st Avenue in the shot above, but back in 1875 when the house was built, 31st avenue was called “Jamaica Avenue.” And in 1919, it was known as “Patterson Avenue.” It’s simple to explain the confusion: In 1875, Astoria had newly consolidated into the municipality of Long Island City, and in 1919 LIC was newly consolidated into the City of Greater New York. In both cases, the streets were renamed to conform to the new and larger street grids.

More after the jump… (more…)