It was the hottest day of the year, and I spent it in Far Rockaway. The plan was simple. I would take the A train — which runs through Brooklyn Heights, downtown, Fort Greene, Bedford-Stuyvesant and East New York through the heart of Brooklyn and Woodhaven, Queens and runs across Jamaica Bay — and take it to its farthest limit: the Mott Avenue station in Far Rockaway.
There are many things to see in Far Rockaway: historic commercial buildings, a Monticello-inspired post office, impressive churches, lovely homes, and more.
In a borough largely ignored by NYC’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, the magnificent garden apartments of Jackson Heights are a happy exception. Today’s Jackson Heights is a neighborhood of handsome six-story co-operative apartments, most of which surround a central garden.
They appeared — seemingly out of nowhere — beginning in 1914 when the entire area was not much more than a swampy meadow. The Queensboro Corporation and developer Edward MacDougall built now-landmarked housing along today’s 82nd Street; the area became known as Jackson Heights honoring John C. Jackson, who laid Jackson Avenue, now Northern Boulevard, out across the meadow beginning in 1859.
The boundaries of Jackson Heights proper are fairly well-defined, from the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway on the west to about 90th Street on the east, and from Roosevelt Avenue on the south to the Grand Central Parkway (and LaGuardia Airport) on the north.
Last week, I showed BQ readers the highlights of my walk down the entire length of Metropolitan Avenue, from the East River waterfront all the way to its eastern end at Jamaica Avenue, with an emphasis on its Queens identity east of Newtown Creek. I only got us as far as 69th Street, just east of the last stop on the M train.
Metropolitan Avenue is about 13 miles long, end to end, and today’s highlights cover a lot of territory from Middle Village to Forest Hills. If you’re not up to the challenge of walking the whole way, that’s fine: simply take the M to the end of the line and grab the B54 bus heading east, which runs nearly the entire length of the avenue with a detour into The Shops at Atlas Park.
The best way to see a neighborhood, though, is by putting one foot in front of the other; behind the wheel or the handlebars, there are other things to pay attention to, such as cars and traffic regulations.
Brooklynites know Metropolitan Avenue as an east-west thoroughfare dividing the north and south sections of Williamsburg (though others consider Grand Street the true divider). It’s a street that holds some sentiment for me, as in 2010 lamppost maven Bob Mulero and I curated a NYC lamppost exhibition at the City Reliquary at 370 Metropolitan Avenue at Havemeyer Street.
I took advantage of a sunny weekend day to march the entire 13 miles (or so my iPhone indicated) of Metropolitan Avenue from the East River waterfront all the way to Jamaica, where Metropolitan peters out at the Van Wyck Expressway and Jamaica Avenue. It’s a relatively easy walk, which took me about six hours since I was constantly stopping for photographs. If you want a real workout and you’re younger than I am, you could probably power-walk the whole length in less than five hours, especially if you have good luck catching green lights.
Metropolitan Avenue was laid out in the early 19th century as the Williamsburg and Jamaica Plank Road, and was tolled in various locations. It was a farm-to-market road plied by farmers bringing wares to East River barges and then back east through fields and meadows to the town of Jamaica.
The land was sparsely settled in the early days, and the plank road was intersected only by Fresh Pond Road, 80th Street and Woodhaven Boulevard, which were all differently named then. It ran through the lost communities of Winantville and Columbusville, as well as a locale whose name is still used today, Middle Village, so named for its central location between Williamsburg and Jamaica. (more…)
The community of Woodhaven lies just east of the undefended border between Brooklyn and Queens. It’s a fairly large neighborhood located between Forest Park on the north, Liberty Avenue on the south, Eldert Lane (the official boundary of Brooklyn and Queens) on the west and Woodhaven Boulevard on the east.
Visitors to Woodhaven can easily travel on the J train from Williamsburg, Bushwick and East New York to the Forest Parkway station; connections to the J can be made from the A and L trains at Broadway Junction.
From the 1830s to the 1850s, the area was known as Woodville. But this was an era before the invention of zip codes, and there was some Post Office confusion between New York City’s Woodville and another Woodville upstate. In 1853, residents voted to change Woodville’s name to Woodhaven. (more…)
Astoria. Ditmars Boulevard. The subway signs on the R train advertised these outlandish, far-off locales as I boarded it in Bay Ridge, back when I lived there for the better part of three decades. But I never really thought to trouble this northwest section of Queens until I actually moved to the borough a couple of decades ago. (more…)
Is Queens becoming the best borough for beer drinkers?
“While the indie beer scene is booming up and down New York State, Queens is leading the way in new microbreweries,” said Cat Wolinski, a New York City-based beer writer who curated the new Queens Beer Book, a bar guide and passport offering 30 beers at 30 bars for $30.
“Between 2012 and 2015, six new breweries opened operating businesses in Queens — SingleCut, Rockaway, Finback, Transmitter, Big Alice, and the LIC Beer Project, which opened just this spring,” Wolinski said. “And more are on the way, with Bridge and Tunnel Brewery and Queens Brewery both opening locations in Ridgewood later this year.” (more…)
The city targeted Hunters Point in southwest Queens (as well as Williamsburg) for neighborhood “renewal” several years ago, which entailed changing the zoning to make glassy, high-rise apartment buildings facing the water possible. The decision has had benefits, as Gantry State Park, named for the large lifts that once transported goods from barges into railcars here, has become a jewel.
Some say, though, that the influx of towers has overly taxed the sewer system and that there’s still no real grocery shopping to be had on Vernon Boulevard. It’s like a big city has been plunked down in a place where there’s nothing to support it.
So, while previous trips to Hunters Point have found me down by the water, this time I got off the No. 7 train at the Vernon-Jackson station and stayed inland along Vernon Boulevard to take a look at the quickly developing area. (more…)
Bring your own popcorn. Actually, bring your own folding chairs, blankets, and beverages. The Queens World Film Festival and Jackson Heights Green Alliance will take care of the entertainment, while the city will provide the curb. On Saturday, this summer’s two FLIC NIC series, which show indie movies under the stars at two Jackson Heights venues, kicks off. They run until August 27.
The theme for FLIC NIC at Travers Park (aka 78th Street Plaza) on July 27 will be animation. Then only documentaries will show on July 25, while the August 8 event will screen the best works from the 2015 Queens World Film Festival.
There is no college in College Point, and hasn’t been since about 1850, when St. Paul’s College, whose site we will visit later in the tour, was converted into an elementary school and then a summer resort. The college was founded in 1835 as a seminary by the Rev. Augustus Muhlenberg. Communities known as Strattonport and Flammersberg united to form College Point in 1867.
Though the Lawrence family, a name familiar to Queens historians, were the first to settle in what is now the College Point area in the colonial era, it was an entrepreneur named Conrad Poppenhusen who built downtown College Point, to house his factory workers, and it is his legacy that shapes College Point to this day.
College Point today is about as fully realized as small town life gets within the five boroughs. It’s effectively separated from the rest of the city by the East River, Whitestone Expressway and the former Flushing Airport, and the Long Island Rail Road stopped running there in 1932. However, a number of city buses are routed there and College Point is well worth a day trip from “out-of-villagers.” (more…)