05/13/14 11:00am

Queens is the biggest borough, and has some of New York City’s longest streets. And like everything else, those streets are the result of evolution. Let’s take a look today at two of the borough’s longest routes and review their origins, while taking a look at their humble beginnings, or endings, depending on your point of view.

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Roosevelt Avenue

Seen here is Roosevelt Avenue’s eastern end, where it meets Northern Boulevard at 155th Street in Flushing. Here is a soon-to-be defunct McDonalds, an IHOP restaurant, a branch of the Queens Public Library, a shopping center, and flags aplenty. Roosevelt Avenue, named for President Theodore, is relatively new on the Queens map; it’s soon to celebrate its centennial. It is a product of the Flushing elevated train, since when the line was constructed between 1914 and 1928, it required a right of way. It was decided to cut a street through that followed the unofficial border of Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, and then through the heart of Corona, and build the el along that route. Roosevelt Avenue serves as a de facto eastern extension of Greenpoint Avenue beginning at Queens Boulevard.

Initially Roosevelt Avenue ran only as far as what is now Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, as the el was not extended east of Willets Point Boulevard until it was completed as a subway out to Main Street in 1928. That year began downtown Flushing’s transformation as a quiet seat of a sleepy Queens town into the crossroads of Queens it has become today. In 1928 a preexisting east-west street running through Flushing, Amity Street, was widened and then extended through to a junction with Northern Boulevard, giving rise to the Roosevelt Avenue known today.

From the point shown in the photograph, it’s possible to bike, walk or drive all the way west to the East River in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

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Metropolitan Avenue

This major east-west route from Williamsburg to the edge of Jamaica is seen from its eastern end at the junction of Jamaica Avenue and Kew Gardens Road, another ancient route in itself (it was called Newtown Road decades ago and ran to what became Kew Gardens in the east end of the former town of Newtown). Here you find the relatively new Kew Gardens subway stop serving the E train, open only since 1988.

Metropolitan Avenue was opened in 1815, give or take a couple of years, as the Williamsburgh and Jamaica Turnpike and was once a toll road with toll gates and a “pike” or a lengthy log that would be move  aside when the toll was paid. It was mainly a farm to market road used by eastern farmers bringing their produce to New York City via East River shipping. In future decades Williamsburg would lose the “h” and the W&J would lose the toll, and was renamed Metropolitan Avenue. Oddly, this busy route has never gained extra lanes and the considerable widening comparable roads like Northern Boulevard and Queens Boulevard have, and remains a four-lane road throughout its length.

The neighborhood of Middle Village was named because it’s approximately halfway between Williamsburg and Jamaica, the two towns the road was built to service.

12/18/13 1:00pm

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It’s time to hear the pitter patter of big feet. This Sunday, the up-and-coming nonprofit Queens Distance Runners (above) will host the Toy Drive 5 Miler at Forest Park. About 60 harriers are expected to participate in this fun run, which will go up and down a few hills and past some beautiful fields on the wide, tree-lined roads within the park. The event has a charitable aspect as well, as racers are asked to bring Christmas toy donations, which the Queens Centers for Progress will distribute to needy children. Plus, a portion of the event’s proceeds will go to the Queens Tourism Council.

Details: Forest Park 5 Miler, starting area at Forest Park Drive and Metropolitan Avenue, Forest Park, Forest Hills/Woodhaven, December 22nd, 10 am, $22/$17 students, register here.

How to get there: E/F train to Kew Gardens/Union Turnpike stop, walk down Union Turnpike to Forest Park Drive at Metropolitan Avenue . The starting area is roughly half a mile from the subway station. Or take LIRR to Kew Gardens station and walk down Audley Street to Metropolitan Avenue and Forest Park Drive.

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09/20/13 1:00pm

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The neighborhood will never be the same. On the first day of fall, Kew Gardens will be transformed into a total art experience with sidewalk chalk designers, portrait painters, glass makers, jewelers, potters and musicians. A comic book writer/illustrator will discuss his trade, while a master tailor will give lessons on sewing. There will also be Broadway tunes, multicultural demos/exhibits, kiddie workshops and an art show in Kew Gardens Cinemas Park. The chain-linked fence in front of the New Homestead Home for Adults will exhibit intergenerational art created by senior citizens and children. On display will be roughly 100 flags decorated by residents, adults and children with their wishes for the world as per a Tibetan belief that the breeze will blow through the flags and spread the wishes far and wide. The day, which is made possible by a Unity NYC grant to the Kew Gardens Improvement Association and Queens Art Express, will end with poetry, prose and short story excerpts by the REZ Reading Group at Odradek’s Coffee House at 82-60 Austin Street

Details: Kew Gardens Community Arts Day, vicinity of Austin Street, Lefferts Boulevard and Metropolitan Avenue in Kew Gardens, September 22nd, 11 am to 5 pm, free. Rain date: October 6th.

Photo by Queens Art Express/FB

09/16/13 10:00am

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Both NY Daily News and DNAinfo have reports on the Department of Transportation’s plan to relocate a Q54 bus stop and install two left turn bays at the Metropolitan Avenue and 71st Avenue intersection in Forest Hills. At least 18 people have been injured at this intersection since 2007; the turning lane is expected to reduce the line of drivers who get backed up waiting to make that turn. Community Board Six isn’t thrilled with the plan considering the DOT will remove 14 parking spaces to make the safety improvements. City officials surveyed the area and felt like those spaces were underutilized, due to many businesses having their own parking lots. Residents still worry the loss of parking will hurt nearby businesses. As the CB6 Board Chairman argued, shoppers cannot use parking lots which belong to stores if they don’t shop there. Other residents believe a turn lane won’t make a big enough difference for the high level of traffic along Metropolitan anyway. The full community board will take a vote on the matter next month.

Plan to Make Metropolitan Ave. Intersection Safer Could Drive Customers Away [NY Daily News]
CB6 Slams Plan to Remove 14 Parking Spaces from Busy Stretch [DNAinfo]

07/22/13 1:00pm

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There will be no swaying palm trees or tiki bars stocked with fruity rum drinks, but attendees will definitely see their fair share of multi-colored Hawaiian shirts and maybe even a few straw hats. On Wednesday, Parrotbeach, arguably the world’s best Jimmy Buffet tribute band, will give a free concert in Forest Hills. Part of an annual series sponsored by Maspeth Federal Savings, this New Jersey-based group will play timeless classics such as “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “Margaritaville” and “Tin Cup Chalice,” while the crowd gets nostalgic about past beach vacations. Concert-goers can also expect to hear other “island music” favorites, such as Harry Belafonte’s “Jamaica Farewell.”

Details: Jimmy Buffet Tribute Band Parrotbeach, Maspeth Federal Saving Bank Parking Lot, 101-09 Metropolitan Avenue, Forest Hills, July 24, 7:30 pm, free but first come, first seated.

05/24/13 5:33pm

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Queens natives have given a lot to the military over the years. For example, Woodside’s zip code — 11377 — was home to more soldiers who died in the Vietnam War than any other zip code in the U.S. This weekend, the borough will honor its war heroes with countless Memorial Day parades, including biggest one in the country (Little Neck/Douglaston, pictured above). Here are the details: May 26 (Sunday), Forest Hills Memorial Day Parade, noon, Metropolitan and Ascan avenues; Maspeth Memorial Day Parade, 1 p.m., Grand Avenue and 72nd Street; and May 27 (Monday), Laurelton Memorial Day Parade, 9 a.m., Francis Lewis and Merrick boulevards; Howard Beach Memorial Day Parade, 11 a.m., Coleman Square; Glendale-Ridgewood Veterans Memorial Day Parade, 11 a.m., Glendale Memorial Triangle, located at Myrtle Avenue and 70th Street; Woodside Memorial Day Parade, 11 a.m., 58th Street and Woodside Avenue; Whitestone Memorial Day Parade, noon, 149th Street and 15th Road; Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade, 2 p.m., Northern Boulevard and Jayson Avenue.

Image Source: Commons Wikimedia/Little Neck-Douglaston

08/28/12 2:00pm

Image source: Joe Shlabotnik on Flickr

The Real Deal published a piece about affordable rents on Metropolitan Avene, the other commercial strip in Forest Hills. Yes, Austin Street is the more prominent commercial area of that neighborhood, in part because of its close proximity to the 71st/Continental E/F/M/R subway station and its range of retail establishments, many of them upscale. But just about a mile south of that (a 15-20 minute walk from the subway) lies Metropolitan Avenue, home to some great restaurants and shops, and many of these business owners are saving quite a bit in rent by making it on Metropolitan. (more…)