Queens is easy.
I apologize to all people living in Queens. But from the point of view of a visitor seeking neighborhoods worth staying in for a month it really seems easy to me.
Apart from my several arrivals and departures at JFK airport I’ve been to Queens just once. It was one day I spent in Queens and it was on the International Express, the 7 train. My idea was to check out all the neighborhoods along the 7 train in Queens plus make a side trip to Astoria. What I learned that day were two facts: Queens does have interesting neighborhoods and a day is limited.
I found four neighborhoods I could imagine to stay for a while: Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and Jackson Heights.
Astoria, situated in the very northeast, seems to be Queens’ favourite. Being a greek neighborhood once it now has some more facets. It has become quite multiethnic, has lots of restaurants, quiet residential areas, a waterfront with a big park and a famous beer garden as well as arts places like Socrates Sculpture Garden or the Museum of the Moving Image.
Long Island City scores on its situation and connections. But what is it like? Let me copy from my journal: “Long Island City where the trains comes out of the ground looks like some storm has blown through it and rearranged the buildings. There is no order. Everything is cluttered. Towers next to small townhouses, in between a factory or a block of apartments. And the elevated train is running straight through the chaos.”
Sunnyside appears to me like a hidden treasure not having been discovered yet. It’s now Historic District, Sunnyside Gardens, has been built as a planned Garden City in the 1920s and contains one and two family homes along tree-lined streets as well as apartment blocks built around common gardens. Sunnyside had and still has a strong Irish influence. Koreans, Hispanics and Middle Easterners made it more international.
Jackson Heights is probably one of Queens’ most interesting neighborhoods. In the early 1900s the very first garden apartment community in the US was created there. Comfortable apartment blocks were built around green courts to attract Manhattan’s middle class and today are preserved in a big Historic District. More than 50% of Jackson Heights’ inhabitants are Latinos, who brought their shops and restaurants to the area. But as well there is Little India with Sari shops, jewellery stores, Bollywood cinemas, groceries and restaurants.
I guess, there is more to discover in Queens. But that’s it for now.