Until recently, Queens was widely regarded as a snore. This was where the complacent everyman lived, in a row house exactly like his neighbor’s. Queens was home to Archie Bunker and hundreds of thousands of others like him. Queens was mediocrity. Queens was suburbia. Queens was boring, boring, boring.
Whether or not this was ever really true, it certainly isn’t so today. New York City’s largest borough now boasts some of the city’s biggest and most vibrant ethnic neighborhoods, as well as some architectural and cultural gems that are just beginning to be appreciated.
Queens is also where Louis Armstrong, Will Rogers, Jackie Robinson, and Jack Kerouac all once lived; where the early movie industry was headquartered; and where the wealthy once summered, on grand estates in Bayside or on the then-pristine beaches of the Rockaways.
Named for Queen Catherine of Braganza, the wife of England’s Charles II, Queens was annexed to New York City in 1898. Western Queens began developing in the mid-1800s, but it wasn’t until the building of the Long Island Rail Road in 1910 that the borough really boomed. Then, apartment houses and private homes sprang up all over, and thousands of New Yorkers moved out into the “country.”
The Queens Council on the Arts (www.queenscouncilarts.org) operates a website that lists community cultural events and happenings in the borough.
Theoretically, Queens is laid out according to a grid system. The streets run north-south, from 1st Street, paralleling the East River, to 250th Street, at the borough’s eastern end. Similarly, the avenues run east-west, with the lowest numbered addresses to the north and the highest numbered to the south.
Addresses are supposedly coded with their nearest cross-street or avenue: 28–13 23rd Ave., for example, should mean that the building is at No. 13 on 23rd Avenue near 28th Street. But things don’t always work out that neatly. When in doubt, it’s best to call ahead.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition