NYC Borough Series: Queens

Queens, New York. Home of the Mets, LL Cool J, and the best Greek food in NYC. Kevin James was the King and it’s where Run-DMC celebrated Christmas. Some people like to call it the new Brooklyn, but truth is this borough already has its own identity. It doesn’t need to borrow from anyone else. Of the five boroughs, I’d personally suggest that Queens is the most underrated. From Long Island City to Flushing Meadows, the home of the 7 train has so much to offer

5 Fast Facts:

  • Both of NYC’s major airports (JFK and LGA) are in Queens
  • The Unisphere in Flushing Meadows was left from the 1964 World’s Fair
  • Queens is the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world, with residents from over 100 different countries speaking 138 different languages
  • Queens hosts the greatest annual American tennis tournament every year, the US Open
  • On of Astoria’s main drags, Steinway Street, is named after the famed piano maker whose world headquarters are located in the neighborhood

Food

image via flickr / kthread

image via flickr / kthread

We start our food tour of Queens in Astoria, the neighborhood resting on the East River. In the 1970’s, an influx of Greek immigrants came from Cyprus to call the neighborhood home. The best Greek diners, deli’s, cafes and bakeries in all of NYC can be found in Astoria. The neighborhood also has developed a strong Arab population, so much so that the stretch of Steinway north of 28th street is sometimes referred to as Little Egypt.

As we venture east, we begin to find more and more eastern Indian restaurants. India, Bangladesh, Ethiopia- all of these cuisines are represented wholeheartedly in Queens.

Once we get to the end of the 7 Line, we hit Flushing. Much like Little Italy is to Arthur Avenue, Chinatown is to Flushing. The Asian population in Flushing is strong, and they have some of the best Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese and Korean food in the country.

Now let’s jump back to Astoria for a second. Though it’s technically not ‘food’ per se, Astoria is home to the two best beer gardens in NYC, Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden and Studio Square Beer Garden. Definitely worth making a stop at these places during a summer Queens food tour.

Tourism

Jump on the R train in Manhattan going uptown and you will find yourself on your way to one of the coolest museums in NYC. The Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria highlights television and film among other things in its beautiful Queens space. They recently had a Breaking Bad exhibition (which was awesome) and regularly host Q&A events with some of the top people in entertainment. They also have a theater with screening of classic such as Pulp Fiction and Saturday night fever, both coming up as part of their Soundtrack Series.

Sports

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Mr. Met

Flushing is the Queens home of all things sports. First you have Citi Filed where the New York Mets play 81 games each season. In 2013, Citi Field also hosted the MLB All-Star Game.

Right across the street from Citi Field is Flushing Meadows Park, which is also home to the US Open Tennis Tournament. Arthur Ashe Stadium is the focal point of the US Open grounds holding over 22,000 spectators.

In 2013, there was also a push to build a new soccer stadium for the MLS expansion team, NYC FC, but it looks like that idea has been shot down.

Parks

Queens is home to some of the most beautiful parks in all of NYC, though I suppose so is every other borough. NYC is really good at parks. But Queens Flushing Meadows Corona Park might just take the cake. The park was the host of both the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs, the second of which left behind one of NYC’s coolest monuments, the Unisphere. The park was actually built on the area known as the “valley of ashes” from Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and is now a flourishing space of green.

Just outside of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, you will find the Queens Botanical Garden as well as Kissena Park and Golf Course. You can’t play a round of 18 in Manhattan, can you?

Pop Culture

Queens doesn’t have the iconic pop culture history of Manhattan or Brooklyn, but you’d be surprised where you might find it in the entertainment world. Did you know A Bronx Tale was largely shot in Astoria? How about that scene in Men in Black where the alien spaceship crashes through the Unisphere.

Ride of Fame alum LL Cool J grew up in Queens, as did rappers Ja Rule, 50 Cent, and Nicki Minaj. Donald Trump has roots going back to Queens just like Simon & Garfunkel and Adrien Brody.

So what’s your favorite of Queens? Tell is on twitter at @CitySightNY!

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