Last night, I took the Uptown E train from West 4th street to Forest Hills, Queens, to visit the neighborhood where my dad and his family are from but where I’d only been once before.
Represented by Queens Community Board Six, Forest Hills spans two miles and is home to over 70,000 New Yorkers. The residential and business locality is loved by locals for its location, access to public transportation, beauty, safety, and nature. Before heading out to Queens, I talked to my Grandpa on the phone about his former neighborhood. “There’s no place like it in New York City,” he said.
I rode the Subway 12 stops and got off at 71st Continental Avenue, Forest Hills. I was happy the ride only took 20 minutes and to see a nice looking place with clean streets, an old diner, a movie theatre, people heading home from work, and families, when I exited the train. From Continental Ave., I walked two blocks south to Station Square where the Forest Hills Train Station is located. When I got there, I saw the unique and special place my Grandpa had told me about. The red, brick streets and old city signs are the same ones that existed when Forest Hills was founded in 1906. This makes the place look and feel like old England even though it’s just a fifteen-minute train ride from Penn Station.
Beyond Station Square is the residential neighborhood, Forest Hills Gardens, where local landmark, The Westside Tennis Club is located. The Club hosted the U.S. Open Tennis Championships from 1915 until 1978 and staged rock concerts for Jimi Hendrix and The Who. I snuck around the grounds to see the place where Arthur Ashe played and where Hendrix once got booed when performing as The Monkees opening act.
Like the old streets in Station Square, all the homes and buildings in The Gardens have also been left untouched. As one Garden resident explained, people who live in the Garden pay taxes that help preserve the district so that the English Tudor houses, small roads, street signs, and even paint color remain as originally designed in the early 1900’s. Located in the Gardens are also The Church in the Gardens, P.S. 101., and The Church House.
Locals appreciate the beauty of their neighborhood. As one resident expressed, “Coming from the City, it’s a luxury to have trees and green.” Furthermore, the grassy, old, family town is just a twenty-minute train or Subway ride from Manhattan. There’s also nearby access to major public transits like The Van Wyck Bridge, Grand Central Parkway, and Kennedy and LGA Airport. As this local also pointed out, “You can go anywhere you want.”
Before heading back to Manhattan, I went to Austin Street. Unlike the Garden, the buildings here are constantly changing businesses and being renovated. I saw four spaces available for rent on one block and was informed that other shops are turning over quickly because “they’re not cutting it.” Austin Street looks like any other commercial street in America, so it doesn’t have the spirit of Forest Hills that the other places I saw did. Austin Street reflects the economy and the difficulties businesses all over the Country are currently facing.