City Living: Jackson Heights

(Credit: Urbanite)

Jackson Heights is known for its excellent transportation options. (Photos: RJ Mickelson/amNY)

By Craig Raphael and Miranda Siegel

Special to amNewYork

Located in northwest Queens, vibrant Jackson Heights offers an elaborate treasure hunt with treats to track down and loot to discover. You can go on the prowl for the plumpest and most delectable samosas, haunt the Latin bakeries in search of glistening, eggy flan, peer into freezers full of fragrant, milky kulfi popsicles, and try arepa after arepa until you've found the tastiest meat.A flurry of activity, along with significant populations from Bangladesh, Colombia, Mexico, Argentina and Pakistan, among other countries, makes Jackson Heights one of Queens' most popular destinations. Manhattanites who scarcely venture off their island will often daytrip here, and visitors of South Asian descent flock to the area from every corner of the city and beyond.

“This is where you can get the most authentic Bangladeshi and Indian food in the city; people come here for that,” noted Ajit Bardhan.

Jackson Heights was mainly farmland until 1908, when the Queensboro Realty Company bought and began developing the land. The new neighborhood was designed in the style of 19th century English "garden cities": rows of spacious houses with front lawns, access to interior gardens, large windows and lush foliage.

The garden apartments were followed by lovely co-ops —the country's first — which were given fancy names like Hampton Court and Chateau. Together with the garden houses, they make up the Jackson Heights Historic District.

The idyll was disrupted in the 70s and 80s, when Jackson Heights, like most of Queens at the time, became riddled with drug trafficking and criminal activity.

It wasn't until residents banded together and made efforts to beautify and improve the quality of life in the area that things started looking up.

Today, Jackson Heights is a neighborhood that embraces all kinds of culture, with many community centers, clubs devoted to visual arts, and a flourishing gay, lesbian and transgender community that celebrates with The Queens Pride Parade each June.

So it is surprising that the neighborhood remains somewhat overlooked given all it has to offer, including a major subway junction between the 7, F, E, R and V trains that provides convenient and fast access to Manhattan.

“It’s a very quirky community — there’s a variety of different groups and constituents, as well as a growing number of families with children,” said Elena Madison. “And they all co-exist pretty peacefully.”

FIND IT

Jackson Heights is bordered on the west by the BQE, on the east by Junction Boulevard, on the north by Northern Boulevard, and the south by Roosevelt Avenue.

The Dunolly Owners Flea Market on 35th Ave in Jackson Heights.

TO EAT

Jackson Heights offers a veritable smorgasbord of food. The bulk of the South Asian restaurants are located on 73rd and 74th streets between Roosevelt and 37th avenues, also known as “Little India.” Vendors and shops selling Latin treats such as tacos, empanadas and rich, gooey pastries are concentrated on Roosevelt Avenue and Northern Boulevard. There’s Thai and Afghan, too!

Rajbhog Sweets and Snacks

The title of this shop, which is the main supplier of kulfi and other goodies to stores throughout Queens, says it all: There are sweets (gulab jamun, jalebi and mango burfi) and there are snacks (chole poori, samosa and kachori). Hang around with your food to enjoy the Indian music videos.

72-27 37th Ave. 718-458-8512

Arunee Thai Cuisine

This Thai restaurant is known for its impressive array of appetizers and salads, as well as its solid flavor combinations and clean execution. You’ll swoon for the deep-fried quail with garlic sauce and spicy papaya salad.

37-68 79th St, 718-205-5559

Afghan Kebab House #4

One of only a few Afghan restaurants in New York City, #4 offers awesome kebab combos, scallion-stuffed bolanee (fried turnovers) and delicious naringe paulau (lamb topped with orange rind and pistachios).

74-16 37th Ave., 718 565-0471

Jackson Diner

Arguably the most well-known restaurant in Queens, this airy eatery is often crowded with families and bargain-seekers piling their plates high with rich and spicy chow from the $9.95 all-you-can-eat buffet.

34-47 74th St, 718-672-1232

Pio Pio

The Jackson Heights branch of this Peruvian chain cooks up its signature plump, succulent chicken, a soft and greasy masterpiece that slides right off the bone. Sides include plantains, yucca and rice and beans.

84-15 Northern Blvd. 718-426-1010

Cositas Ricas

Cositas Ricas is a lively Colombian restaurant that features a bar, a bakery and some unusually attractive waitresses. It’s hard to go wrong with any of the shellfish or chicken dishes, but the Pollo Sebastian is especially tender.

79-19 Roosevelt Ave. 718-478-1500

TO PARTY

Jackson Heights has a lot going on when it comes to nightlife: Roosevelt Avenue and Northern Boulevard are lined with clubs, and there’s a happenin’ gay scene, too. Some restaurants are open late to cater to the night owls.

Natives

A bold marquee attracts visitors to this sprawling restaurant, where you can get cozy in a plush booth and watch the comedians, musicians and the occasional theater performance on the large stage.

82-22 Northern Blvd., 718-335-0780

Terraza 7 Train Cafe

Terraza 7 Train Café is a great coffee shop and bar that hosts a mix of independent films, art exhibitions, live music and creative workshops.

40-19 Gleane St., 718-803-9602

Club Atlantis 2010

Queens’s largest gay club attracts people from throughout the city, who come to gyrate to Latin and club beats. Stiff drinks and a lively crowd compensate for the steep cover.

76-19 Roosevelt Ave., 718-457-3939

Chibcha Restaurant and Nightclub

A Colombian nightclub pounding out meringue and salsa favorites to eager partygoers, Chibcha has been a neighborhood favorite for years. They also serve food.

79-05 Roosevelt Ave, 718-429-9033

Village Moon Tattoo shop at 78-01 Roosevelt Ave.

TO SHOP

Jackson Heights is a very popular shopping destination, not only for New Yorkers but also for people from all over the greater metropolitan area. Stock up on aromatic spices, salwar kameez, gold jewelry, baked goods, Latin music and Indian books.

Rudy Volcano II

This purveyor of Guatemalan goods offers an eclectic mix of textiles, incense, peculiar carved stones (owl or phallus, anyone?), baby booties, decorative pipes, jewelry and housewares.

79-07 37th Ave., 718-651-7100

Newman Jewelers

A dizzying array of religious figurines, decorative china and oh-so-precious statuettes, including porcelain renderings of trout, brown bears and playful kittens. Prices are truly steep, but the owner promises “a discount on anything you buy.”

78-03 37th Ave., 718-429-3413

Patel Bros.

Want to admire numerous rows of tangy chutneys, pick up a bag of frozen samosas, or attempt to haul a 25-pound bag of jasmine rice home on the subway? Patel Bros. offers these enticing options and more, including pulses, bingeworthy sweets and snacks and a variety of unusual and inexpensive spices.

37-07 64th St., 718-898-3445

Maharaja Sweets

Enter this small, glowing shop and find yourself facing a glass case filled with small piles of mysterious pink, brown, and white sweetmeats. Come here for ladu, burfi and pure vegetarian food.

73-10 37th Ave., 718-505-2680

La Nueva Bakery

There are many Latin bakeries in Jackson Heights, but La Nueva is among the most popular. The dulce de leche-filled cake roll is out of this world, as is the syrupy, custardy flan. They also have mate gourds made out of hooves.

86-10 37th Ave., 718-507-2339

Travers Park is at 34th Ave between 77th and 78th Street.

TO SEE

The best way to experience Jackson Heights is to wander around soaking up the atmosphere, popping into shops to sample treats or check out Indian or Latin DVDs. The area is also home to a movie theater.

Sunday Play Street and Greenmarket

In a neighborhood lacking much green space, the Sunday Play Street, which occupies a closed-off portion of 78th Street on Sundays until mid-November, is an absolute joy for youngsters and adults alike. Around the corner on 34th Avenue, the local Greenmarket sells farm fresh produce, dairy and meat.

78th Street between 34th Avenue and Northern Boulevard

Eagle Theater

In a previous life, Eagle Theater was known as “The Earle” and showcased racy entertainment to eager patrons. Today, the renovated Art Deco theater draws in crowds with the latest Bollywood hits.

73-07 37th Road, 718-565-8783

Jackson Heights Historic District

Jackson Heights was America’s first “Garden City” based on the writings of Ebenezer Howard. Though the coveted private gardens are hidden behind the co-ops, some are visible from the street. There are also minor attractions like “the birthplace of Scrabble,” which was originally played at the Community United Methodist Church on 35th Avenue at 81st Street.

76st to 88th streets between Roosevelt Avenue and Northern Boulevard

Beautiful real estate along 35th Avenue and 82nd Street in Jackson Heights.

REAL ESTATE

Jackson Heights is home to some lovely housing options, including historic low-rise co-op apartment buildings, the famous “Garden Houses,” and one- and two-family houses.

“The co-ops are prewar and have beautiful nine-foot ceilings, original crown moldings, transoms, dumbwaiters, and are surrounded by gardens,” said Marlene Flores, sales associate at Century 21 Best, Inc. “I also like to focus on selling the beautiful old garden apartments; people really love them.”

TO RENT

$1,200 for a prewar studio apartment (37th Avenue and 73rd Street)

$1,399 for a one-bedroom brand new apartment (84th Street and 35th Avenue)

$1,500 for a three-bedroom apartment (82nd Street at 34th Avenue)

$1,650 for a rent-stabilized two-bedroom apartment (35-34 95th St.)

$1,750 for a brand-new two-bedroom apartment (75th Street at 30th Avenue)

$2,100 for a four-bedroom apartment (85th Street at 32nd Avenue)

$2,550 for a three-bedroom duplex with garage (30-31 78th St.)

TO BUY

$179,000 for a renovated one-bedroom co-op (Roosevelt Terrace)

$269,000 for a one-bedroom co-op with private gardens (The Dunolly)

$310,000 for a two-bedroom co-op (The Greystones)

$315,000 for a two-bedroom co-op with balcony and garage (Pelham Manor)

$390,000 for a 1,033-square-foot one-bedroom condo with eat-in kitchen (The Colton Condominium)

$459,000 for a three-bedroom co-op with private gardens (Hampton Court)

$469,000 for a 1,200-square-foot two-bedroom, two-bathroom co-op (The Berkeley building)

$1,100,000 for a 2,700-square-foot five-bedroom, four-bathroom prewar two-family home (35th Ave.)

CONTACT: Marlene Flores, sales associate at CENTURY 21 Best, Inc. 718-446-1300

Q & A WITH ADAM GORFIN

Adam Gorfin, who works in a shop dealing in rare books and prints, has lived in Jackson Heights for four years.

What do you like best about the neighborhood?

The amount of space you get can’t be beat — it’s real living, not closet living. It’s also not pretentious in any way whatsoever; there’s no new-fangled youth trying to make it into some sort of bohemia.

What is something you don’t like about the neighborhood?

It can get extremely loud, especially late at night. At 4 a.m. these huge party buses roll by, and when they pull up at a stop light it’s a nightmare.

What are some of your favorite places to eat?

Deshi Biryani has really good south Indian food. I like the street food; there are some great taco carts. I’m also a fan of Legends Bar and Grill, which is a bizarre southern BBQ place smack in the middle of Little India.

How has the neighborhood changed since you’ve lived there?

It really hasn’t changed much at all. For example, this big supermarket was renovated about a year ago, and people wondered if it would become more upscale. They did put in a cheese island with your typical fancy cheeses, but a week later it had returned to the usual mishmash of strange generic cheese.

What is something people don’t know about the neighborhood?

It’s really overlooked as a whole. The amount of space you get for the price is really reasonable. There are buildings that are meant to be lived in, and I appreciate that.

THE BASICS

Library

Queens Library, Jackson Heights Branch

35-51 81 St.

Police Station

115th Precinct

92-15 Northern Blvd. 718-533-2002

Transportation

Subway: 7 to 74th, 82nd St; E,V,R to Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Av.

Bus: Q32, Q33, Q47, Q49, Q66

Crime Stats

The 115th Precinct, which covers East Elmhurst, North Corona and Jackson Heights, reported three homicides, 32 rapes, 287 robberies, 229 felonious assaults, 283 burglaries and 199 motor vehicle thefts thus far in 2008. In 2007, there were four homicides, 30 rapes, 268 robberies, 229 felonious assaults, 324 burglaries and 209 motor vehicle thefts.

Schools

PUBLIC

ELEMENTARY:

P.S. 2 Alfred Zimberg School, 75-10 21st Ave

P.S. 149 Chrsta Mcauliffe School, 93-11 34th Ave

P.S. 212, 34-25 82nd St

P.S. 69, 77-02 37th Ave

P.S. 222 Christopher A. Santora School, 86-15 37th Ave

MIDDLE:

I.S. 145 Joseph Pulitzer, 33-34 80th St

I.S. 230, 73-10 34th Ave

HIGH:

Renaissance Charter School, 35-59 81th St

PRIVATE

Blessed Sacrament School, 3420 94th St

Lexington School for the Deaf, 30th Ave and 75th St

St Joan of Arch Elementary School, 3527 82nd St

Garden School, 33-16 79th St

MORE CITY LIVING HERE

Tags: jackson heights , city living , real estate , shopping , restaurants , queens , neighborhoods , food

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