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City Living: Little Neck, Queens

Most residents think of Little Neck as the best of both worlds, where they can enjoy the serenity of the suburbs and the commerce of the city without ever having to leave New York. Tucked away in the northeast corner of Queens, yet only a 45-minute commute to downtown Manhattan, this bustling peninsula on Little Neck Bay has managed to evolve with the rest of the city while retaining much of its original character.

First settled by the Matinecoc Indians and cleared of trees to raise corn, the fertile peninsula became known as Little Neck. The area was populated by the Dutch in 1735 and estate development, which began in the early 1800s, continues to this day, much to the chagrin of some residents.

Kevin Wolfe, a local architect and co-founder of the Douglaston/Little Neck Historical Society, spoke fondly of the narrow, winding streets, lush tree cover and classic terra cotta facades but decried the real estate trends. "Developers will buy a small house on a big lot and tear it down to build these McMansions," which Wolfe says are popping up all over Little Neck. "They're creating a future slum of white elephants. These houses will be falling down in 30 years," he said.

This is easily the biggest issue on locals' minds, agreed Bob Alexander, a substitute teacher and paraprofessional. "The bash-and-build phenomenon has come," he said, "Unfortunately, you can't stop change and you can't legislate taste."

Little Neck is in no way isolated or inaccessible as far as industry goes. Several major arteries cut through the neighborhood and bring with it myriad businesses and no shortage of customers. Northern Boulevard , a veritable aorta of commerce, is just a short walk from any home and the Long Island Expressway and Grand Central Parkway are but a minute's drive.

"There have been subtle and not-so-subtle changes over the years," said Monica Braunfeld, a history teacher at Little Neck's Cardoza High School, "but it's one of the more desirable places to live in the city."

"Little Neck is a careful mix of things," Wolfe said, "with suburban and quasi-urban qualities, you give up some things. Not everybody has a six-car garage but you adapt for that and love it for that."

Find it:

Little Neck is bounded by Little Neck Parkway. and Marathon Parkway to the west, the Grand Central Parkway to the south and the New York City/Nassau County border to the east.

The basics:

Police Station --111th Precinct, 45-06 215th St.

Transportation --LIRR Port Washington Line to Little Neck Station, Q12, Q30, Q79 bus

Crime Stats --The 111th Precinct, which covers Little Neck-Douglaston and neighboring Bayside, Hollis Hills and Fresh Meadows, was the most-improved precinct in Queens and the third-most improved in the entire city for 2007. The area saw a 16.3 percent decline in serious crimes, a 42.3 percent drop in robberies and a 16.1 percent drop in burglaries from 2006. A recent murder was the first in Little Neck in about four years.

Schools --PS 94 David D. Porter, 41-37 Little Neck Pkwy.; PS811 Marathon School and JHS67 Louis Pasteur, 51-60 Marathon Pkwy.; PS221 North Hills Magnet, 57-40 Marathon Pkwy.

Libraries --Douglaston/Little Neck branch of the Queens Library 249-01 Northern Blvd. 718-225-8414

Post offices --Horace Harding., 56-01 Marathon Pkwy. 718-224-4492; Little Neck P.O., 250-10 Northern Blvd. 718-229-8573

To eat:

While Little Neck has its fair share of fast-food chains, there are a number of gems hidden along the main drags that truly reflect the cultural diversity of the area. There's Thai, Korean, Italian, French, Japanese, Mexican and Chinese to name just a few. Even the most delicate palate and the thinnest wallet can find something great within a short walk.

Juice for Life Haven't had your daily shot of wheatgrass? Head over to Little Neck's health food oasis for a fresh yet hearty homemade wrap or try one of their famous low fat smoothies. Everything is made to order in this restaurant as charming as it is health conscious. 251-20 Northern Blvd. 718-428-8423

Scobee Open since 1961, this classic New York diner offers exceptional, well, diner food, but it's not your average eatery. If Little Neck has a home base and that home base has disco fries, then Scobee is it. Corner of Little Neck Pkwy. and Northern Blvd. 718-428-5777

Aunt Bella's Slightly tucked away among some equally adorable single-family homes is this authentic Italian restaurant. Featuring homemade pizzas, classic Italian sandwiches and lunch and dinner specials, Aunt Bella's has an impressive menu and an inviting atmosphere. 46-19 Marathon Pkwy. 718-225-4700

La Baraka Serving French cuisine with a touch of North African influence, this upscale eatery is the genuine article. Whether you're feasting on some frogs' legs or delighting in some duck l'orange, you won't find a better place for French fare than La Baraka. 255-09 Northern Blvd. 718-428-1461

Greek Islands Restaurant Offering a wide variety of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes, Greek Islands Restaurant specializes in fresh fish entrees that change from day to day. Dinner reservations are recommended. 253-17 Northern Blvd. 718-279-5922

Conti's Ristorante Though it's only been around for about six years, this eatery is a neighborhood favorite. All of their pastas are homemade and all the desserts are original creations on Conti's menu of fine northern Italian cuisine. 249-11 Northern Blvd. 718-428-8800

To do:

Little Neck is seen as a great place to live and eat, but entertainment isn't very far off. A quick trip on the Q12 bus down Northern Boulevard brings you to neighboring Bayside, which is Little Neck's livelier counterpart. In particular, Bell Boulevard has a whole nightlife all its own as well as some great bars and cafes.

Cue Bar Twenty-one full-size pool tables, a fireplace lounge and an award-winning New American menu makes Cue Bar a unique and lively nighttime roost. If that weren't enough, there's a 50-foot bar, free Wi-Fi, a DJ and karaoke to boot. 45-18 Bell Blvd. 718-631-2646

Lakeville Park This is a small park on the border of Little Neck and Nassau County equipped with a full playground and two basketball courts. And every Sunday at 3 p.m., there is a live music series featuring local jazz, classical, folk and acoustic performances. Intersection of Pembroke and Concord avenues.

Udall's Cove and Douglas Manor Dock Along the shore of the peninsula that makes up Little Neck-Douglaston is a quiet, meandering street with a beautiful view of Little Neck Bay and the Throgs Neck Bridge. This unofficial promenade is one of the more picturesque destinations within city limits. Shore Road and Bayview Avenue.

Alley Pond Golf Center Open 365 days a year, Alley Pond has 77 driving range stalls, 30 of which are heated, and two miniature golf courses. Recently renovated with plenty of parking, it's a fantastic place to stop your car and work on your drive. 232-01 Northern Blvd. 718-255-9187

To shop:

Just like the dining situation, almost all of the retail in Little Neck is along the main drag, Northern Boulevard. At first glance, there appears to be little more than beauty salons, real estate offices, pet stores and home furnishing outlets, but the strip and the surrounding neighborhoods are interspersed with some great shopping stops.

The Music Zoo This music shop has a fantastic selection of new, pre-owned and vintage guitars and basses as well as a decent spread of amplifiers and other rock and roll accoutrement. They also do repairs, trade-ins, rentals and music lessons. 255-03 Northern Blvd. 718-631-9292

Canon USA A quick drive east of the border into Long Island gets you to this Canon camera outlet with a fantastic selection. They have a variety of digital cameras, printers and assorted electronics that range from consumer to professional use and everything in between. 1 Canon Plaza 516-328-5000

Dynamix Antique Art On the border of Queens and Nassau is this dusty little antique shop filled with beautiful statues, vases and collectors' furniture. Much of the inventory is of eastern origin and in great condition. 254-23 Northern Blvd. 718-225-0125

Real estate:

Little Neck is a relatively undisturbed swath of winding streets with single- and two-family houses that encompass every residential style of the early 20th century. Some include Tudor, Mediterranean, Queen Anne, Arts and Crafts and Colonial Revival style homes while others are more modern bungalows or split-level ranches.

Residents are typically middle-aged, middle-income families with children. Rentals are fairly uncommon. In recent years, homes have sold in the historic districts for upwards of $1,500,000. Due to lax zoning laws, many of the smaller homes have been torn down to build sprawling mansions that the recent housing slump may not be able to support.

To buy:

Single-family Center Hall Colonial (four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom) with two fireplaces and an enclosed porch: $849,000 Tudor Colonial (six-bedroom, five-and-a-half bathroom) with cathedral ceilings, hardwood floors and in-ground pool: $1,400,000 Deepdale Gardens co-op (one-bedroom, one-bathroom) with courtyard location, upgraded kitchen and breakfast nook, built in 1960: $259,900 Luxury Hi-Rise (one-bedroom, one-bathroom) with tennis court and swimming pool access, utilities included: $215,000 Two story Cape (four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom) with finished basement and brand new kitchen: $659,000

Recently sold:

Large Tudor Colonial (three-bedroom, three-bathroom) on large property with 2 detached garages: $1,150,000 Raised-Ranch (four-bedroom, three-bathroom) with living room, dining room and eat-in kitchen with granite counter-tops: $835,000

Contact: Susana Cid at Little Neck Realty, 718-224-0300, www.littleneckrealty.com

Q & A with Gregory Christ

Even though he doesn't live here, Gregory Christ might be the best authority on life in Little Neck, Queens. As one of the partners of the iconic neighborhood diner called Scobee, Christ hosts wave after wave of loyal locals and weary travelers. Opened in 1961, Scobee has been a family operation for generations and a second home for many in Little Neck.

Q: Why Little Neck? What's so great about this area?

A: It's like a small, self-contained town not as bustling as the city but not as rural as Long Island. And the demographics of the area there's all this diversity, which is great. It's been a good area to us for a long time and we've been here since the 60s.

Q: What is running a business like in Little Neck?

A: Well, we must be doing something right if we've been here for all these years. But a lot more restaurants have popped up since it's a good area with relatively affluent people. Other places have come and gone like anyplace else, but the businesses here are fairly constant. With today's market though, it's pretty rough out there.

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