The sprawling, tree-lined boulevards and quaint colonial cottages that color Fresh Meadows' landscape easily recall images of the picturesque, suburban American Dream.
Just a hop, skip and a bus ride away from Manhattan's chaos, Fresh Meadows is an unexpected relief from all of New York's big-city living.
Along Union Turnpike, the main drag, you'll find more commercial appeal with lots of shops, restaurants and, of course, traffic. But the rest of the town seems to have evolved little since its days as rural farmland in the 18th and 19th centuries, with tall, gnarled oak trees, ample flora and wide-open spaces.
"It's the best -- it's like country living in the city," said Steve Sciortino, resident and longtime co-owner of the local pizzeria, Fresh Meadows Pizza. "You have a lot of space and it's very scenic."
However, the community is changing, with the once primarily Jewish population dwindling and more immigrants calling Fresh Meadows home. "It's just a really peaceful community within striking distance of what the city has to offer," said Rich Rinaldi, a Long Island police officer who's lived in Fresh Meadows nearly all his life. "It's a suburban setting within New York City."
Adds Sciortino: "The best thing about Fresh Meadows is the people -- people in Fresh Meadows are great."
Find It Fresh Meadows is defined by Kissena Park to the north, Union Turnpike to the south, the Parsons Boulevard to the west and the Francis Lewis Boulevard and Cunningham Park to the east.
To eat The recent influx of Asian-Americans to Fresh Meadows has decidedly diversified the neighborhood's cuisine. Today you'll find everything from homemade bagels to the freshest sushi.
Fresh Meadows Pizza In the northeast, the pizzeria is a staple feature of any town. Fresh Meadows Pizza is just that, dressed down during the day with pizza by the slice for locals on their lunch break, and dressed up in the evening with tablecloths and waitstaff service. 195-06 69th Ave. 718-217-2700
New Hong Kong Garden Another necessity? Greasy, cheap Chinese food. New Hong Kong Garden is Fresh Meadows' answer to that equation, with lunch specials including soup and rice running as cheap as $4.50 a plate. And if you're not in the mood for Chinese, worry not -- the restaurant also serves fried chicken. 195-11 69th Ave. 718-264-1313
Breeza Café and Bagels & Co. 188-02 Union Turnpike 718-217-7755 One of the last remaining outposts of the once majority Jewish community, Breeza Café and its adjoining bagel spot is testimony to the neighborhood's diverse makeup. Serving everything from sushi to spaghetti and specializing in Jewish cuisine, it's the perfect place to head when you can't make up your mind.
Acquista Trattoria So there's a little debate on whether this family-owned Italian joint is actually in Fresh Meadows or Flushing, but it's a safe bet that both parties try to claim it because it's just so darn good. Check out specialties straight from the tip of the boot like the gnocchi al telefono or the farfalle alla salmone. 178-01 Union Turnpike 718-969-1411
To shop: Malawi Step into this ultra-funky, hippie-chic boutique and you'll wonder whether you've been teleported to the East Village. Patchwork and peace signs abound, as does pretty much every other form of embellishment (created in-house by the store's staff). 187-22 Union Turnpike 718-454-9699
I.O.G. Supermarket This Chinese supermarket stocks goods to satisfy every variety of pan-Asian craving. Whether you're hunting for extra fresh fish for sushi, sea cucumber, Pocky Stix, or are just curious to have a look around -- this spot never fails to impress (after all, I.O.G. stands for "Island of Gold"). 195-05 69th Ave.
Fresh Meadows Shopping Center Find just about anything at the aptly titled Fresh Meadows Shopping Center, the main place to pick up shopping mall basics in the neighborhood. Plentiful are customary mall chain stores -- Starbucks, Kohls and Gap galore. 188th and 64th Ave.
Meadows Stationary The title is a tad misleading -- other than an aisle of cards and gift-wrap in the back, Meadows Stationary doesn't actually carry anything its name might imply. It is, however, a local hot spot where residents come to pick up the paper, or buy a lottery ticket, then hang out and discuss the day's headlines. 61-46 188th St. 718-454-2353
Lulu's Bakery Stocking decadent Italian pastries and perfectly pulled espresso, Lulu's is a danger to anyone on a diet. Grab em to go, or snag a seat at one of the few tables to soak up some neighborhood flavor. 185-26 Union Turnpike 718-454-4300
To party: Fresh Meadows may be a quiet town, but its proximity to St. John's University means there are at least a few spots to wet your whistle. After all, it's basic physics: Where college kids go, bars follow.
Sly Fox Inn Popular with the nearby SJU crowd, Sly Fox Inn serves up tempting (2-for-1) happy hour specials and standard bar food. Hit the bar up on Monday nights and get your fortune told by a psychic. 177-23 Union Turnpike 718-969-8169
Iguanas Delicious margaritas and enticing happy hour specials attract college students as well as locals. The Mexican fare is worth noting, too. Feeling risky? Try the tower, a three-tiered monstrosity with layers of meat tacos, chicken flautas and quesadillas. 179-11 Union Turnpike 718-969-5447
King Yum A Fresh Meadows staple since the '50s, King Yum used to be one of the only Chinese establishments in Fresh Meadows. Now, it's one of many, but the fun tiki bar decor and exotic rum cocktails put King Yum at the head of the pack. 181-08 Union Turnpike 718-380-1918
To do: Cunningham Park At 358 acres, Cunningham Park is one of Queens' largest parks. The borough's residents from all of the neighboring 'hoods come year round for sporting, picnicking or just lounging. The park is popular in the summer, boasting events such as outdoor concerts by the New York Philharmonic. 193rd Street between Aberdeen Road and Radnor Road
AMC Loews Fresh Meadows 7 Originally a giant, two-screen theater constructed in 1959, Fresh Meadows 7 now boasts (naturally) seven screens and all the latest blockbusters. It's an especially popular attraction on weekend nights and Sunday afternoons. 190-02 Horace Harding Boulevard 718-454-6767
The arrival of a large Asian-American population has meant a lot of change in Fresh Meadows -- evidenced by better Chinese food and sushi options.
However, with local shops starting to cater to the Asian population, many residents end up traveling farther for necessities, said resident Rich Rinaldi.
Pizza shop owner Steve Sciortino has noted the change, as well: "It is harder for people who don't have cars. They have to go father for groceries and the like. But I tell you, if you want fresh fish, [I.O.G. Supermarket] is the place to go. Queens is turning Asian and I love it."
Rinaldi adds, "The neighborhood is really overall becoming a mixed community."
The Basics: Police Station107th Precinct 71-01 Parsons Boulevard 718-969-5100 Transportation: Subway: F train to 179th (transfer to the Q17). Buses: Q17, Q26, Q27, Q30, Q31, Q75, Q88.
Schools Francis Lewis High School, 58-20 Utopia Parkway; P.S. 26 Rufus King school, 195-02 69th Avenue; M.S. 216 George J. Ryan Middle School, 64-20 175 Street; P.S. 173 The Fresh Meadows School, 174-10 67th Avenue.
Crime The 107th Precinct reported one murder, seven rapes, 81 robberies and 109 burglaries so far this year. For the same period last year, there were no murders, four rapes, 74 robberies and 103 burglaries.
Q&A with Rich Rinaldi: Rich Rinaldi moved to Fresh Meadows 45 years ago as a toddler -- and he says he'll never leave.
What's the best thing about Fresh Meadows? I think it's overall a really pleasant neighborhood. One of the nicest things about it is that it's centrally located -- you can go to the city, to Long Island, or to the ocean (I really like to fish). It gives you a lot of variety -- the best of all the world is here or a few minutes away.
What's your favorite thing to do in Fresh Meadows? Come to Fresh Meadows Pizza. Seriously. I've known these guys most of my life -- about 30 years -- and it's really a community spot.
Who would like living in Fresh Meadows? I think it's a really family-oriented neighborhood -- even though I'm not married. I remember growing up here with a ton of neighborhood kids, and the family-oriented aspect hasn't really changed. It's not a tough neighborhood like the inner city; it's really just a peaceful community.
How has Fresh Meadows changed? For many years it was really a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, but 20 years ago probably a lot of things started to change around here. Over the past five to 10 years it's gone from mostly Jewish to Asian, Middle-Eastern; there's a few Italians, Irish and blacks, too. But I wouldn't say it's negative -- it's just a change. It's still a very peaceful place.
What are the downsides to living in Fresh Meadows? It's really just a residential community. It's not a place to go sightseeing, and it's not really a party destination.
Real Estate Fresh Meadows is anchored by the family unit, and the housing reflects it. Most homes are one-family, three-bedroom colonials, though various apartment buildings offer rental and co-op options.
"There's a big demand for housing, said Julia Sheldkert, a local broker who owns her own firm. "It's close to city, taxes are low and the school system's good -- what's not to like? It's very attractive to people who want to have a house."
To Buy: $182,000 for a one-bedroom co-op ( Holliswood Gardens) $237,820 for a two-bedroom co-op (Windsor Oaks) $649,000 for a well-kept, three-bedroom colonial (73-58 190 St.) $729,000 for a recently renovated, three-bedroom colonial (75-06 173 St.) $729,000 for a semi-detached, two-family house (75-18 199 St.)
To Rent $1,200 for a one-bedroom, second-floor garden apartment (196-33 73rd Ave.) $1,500 for a renovated two-bedroom apartment (75-66 197 St.) $2,188 for a renovated two-bedroom apartment in a house (73-10 198 St.) $2,200 for a three-bedroom apartment (75-43 168 St.)