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City Living: Richmond Hill has gorgeous homes and lots of culture

Victorian home in Richmond Hill.

Victorian home in Richmond Hill. Photo Credit: See more photos of Richmond Hill in the gallery below. (Uli Seit)

Ethnic eateries serving up dishes like roti and curry or rice and beans with yucca; historic churches mingling in close proximity to Hindu temples and Muslim masjids; bustling retail corridors with sari shops flaunting a colorful array of traditional South Asian attire; and well-kept streets lined with small single-family homes and large Victorians — this is the middle class neighborhood of Richmond Hill in southern Queens.

Known for its diversity, vibrancy and history, the nabe offers plenty for those looking to find culture, family and a slice of history.

Its many Victorian houses, including the Queen Anne styles on the north side, grace quiet blocks, offering a suburban charm. However, getting to Manhattan could take as little as 30 minutes on the A or J trains.

“It’s a great place to live because there’s access to all of these cultural resources in terms of retail, food and religion,” said Richard David, the executive director of the Indo-Caribbean Alliance, a group that advocates for programs and services in the neighborhood. “And it’s really cheap compared to a lot of other places.”

The neighborhood’s friendly vibe is what convinced Simcha Weisman, a resident of 38 years, to remain in Richmond Hill and build his printing business there.

“The people welcomed me very nicely,” said Weisman, who emigrated from Israel.

Weisman, who is the vice president of the Richmond Hill Block Association and president of the One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center, takes pride in the area’s diversity.

“You see it in the schools and in neighborhood events,” he said. “People come from all parts of the world and they all consider Richmond Hill a great place to raise a family.”

According to the Richmond Hill Historical Society, originally, many Europeans including the Irish, Italian and Dutch settled in Richmond Hill during the 16 and 1700s.

But in the last 40 years, an influx of Indo-Caribbean and South Asian immigrants migrated to the neighborhood. The neighborhood is divided on the north and south by Atlantic Avenue. On the south side of Richmond Hill, Caribbean Americans and South Asian Americans dominate whereas on the north, descendants of the early European settlers remain.

Richmond Hill’s main commercial corridors are Jamaica Avenue, which offers plenty of service-based establishments and Latin-American restaurants, 101st Avenue which is populated by sari shops and establishments selling South Asian products, and Liberty Avenue, also known as “Little Guyana” for its large Indo-Guyanese community. Liberty Avenue is dotted with roti shops, vegetable markets and bakeries that cater to the population with a variety of Caribbean-style cakes and pastries.

Though the neighborhood is relatively safe, Weisman said crime went up in the last couple of years.

“It’s a big territory; we don’t have enough patrol cops and cars,” he said. “That’s what creates the problem.”

But despite the area’s share of crimes from time to time, David still considers it a prime place to live.

“I think rightfully, Richmond Hill is one of the most welcoming places. People won’t just give you directions, they’ll walk with you to make sure you understand where you’re going,” he said.

He also highlighted the neighborhood’s high level of activism by local residents.

“Everything like voting rights to environmental and social justice is tackled,” he said. “It’s really incredible how much Richmond Hill residents take ownership of their neighborhood.”

FIND IT:

Richmond Hill is surrounded by Woodhaven and Ozone Park to the west, Kew Gardens to the north, South Ozone Park to the south and Jamaica to the east. North of Atlantic Avenue its western boundary is 101st Street. South of Atlantic Avenue its western boundary is 107th Street. The Van Wyck Expressway marks its eastern boundary. Its northern boundary is 85th Avenue up to Lefferts Boulevard; from Lefferts Boulevard to the Van Wyck the northern boundary is Jamaica Avenue. Its southern boundary is 109th Avenue.

TRANSPORTATION:

Q8, Q9, Q10, Qm18, Q24, Q37, Q41, Q55, Q56, Q112 buses

A, J trains

LIBRARY:

Queens Library at Richmond Hill, 118-14 Hillside Ave.

Queens Library, Lefferts branch, 103-34 Lefferts Blvd.

POST OFFICE:

USPS, 117-04 101st Ave.

USPS, 122-01 Jamaica Ave.

CRIME:

The 102nd Precinct at 87-34 118th St. covers Richmond Hill. According to the NYPD’s CompStat report, the precinct had high levels of grand larceny auto, burglary and robbery complaints in 1990 with 4,145, 1,847, and 1,067 respectively. By 2012, those numbers dropped to complaints of 230 GLA, 313 burglaries and 326 robberies. For the week of Dec. 16-Dec. 22, 2013 there were seven GLA complaints, up from to two during the same week in 2012. There were five robbery complaints during that week in 2013 compared to three in 2012. There were zero rapes and murders reported by the precinct in those weeks.

CELEBRITIES FROM RICHMOND HILL:

Bob Sheppard, deceased, public address announcer (AKA The Voice of Yankee Stadium) for the New York Yankees (born in Richmond Hill)

Phil Rizzuto, deceased, pro baseball player for the Yankees (attended Richmond Hill High School)

TO EAT:

Sybil’s West Indian Bakery, 132-17 Liberty Ave.

This flagship location of the restaurant is well known and loved in and outside of Richmond Hill for its authentic Guyanese dishes including curry, fried rice with barbeque chicken and black pudding. 718-835-9235

Atlantic Diner, 111-16 Atlantic Ave.

This newly renovated, 24-hour diner offers everything from chicken parmigiana and steaks to Belgian waffles and sandwiches. 718-849-6673

Alfie’s #1 Pizza Pasta, 86-08 117th St.

A neighborhood favorite for many years, Alfie's dishes up New York Style pizza, garlic knots, paninis, and sweets like zeppoles and Nutella pie. 718-849-8701

TO PARTY:

Maracas New York Night Club, 121-08 Jamaica Ave. One of the few Caribbean-themed nightclubs in New York City, Maracas caters to Richmond Hill’s West Indian crowd with popular reggae, dancehall and soca music. 718-848-7171

Crazy Willy’s, 117-10 Jamaica Ave.

This bar and lounge takes the shape of a boat inside and offers a mini escape with Latin American food, tropical-themed drinks and live music on Wednesdays. 718-441-5614

Level Ultra Lounge,  123-07 Liberty Ave.

The DJs here spin classic hip-hop and dancehall tracks as the crowd indulges in drinks and hookah. 718-322-3000

TO SHOP:

Rubie’s Costume Company, 120-08 Jamaica Ave.

Rubie’s grew from a mom-and-pop store to a giant manufacturer and distributor of Halloween costumes and accessories. They also rent out costumes. 718-846-1008

Richmond Hill Flea Market, 117-09 Hillside Ave.

Held in the Richmond Hill Bingo Hall every Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the building of what used to be a movie theater, the flea market offers affordable finds ranging from vintage to modern. 347-709-7661

Neena Fashions, 119-03 Liberty Ave.

This shop sells vibrant, colorful saris and kurtas for women and men and offers friendly service. 718-322-9444

TO DO:

Annual Phagwah Parade

Held every March starting from Liberty Avenue and ending at the Phil Rizzuto Park on 126th Street and Atlantic Avenue, the parade celebrates the Holi festival of the Hindu new year. It is also known as the festival of colors as people play with colored powder to ring in the arrival of spring and the triumph of good over evil. The parade and festivities attracts more than 40,000 people from many cultural backgrounds to Richmond Hill.

Rack-Em-Up, 102-14 Jamaica Ave.

This pool hall provides a huge space to play and enjoy fun music and drinks at an affordable price. 718-441-8340

The Richmond Hill Historical Society Archival Museum, Leo F. Kearns Funeral Home 85-66 115th St.

See a photographic and written history about old Richmond Hill, curated by the historical society. It was closed for a short time for renovations but Richmond Hill Historical Society President Ivan Mrakovcic says finishing touches are expected in late January. Open by appointment only. 718-704-9317

BUZZ:

The Lefferts Boulevard A Train station at Liberty Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard is set to receive an ADA-compatible elevator after the Richmond Hill Economic Development Council lobbied for it in 2010. The elevator will be part of larger subway renovation projects at stations along the Liberty Avenue tracks in Richmond Hill and Ozone Park by the Metropolitan Transit Authority. The MTA announced its plans for the elevator in 2012.

According to Vishnu Mahadeo, executive director of the RHEDC, the elevator will run from the street level up to the station.

“This gives the MTA an opportunity to improve the physical outlook of the station because it needs major capital improvement,” he said “I’m happy to see the MTA listen to our concerns.”  Construction hasn’t started but Mahadeo said it will soon.

The MTA could not be reached for comment as of press time.

REAL ESTATE:

To buy

109-49 131st St. Three-bedroom, two-bathroom townhouse; 2,406 square feet: $450,000.

101-54 109th St. Four-bedroom, two-bathroom detached single-family house; 1,216-square feet: $429,000.

102-11 89th Ave. Three-bedroom, two-bathroom condo 1,980 square feet: $679,000.

To rent

104-09 103rd Ave. Four-bedroom, one bathroom single-family home: 3,110 square feet. $1,950 per month.

87-24 129th St. #3F. One-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment. 700 square feet: $1,300 per month.

87-99 110th St. Three-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment. 1,000 square feet: $1,700 per month.

Looking for a home in Richmond Hill?

Gadura Real Estate, gadurarealestate.com

Lucid Real Estate, LLC, luciojovelnet.com

Q&A with Anandi Premlall: Community activist

Having lived in the nabe for more than 25 years, Anandi Premlall is known for her community service in Richmond Hill. She is a co-creator of Love, Life and Liberty, a healing space on 107th Avenue where residents who are living with cancer or lost a loved one to the disease can receive support. It will open in early March 2014. She is also one of the supporters of the Queensway Project, a plan to transform 3 1/2 miles of unused track of the Long Island Rail Road’s Rockaway Beach Branch into a Highline-style park.

Why did you move to and stay in Richmond Hill?

The people, the culture, and the liveliness of it, it’s a very friendly neighborhood. There’s great food and it’s active yet quiet at the same time — meaning the main streets are vibrant, but a few blocks away you can have your own peaceful backyard.

What are some changes you’ve witnessed in your time here?

In recent years we had a huge influx of South Asians and there are a lot more Indo Caribbean people from when I originally moved here. At that time it was more mixed. Now you see a lot more ethnic establishments like roti shops and sari shops as well as fast food establishments. Many of the old pizza shops are gone.

What are some of your favorite local spots?

A new place, Tropical Isle at Lefferts Boulevard and Liberty Avenue; I get fresh bread from them. I love Veggie Castle, they’re pretty delicious. And of course, Sybil’s — it’s a staple here.

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