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City Living: Ridgewood has tons of fun sandwiched in

Shops along Myrtle Avenue.

Shops along Myrtle Avenue. Credit: Shops along Myrtle Avenue. See more photos in the gallery below. (Charles Eckert)

Sitting on the border of Queens and Brooklyn, Ridgewood is packed with the old and new; it is chock full of history and is a popular spot for young people to move today.

Gary Giordano, chairman of Ridgewood’s Community Board 5 moved to the Queens neighborhood nearly three decades ago and said it has maintained a unique charm over the years.

“A lot of the housing was built here between 1900 and 1920,” he said. “If you go to some other Queens neighborhoods, the housing was built a lot more recently.”

Homes Giordano mentioned include some of Ridgewood’s signature old-fashioned single or two-family row houses erected throughout the neighborhood.

Ridgewood, an area of about two square miles with more than 65,000 residents, exists in a somewhat under-the-radar spot right on the border of Brooklyn and Queens.

But the nabe’s commercial districts -- like along Myrtle Avenue, Fresh Pond Road, and Forest Avenue -- are go-to spots for residents of both boroughs looking to shop and run errands.

Some of Ridgewood’s earliest settlers date back to the 1860s.

It was then a predominantly German and Italian community, but the ever-changing demographics of New York City have since diversified the area and brought in more young people, residents said.

Honoring its history, the neighborhood was designated as a historic district in 1986.

The Onderdonk House, a Dutch-American farmhouse at 1820 Flushing Ave., was built in 1709 and is now a local attraction for history buffs.

Other hotbeds of history in Ridgewood include its own theater at 55-27 Myrtle Ave., built in 1916 and designated as a landmark in 2010.

In total, Ridgewood has three landmarked districts, including Stockholm Street, Ridgewood North and Ridgewood South.

Juxtaposed with all the history is a crop of young people who discovered that Ridgewood provides affordable rents in close proximity to popular neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Brooklyn and western Queens.

Sarah Feldman, a Houston, Texas-native, moved here in 2011 and since launched RidgewoodSocial.com, a website dedicated to helping newcomers find their way around.

She also helped start the Ridgewood Market -- an artisan market that showcases the work of countless vendors representing what she calls a blue-collar neighborhood.

Feldman said an influx of eateries and social scenes are reflecting the new, younger demographic.

“There is a strong sense of community and neighborhood here -- something I haven’t seen anywhere else,” she said. “People care about Ridgewood. They want to clean up the streets and be involved.”

Find it:

Ridgewood runs west to east from Flushing Avenue to Fresh Pond Road, and south to north from Cooper Avenue to Metropolitan Avenue.

Transportation:

M train to Fresh Pond Road

L train to Myrtle-Wyckoff avenues

B13, B20, B26, B38, B52, B54, Q39, Q54, Q55 buses

Library:

Ridgewood Library, 20-12 Madison St., 718-821-4770

Post office:

USPS Ridgewood branch, 6060 Myrtle Ave., 718-418-0793.

Crime:

Ridgewood is served by the 104th Precinct at 64-2 Catalpa Ave. Its commanding officer Capt. Christopher Manson said his officers are close with the community. Crime is down 78% here since 1993 and 44% since 2001. There have been 18 robberies, 26 burglaries and 34 grand larcenies reported by the precinct so far this year, according to its CompStat report.

Notable people from Ridgewood:

Harry Houdini
Ron Eldard, actor (lived)
Pedro Beato, professional baseball player (lived)

To eat:

Joe’s Restaurant, 6611 Forest Ave.

Joe’s dishes just what any Italian food lover would expect from a neighborhood favorite. Residents used words like “old school,” “mom-and-pop” and “exceptional” to describe this family-style eatery. 718-497-1300

Tasty Restaurant, 58-02 Myrtle Ave.

Another community staple storefront known for its breakfast dishes and cheap eats. The Tasty Restaurant is crowded with people more often than not – especially on weekends, but never enough to affect the service. 718-456-0954

Houdini Restaurant, 15-63 Decatur St.

One of Ridgewood’s top nighttime hotspots named after one of its most notorious residents. Houdini is just a short walk from the L train and serves up dishes like various signature pizzas, burrata appetizers, desserts and even wine. Ask neighborhood natives what they think of Houdini and you’ll hear words like “underground” and “hidden gem.” 718-456-3770

To party:

Queens Tavern, 6869 Fresh Pond Rd.

This pub is on the rise in Ridgewood, according to its residents, with more and more community events being booked from week to week. Formerly known as Casey’s Tavern, the Fresh Pond Road watering hole is in the heart of the neighborhood and was described as the go-to Ridgewood pub. 718-821-9337

Gottscheer Hall, 657 Fairview Ave.

Anyone looking to throw a party in Ridgewood has one of the city’s hottest spots at their fingertips in Ridgewood. Gottscheer Hall has some of the neighborhood’s favorite drinks and dishes like potato pancakes -- all at an affordable price. Its ballroom also allows for a place to let loose and dance. 718-366-3030

Spolem Cafe, 66-30 Fresh Pond Rd.

If loud pubs aren’t your thing, then Spolem Café could be your new favorite place in Ridgewood. This coffee shop has been described as cozy and friendly with an interesting food menu with items like Belgian waffles to accompany its tasty drink options. Don’t’ forget to try the dessert menu. 347-725-3379

To shop:

Ridgewood Market, Gottscheer Hall, 657 Fairview Ave.

The vendors might change, but the hometown feel never fades at the Ridgewood Market. This seasonal attraction showcases a variety of different offerings from every corner of the neighborhood, including anything from food to trinkets. Last year, one vendor even offered handmade voodoo doll earrings. 347-460-7549

Art Cove, 6009 Myrtle Ave.

Here is a mom-and-pop shop that some residents described as something you won’t find in most other neighborhoods throughout the city. Art Cove is Ridgewood’s best local option for art supplies and more for the creative thinkers looking to beautify their surroundings -- all still available at an affordable price. 718-381-7782

A Second Glance Thrift, 6165 Metropolitan Ave.

New to Ridgewood? This thrift shop can fulfill just about any need a neighborhood newcomer might have when trying to stock up for their new pad. This place has anything from furniture to jewelry for anyone looking for a good deal on any kinds of hidden gems. What’s even more impressive is the knowledge of its staffers -- both with the shop’s inventory and with whatever you might want to bring in yourself.  917-340-2747

To do:

Ridgewood YMCA, 69-02 64th St.

People in Ridgewood have referred to their local YMCA as the best place to bulk up and get in shape without breaking the bank. The Ridgewood YMCA offers different classes, including yoga and weight training, to help anyone in the neighborhood develop a fit lifestyle without having to subscribe to long-term contracts at any other chain store gym. 212-912-2180

Grover Cleveland Park, Stanhope Street and Fairvier Avenue

The park was named in honor of former U.S. President Grover Cleveland and was described by residents as a small, intimate place for neighbors to unwind. The park may be small, but it has all the features anyone looks for in a park, including some shade, open space, a playground, jogging path, soccer fields and even handball courts. It also offers an impressive view of the Manhattan skyline. Nycgovparks.org

Kids Fun House, 62-73 Fresh Pond Rd.

There is plenty of room for family life in the neighborhood. Here, parents have a place to celebrate birthdays or to otherwise get their kids tired for the night. 718-418-5437

The buzz:

Gary Giordano, who chairs local Community Board 5, said Ridgewood is on an upward swing as the city recently completed key renovations throughout the neighborhood -- particularly at its subway stations.

The area’s subway stops on Seneca Avenue, Forest Avenue and Fresh Pond Road received major upgrades, particularly to their staircases.

“A lot of new people moving here are not native New York City residents,” he said. “That shows there has been much more of a boom in the local economy.”

Giordano said the beloved Ridgewood Theater is also getting a lot of attention lately, after achieving landmark status in 2010. The company that purchased the century-old building applied to have its upper floors converted into residential rental space.

Real estate

Rental housing in Ridgewood has been on the rise because of skyrocketing costs in nearby Bushwick in Brooklyn, according to Streeteasy.com. The heart of Ridgewood is home to small Romanesque two or three-story walkups along major strips like Myrtle Avenue, where a good chunk of the area’s young newcomers have settled in. The neighborhood’s best-kept secrets have seemed to be getting discovered with Brooklyn’s hipster status quietly bleeding across the border, Ridgewood residents said.

To buy:

5715 Catalpa Ave. Five-bedroom, three-bathroom townhouse with eight total rooms, large backyard, finished basement and terrace; 2,001 square feet: $670,000.

852 Cypress Ave. #2E One and a half bedrooms with loft, one bath, with storage and common roof deck; 857 square feet: $575,000.

To rent:

1708 Woodbine St. Two bedrooms, one bathroom in a three-story apartment building built in 1930 with all-new windows, hardwood floors, stainless appliances, porcelain bathroom and several closets; 900 square feet: $1,715 a month.

Looking for a home in Ridgewood?

Crifasi Real Estate, crifasi.com

Hillel Realty Group, hillelrealtygroup.com

Q&A with Toni Binanti of Rudy’s Bakery and Café at 905 Seneca Ave.

Rudy’s Bakery has become one of the storefront staples of Ridgewood after decades on Seneca Avenue, dishing out coffee, fine desserts and more. Owner Toni Binanti first landed there 34 years ago and said she has watched the neighborhood evolve from her shop window ever since. And with each shift, Binanti and her bakery followed, most recently renovating its interior to include a new café seating area to serve the area’s incoming young demographic.

How would you describe Ridgewood to a neighborhood newcomer?

When I first came to Ridgewood, it was known to be a very humble neighborhood where everyone knew each other. It still is a very united neighborhood. We still know our neighbors and everyone likes to shop at their local stores and hear the stories of years ago.

What is one thing you noticed that has changed over your three decades in the area?

Years ago, people used to spend more time and chitchat at the bakery. Now, you have a lot more working people -- but they are still amazing people. Ridgewood and its people have only gotten better -- never worse.

Where is Ridgewood headed?

I think it’s going to be very trendy. I see it in the newer stores that are coming in. The culture is changing -- it is becoming much more diverse. It’s becoming an even more attractive place in the city and the younger people moving into the area are going to help put Ridgewood on the map.

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