Easily accessible by the J train, the working/ middle-class neighborhood of Woodhaven offers Victorian homes, quaint row houses, tree-lined streets and a well-loved gem — Forest Park, the sprawling 500-acre-plus green space extending from Woodhaven to neighboring Glendale.
It’s both a quiet and busy neighborhood with sleepy blocks, bustling pieces of Jamaica Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard and a number of establishments hailing from eras past that preserve its history.
“Woodhaven is sometimes referred to as a haven in the city, which I think is a fitting nickname because I’ve never felt too far from nature, and I don’t feel the bustle people usually associate with New York,” said Alex Blenkinsopp, a lifelong resident, Community Board 9 member and director of communications for the Woodhaven Residents Block Association (WRBA).
The neighborhood’s transportation options make it easy to get to downtown Manhattan, Brooklyn or other parts of Queens.
And many residents take advantage of Forest Park, which offers running tracks, playgrounds, a carousel that was recently given landmark status by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, a dog run, a golf course and tennis courts.
“It’s a fantastic backyard to have,” said WRBA president Ed Wendell.
According to local experts, Woodhaven was settled in the mid-18th century and was originally named Woodville, but after the neighborhood petitioned for its own post office shortly after its founding, the name was changed to avoid confusion with another Woodville in upstate New York.
According to Blenkinsopp, in the past five years Woodhaven has experienced an increase in civic involvement, something he said adds to its already close-knit feel.
That neighborly ambience is what keeps him and Wendell from moving out, they said.
“A few years ago, we didn’t know anybody; I wasn’t involved,” said Wendell, who is also a lifelong resident. But after starting the Project Woodhaven blog with a friend in 2008, he became more civic-minded. Soon after, in 2009, he was voted president of the block association.
“In a way, we’re born-again Woodhavenites,” he said of himself and his wife, Josephine.
Blenkinsopp and Wendell added that the community engagement is not only fulfilling, but much needed in the neighborhood.
“You don’t have to feel anonymous if you don’t want to,” Blenkinsopp said. “If you do want to feel like you’re part of a community, Woodhaven can offer that to you.”
But the area is not without its problems. Noise, graffiti and illegal building conversions make for frequent complaints. Some recent crimes, including one in which 17-year-old Natasha Martinez was stabbed multiple times on her way home from work on July 29 — she survived the attack — have threatened that safe feeling.
But according to Wendell and Blenkinsopp, those kinds of crimes are infrequent.
“It’s not perfect,” Blenkinsopp said, but “there’s always going to be problems with any urban neighborhood.”
He stressed that’s why he hopes more residents will get involved.
“I myself have been frustrated with some aspects, but I’m much more motivated now to do something to make Woodhaven better,” Blenkinsopp said. “There’s always been crime and noise. It’s not to say we shouldn’t try to fix it. But that’s what happens when you live in a city; you constantly have to work against problems to ensure they don’t get worse.
Woodhaven is surrounded by the neighborhoods of Cypress Hills, Glendale, Richmond Hill and Ozone Park.
It runs from Eldert Lane and Dexter Court in the west to 100th Street and the abandoned LIRR tracks in the east. To the south, it stretches from Atlantic Avenue up to Park Lane South and through Forest Park, where it ends in the north at Myrtle Avenue.
J train to 104th Street, Woodhaven Blvd., 85th Street-Forest Parkway and 75th Street
Q11, Q21, Q24, Q52, Q53, Q56
Queens Library Woodhaven Branch, 8541 Forest Parkway, 718-849-1010
U.S. Post Office, Woodhaven Branch, 8642 Forest Parkway, 718-296-9232
The 102nd Precinct covers the Woodhaven neighborhood. The crimes that decreased the most in the past 20 years include robberies, down to 322 in 2012 compared with 1,238 in 1993, and burglaries, down to 313 in 2012 compared with 1,503 in 1993. But according to the precinct, crime has spiked so far this year due to grand larcenies like car break-ins and thefts, particularly near Woodhaven’s western Brooklyn border. Ten more officers were assigned to the precinct in June.
CELEBRITIES FROM WOODHAVEN
-- Adrien Brody
-- Brian Hyland
-- Mae West
-- George Gershwin
A variety of restaurants that line Jamaica Avenue reflect Woodhaven’s diversity — offering American, Spanish, Caribbean, and Thai cuisine, among others.
Avenue Diner, 9106 Jamaica Ave. Avenue Diner is a well-loved spot offering original wraps, panini, steaks and seafood. 718-441-0582.
Thailand Kitchen, 8605 Jamaica Ave. This is the nabe’s go-to Thai restaurant, serving up pad Thai, basil fried rice, coconut chicken soup and lemongrass shrimp soup, among other dishes. 718- 847-4700.
Mama Meena’s Family Restaurant, 94-20 Jamaica Ave. Mama Meena’s is known for its authentic Filipino food, with dishes ranging from chicken Afritada to Daing Na Bangus, milkfish that is marinated and deep fried. 718- 696-8882.
Neir’s Tavern, 87-48 78th St. More than 180 years old, Neir’s Tavern is one of the oldest bars in New York. It’s known as the first bar where singer and actress Mae West performed. 718-296-0600.
Mike’s Pub, 7919 Jamaica Ave. This Irish bar is another neighborhood favorite where longtime locals mingle and tell “back-in-the-day” stories to newcomers. 718-296-9683.
Nebu Hookah Lounge, 86-72 86th St. This relatively new and casual lounge has more than 30 hookah flavors. 347-881- 7700.
Schmidt’s Candy, 9415 Jamaica Ave. This 88-year-old candy shop aims to satisfy any sweet tooth with handcrafted and hand-dipped chocolates and old-fashioned jar candy, among other treats. 718-846-9326.
Ladybug House, 87-10 Jamaica Ave. This quaint jewelry store offers affordable chains, bracelets and rings from $2 to $16 and higher. 347-523-0197.
Forest Park, Woodhaven Boulevard between Park Lane South and Myrtle Avenue. There are a number of activities at Forest Park, including riding the historic Forest Park Carousel, concerts at the bandshell, tennis, jogging, golf and the newly updated greenhouse. Nycgovparks.org.
Wonderful Woodhaven Street Fair, Jamaica Avenue from 80th Street to Woodhaven Boulevard. The annual street fair, held every October (this year’s will be on Oct. 20 from noon to 6 p.m.) by the Greater Woodhaven Development Corp., offers a fun time for families. Festivities include inflatable fun houses, pony rides, live music and a variety of vendors. 718-805- 0202.
Woodhaven Sporting Goods Range, 7416 Jamaica Ave. It is known as the largest indoor range in New York City and offers classes to security guards, police officers and civilians. Some classes include hunter safety and archery safety. 718-296-8888.
Residents of Woodhaven are seeing some of their longtime wishes come true.
In 2012, the Forest Park Carousel, affectionately known as “the jewel of Forest Park,” managed to scoop up a vendor, NY Carousel, enabling it to operate once again after its shuttering in 2008. Last May, the hand-carved carousel reopened. This June, it attained landmark status from the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission — something that community leaders pushed to get for decades.
The Woodhaven Library, which has been undergoing major renovations since March, reopened to the community in August. According to the Queens Library, the branch now has a handicapped-accessible bathroom and a new circulation desk with self-check-in and -checkout kiosks, among other updates.
The neighborhood is also seeing some new safety measures. Alex Blenkinsopp, director of communications of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association, noted that a new NYPD security camera will be installed on Jamaica Avenue and 75th Street by year’s end. However, he said the precise location is not necessarily final.
Q&A with Ed Wendell, community leader
Ed Wendell is president of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association and of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society. He and his wife, Josephine, have lived in the area all their lives.
What do you love about Woodhaven? What do you do for fun here?
We go walking every morning at the track in Forest Park, you meet people and you get to know people’s names. We’re always keeping an eye out for community-oriented events like blood drives or parades, where you can go about and see your friends and support people.
And what are some drawbacks of the neighborhood?
What I see and am disappointed in is just a lack of regard for cleanliness. The amount of garbage piling up on Jamaica Avenue or at corners is very discouraging. And noise is still a No. 1 complaint of residents. Also, the city doesn’t trim the trees; there are branches hanging on wires or leaning on houses, and the city doesn’t really respond to these requests.
So what makes you stay in Woodhaven?
We were thinking of moving to the Catskills; we wanted a small-town life where people knew each other and were friendly. But since I got involved with the WRBA, the neighborhood has become a lot smaller. We had been living in the small town we were looking for all along and just didn’t know it.