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Ask the Historian: Post Your Queens Questions

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wonder how Ozone Park got its name or why Queens addresses have all those dashes?

All this week, WNYC is collecting your questions about Queens and posing them to the new Queens borough historian, Jack Eichenbaum. Check back here to see his answers and learn more about New York City's largest borough.

More in:

Comments [69]

Carmela Vetrano

Can you settle a dispute. The mound of dirt that was deposited on the land next to the entrance to rikers island is from Midtown Tunnel or Lincoln Tunnel? the area is from 45th st to Hazen St.

Jun. 03 2013 10:16 PM
linda

I came across articles from2008 asking if ahouse in St. albans belonged to Babe Ruth. It did,as my grandfather bought it from him, I believe in early 40's. What happened to the house? Was it saved?

Jun. 11 2011 12:49 AM
Alex from Illinois

Quick question:

Were advocates of interracial marriage said to have an "agenda" like advocates of gay marriage today are said to have? I ask because I think the progression of both are simply ways in which our culture is evolving, not because they have or had some kind of subversive plan.

Oct. 17 2010 12:53 AM
mary

Wasn't it Holmes Airport in Jac kson Heights? that is what my mother said

Aug. 30 2010 03:25 PM
Peter Capek from Ossining, NY

Jack Eichenbaum said on July 21:

Kit Bland, Adirenne from Astoria, Jay from
Astoria, and Mickey from Woodside all asked
about Queens' confusing street address
system. This is a complex but fascinating
issue which I will endeavor to explain on air
at the end of week. My explanation will be
posted here as well.

We are still waiting anxiously...

Aug. 16 2010 03:56 PM
Chris from Manhattan

I grew up on Leavitt Street in Flushing, across the street from Leavitt Park. Who was Leavitt?

Aug. 15 2010 05:26 PM
Alek Pugachev from Jamaica, NY

How did Jamaica get its name? How old is it?

Aug. 09 2010 10:02 AM
Sandra Flank from Westchester County

In the 1940s, I played on an abandoned airfield near 82nd Street and 30th Avenue in Jackson Heights. It obviously preceeded LaGuardia. Do you know what it was?

Aug. 02 2010 06:00 PM

From Jack Eichenbaum:

The Rockaway peninsula was part of the Town of Hempstead, in Queens County until 1898. But its transportation linkages (two branches of the LIRR) were with western Queens so it stayed with Queens County. The branch of the LIRR that went over Jamaica became the A train in the subway system. The Far Rockaway branch of the LIRR still exists. No direct link to Brooklyn existed until the Marine Park Bridge was built well into the 20th century. As for the naming- the Rockaways lived in the Rockaways!

Larry in Nyack from Nyack NY
I grew up in Rockaway Park. Why is Rockaway part of Queens and not part of Brooklyn? What native American tribe gave Rockaway its name? What railroad served most of Rockaway until the 1950's and why did it leave?

Jul. 30 2010 04:59 PM

From Jack Eichenbaum:

This building was the office of the New York Architectural Terra-Cotta Works which supplied decorative terra cotta ornamentation for many prominent Manhattan buildings. The company went bankrupt in 1928; terra cotta was replaced by other materials. As Kathleen notes, the architecture is striking and the building has been designated as an NYC landmark but no adaptive reuse has emerged.. The parcel is owned by Citibank.

Kathleen from Roosevelt Island
At the southwest corner of Vernon Blvd and Queens Plaza South, just under the 59th Street Bridge, there is a beautiful old brick house with very cool architectural features (the house is now boarded up, behind a chain link fence) -- is there a name for this house? Is there any information / history on the house or any former occupants? Thank you!

Jul. 30 2010 04:56 PM

From Jack Eichenbaum:

None of the East River islands are part of Queens county. Riker’s is part of Bronx County. I defer to my colleague Lloyd Ultan, the Bronx Borough Historian, who can be reached via the Bronx County Historical Society. (But I can assure you that before a causeway was built to Riker’s Island it was only accessible by boat!)

letizia from jackson heights (and others!):
in what year did the city of new york begin remanding inmates on riker's island and and how did people get to riker's island before the bridge on hazen street was erected.

Jul. 30 2010 03:45 PM

From Jack Eichenbaum:

Dennis is correct about the origin of the name “Rego Park”. It is a separate development from Forest Hills, built in the 1930’s, coincident with the subway line (now R/M) that stops at 63 Dr.

Dennis J Katz from Astoria NY 11105:
How old is Rego Park. Is it named for The Rego "REally GOod" Construction Company. Was it a part of Forest Hills?

Jul. 30 2010 03:41 PM

From Jack Eichenbaum:

Forest Hills is at the top of the terminal glacial moraine which slopes down south of Union Turnpike and within Forest Park. Hillside Ave, like the name indicates, is near the bottom!

Carly from Forest Hills, NY:
Where are/were the hills in Forest Hills?

Jul. 30 2010 03:41 PM

From Jack Eichenbaum:

Several reasons. The City had a great water supply from upstate as well as professional police and fire departments to trade for loss of autonomy. Some existing jurisdictions like Long
Island City, a city within Queens County, were effectively broke and the merger bought them out.

Charles , NYC from Manhattan NYC:
Why did an un-new new your city, city , like Queens ever want to join Manhattan and become just another looked down on Outter Borough of Manhattan NYC?

Jul. 30 2010 03:40 PM
Peter Capek from Westchester (formerly Kew Gardens)

I second, and add to, the question asked by Jay from Astoria/E. Elmhurst about street names vs. numbers. When I moved to 81st Avenue in Kew Gardens in 1957, we got junk mail and bills still addressed to "Pembroke Place". Adjacent streets had names like Onslow, and other British-sounding names. When and why were they changed? I've searched NY Times archives in vain.

Jul. 26 2010 01:11 AM
David from Queens

Could you kindly give the history of Forest Hills Gardens as well as the Tennis stadium. Thank you

Jul. 23 2010 06:02 PM
Charles , NYC from Manhattan NYC

Why did an un-new new your city, city , like Queens ever want to join Manhattan and become just another looked down on Outter Borough of Manhattan NYC?

Jul. 23 2010 12:32 PM
John Gee from Pocono Lake, Pa

Yes, like the blurb in the opening paragragh - how DID Ozone Park get its name? From what my parents told me, there were a lot of farm lands in the area - Aqueduct Racetrack being very close by. I bet with livestock or vegetables (like cabbage?) around 70 years ago, the local "air" was something less than 'bracing'. When my folks moved into the house off Conduit Blvd + 79th Street in 1958, they found a toilet bowl in the yard!! No, they didn't keep it as a flower pot. LOL We laugh about it now. But, hey, it's still New Yawk. Even in the late 60's, the area still had a hint of rural flavor.

Jul. 23 2010 10:27 AM
Perry, formerly from Floral Park

Why is it that Queens in the only borough in NYC in which the post offices are named for the communities in which they reside (e.g.Bellerose, NY or Flushing, NY versus Bronx, NY or Brooklyn, NY or Staten Island , NY or New York, NY)?

Jul. 23 2010 09:04 AM
Erik Strangeways from Springfield Gardens

Why fisticuffs in '25 over border?

Jul. 22 2010 09:03 PM
Carly from Forest Hills, NY

Where are/were the hills in Forest Hills?

Jul. 22 2010 08:27 PM
Dennis J Katz from Astoria NY 11105

How old is Rego Park. Is it named for The Rego "REally GOod" Contruction Company. Was it a part of Forest Hills?

Jul. 22 2010 04:54 PM
Gabrielle from Fresh Meadows, Queens

Why is Queens the only borough in which addresses include the neighborhood and not the borough?
So, the correct address would be Kew Gardens Hills, NY as opposed to Queens, NY.

Jul. 21 2010 01:15 PM
Emily Bell from Sunnyside originally (now Crown Heights)

Oh I have SO many questions! But where did the name Sunnyside originally come from?

Jul. 21 2010 01:00 PM

From Jack Eichenbaum:

Kit Bland, Adirenne from Astoria, Jay from Astoria, and Mickey from Woodside all asked about Queens' confusing street address system. This is a complex but fascinating issue which I will endeavor to explain on air at the end of week. My explanation will be posted here as well.

Jul. 21 2010 12:51 PM

From Jack Eichenbaum:

Ray from Middle Village asked about Dry Harbor Rd. I was always intrigued with that name, and as a geographer, my guess is that it was a creekbed/wetland that connected with the main drainage in Newtown, now the route of the LIE into Flushing Bay via the marshlands of what is now Flushing Meadow-Corona Park. But I'd also check with the Newtown Historical Society!

Ray from Middle Village:
Why is Dry Harbor Road, running from Woodhaven Blvd. to 80th. street called that?

Jul. 21 2010 12:47 PM

From Jack Eichenbaum:

Gabrielle asked about servicing Roosevelt Island. You can get there from Manhattan by subway or cable car (when it's working) but to service by truck, bus or automobile you need to enter via the bridge from Queens.

gabrielle from Queens, NY:
If Roosevelt Island is under the political jurisdiction of Manhattan, why does the island receive all other services from Queens?

Jul. 21 2010 12:46 PM

From Jack Eichenbaum:

Anna from Great Neck asked about old trees and little clams. The oldest trees in NYC are tulip trees, likely going back to the 17th century. They apparently are hard to date. I've read that Alley Pond Park in Queens has such a tree but there are likely other contenders. As for "little neck" clams, the name comes from their structure rather than the bay!

Anna from Great Neck:
I once read an article in the NY Times about how Queens has the oldest trees in NYC, 300-400 years old -- is this true? Also, are Little Neck clams originally from Little Neck Bay?

Jul. 21 2010 12:44 PM

From Jack Eichenbaum:

Paul asked about the NRA and Queens. This is a fascinating story which is best told as I walk a group from Flushing to Queens Village along the former right-of-way of the Central and Northside RR which connected Flushing to Garden City for a few years in the 1870's. The NRA was formed in 1871 and looking for land. It was provided by this new railroad which had bought the Creed family farm along its route and was looking for a land use that would be good for business. The NRA, associated with the NYS militia, bought the property and helped keep the railroad alive. Eventually the NRA, not a popular neighbor, moved away. The railroad died. The land became the home of Creedmoor NYS hospital. Meanwhile, the history and right-of-way of the railroad, a diagonal slash through eastern Queens, is preserved in parks, street alignments and street names.

Paul:
So how did the NRA get it's start in Queens?

Jul. 21 2010 12:43 PM

From Jack Eichenbaum:

"The more you know, the more you don't know" Dept. Fortunately, Queens is decentralized in the minds of many of its residents and has about a dozen active neighborhood historical societies in addition to the Queens Historical Society (where I am a board member.) I have already referred Stephen Delroy's question about the big tree in Forest HIlls to Jeff Gottlieb of the Central Queens Historical Society. I am no expert on preservation of artifacts, so I defer Terence Bolger's question about the LIC millstones to Richard Melnick, president of the Greater Astoria Historical Society. I defer some of Cesar's questions about Jackson Heights and vicinity to Christina Wilkinson, president of the Newtown (Queens) Historical Society. Find these societies (and others listed on the Queens Borough President's web site) on the Internet. Visit them, join them!

Stephen Delroy from Forest Hills:
Do you know of the magnifiecent oak treee on 68 Road betw 108 and 110 (South side of street) It is huge, covers most of the street width. I wonder if there is any history to this tree? Also what is the background/history pertaining to Yellowstone Municipal Park? I also wonder whether there are any zoning restrictions for this neighborhood. I constantly see new McMansions being constructed totally out of character for this neighborhood and they are such eyesores.

Terence Bolger from LIC:
What is your position on the Millstones at Queens Plaza? These are said to be the oldest European artifacts in Queens - dating from the 1650's if the story is correct. Do you feel that the city's plan to display them outdoors exposed to the elements is wise, given the damage that salt, freeze-thaw, etc. has already caused them?

Cesar from Jackson Heights:
I saw a 1903 map of Jackson Heights-Elmhurst that showed two ancient roads (Trains Meadow Road and Bower Bay Road). It looks like they intersected near Traver's Park. Who made the final decision to eliminate these roads? Was Jackson Heights a marsh land?

Did the Dutch and the English live peacefully in Newtown? I read that the British used the Dutch Church on Corona Ave and Broadway to store their ammunition during the Revolutionary War. Not a very respectful act.

Did the Dutch really go to Suicide Paradise (Woodside) to die and what do you know about the Stewart slaves in Woodside?

Is it true that the coop apartments of Jackson Heights use to have clauses in their constitution that Jews and African Americans were not allowed to buy into them? Have these clauses been removed?

Jul. 21 2010 12:40 PM
Bill

What can you tell us about Warnerville and Meadowmere in far southeastern Queens? I reckon they're the most obscure neighborhood in the entire borough, if not the entire city.

Jul. 21 2010 09:33 AM
letizia from jackson heights

in what year did the city of new york begin remanding inmates on riker's island and and how did people get to riker's island before the bridge on hazen street was erected

Jul. 21 2010 09:26 AM
Bill Orchard from NYC

Who built St Albans Gardens ?YC

Jul. 21 2010 09:26 AM
John from Astoria

How did the Queens County Farm Museum retain 47 acres in Glen Oaks? And is it really the longest continually farmed piece of land in the state? Thanks.

Jul. 21 2010 08:06 AM
a g from n j

when and why did flushing meadows park become flushing-corona park?

Jul. 21 2010 07:44 AM
mickey from Woodside, N.Y.

Wow, if I can have 2 questions I'd like to second Adrienne from Astoria, and Kit Bland's questions: I am smart but after moving from Manhattan to Woodside in 2002, I feel I will NEVER understand how to navigate around Queens, with the Ave/St./Place/Dr. number names and repeated numbered street names (i.e., some streets in Astoria are named with the same numbers in Sunnyside/Woodside.
My second question is, how did Woodside get its name? I don't see any woods now. Was it once woodsey?

Jul. 20 2010 06:39 PM

From Jack Eichenbaum:

Kevin, there have been informal Scrabble clubs in Jackson Heights, Rego Park and floating among people's homes. They are now defunct. There is one listed in Jamaica on the NSA list: http://www2.scrabble-assoc.com/CasualClubs.asp?state=New York

Kevin from Kew Gardens:
I moved here recently, and it sounds like you're the guy to ask: is there a Scrabble club in Queens?

Jul. 20 2010 05:41 PM

From Jack Eichenbaum:

Tom, the BQE is the watercourse draining Jackson "Heights".

Tom Lowenhaupt from Jackson Hts., NYC:
I've heard that the section of the BQE that passes through my neighborhood, Jackson Heights, was a stream prior to the road's construction. T or F?

Jul. 20 2010 05:40 PM

From Jack Eichenbaum:

Denis, the British imposed a county political layer over the Dutch townships. Queens is named for the Portuguese-born Catherine of Braganza, wife of Charles the Second. (He's the inspiration for "Kings" County.)

Denis:
Why is queens called queens?

Jul. 20 2010 05:38 PM

From Jack Eichenbaum:

Mary Shaw, Jamaica was named for the Jameco Indians occupying some ot the Jamaica Bay flats.

Mary Shaw from Elmhurst:
So many questions to ask!!!! How did Queens come to have a neighborhood called "Jamaica"?

Jul. 20 2010 05:37 PM

From Jack Eichenbaum:

Christine, Astoria was part of the independent city of Long Island City from 1870-1898. Now most people would consider it a separate neighborhood although neighborhoods are not official.

Christine from Astoria/LIC:
Is Astoria really considered a part of Long Island City - or are they two separate neighborhoods?

Jul. 20 2010 04:30 PM

From Jack Eichenbaum:

Susanne, the ash heaps were real; the area was used as a dump by the Brooklyn Ash Removal Company until some time in the 1920's.

suzanne antippas from manhattan:
In The Great Gatsby, the huge "ash heaps" under the penetrating Dr. T.J. Eckleburg billboard help symbolize the bleakness that can overtake ordinary lives. The ash heaps seem to be in Queens. On the Internet, some have speculated they were real and were in what is now Flushing Meadows, which was then (1922) a swamp in need of landfill. Is the the novel making reference to actual refuse dumps in Queens? In Flushing Meadows?

Jul. 20 2010 04:28 PM

From Jack Eichenbaum:

Wayne, LaGuardia Airport was opened in 1939.

wayne:
in what year did laguardia airport begin operating.

Jul. 20 2010 04:27 PM
Paul correia

Is that true that Queens was actually a gift from the British to a Portuguese Queen, and used to be call Queensland, and that why it's called Queens today. My Portuguese Father talks about this story all the time, I just want to confirm.

Jul. 20 2010 03:49 PM
Paul correia

Is that true that Queens was actually a gift from the British to a Portuguese Queen, and used to be call Queensland, and that why it's called Queens today. My Portuguese Father talks about this story all the time, I just want to confirm.

Jul. 20 2010 03:16 PM
Jay from Astoria/E. Elmhurst

When did named streets in Astoria get chenged to numbered (i.e. Grand Ave is not 30th Ave)? My aunt who grew up there in the late 30's and 40's remembers the named streets. Why were they changed?

How did Riker's Island come to be the city jail?

Why is East Elmhurst west of Elmhurst?

Jul. 20 2010 12:57 PM
chanmett from Long Island City

What else was discovered/invented in Queens.
I know MRI was by Damadian who still operate from Kew Gardens.

Jul. 20 2010 12:51 PM
connie from Manhattan

Why is Flushing called Flushing? An odd choice, though if you're into toilet humor it hits the spot.

Jul. 20 2010 09:35 AM
Terence Bolger from LIC

What is your position on the Millstones at Queens Plaza? These are said to be the oldest European artifacts in Queens - dating from the 1650's if the story is correct. Do you feel that the city's plan to display them outdoors exposed to the elements is wise, given the damage that salt, freeze-thaw, etc. has already caused them?

Jul. 20 2010 08:16 AM
Ray from Middle Village

Why is Dry Harbor Road, running from Woodhaven Blvd. to 80th. street called that?

Jul. 20 2010 07:42 AM
David from Manhattan

I have heard that at one time Queens was divided into four main areas: Flushing, Jamaica, Newtown, and Far Rockaway. Flushing, Jamaica and Far Rockaway, of course, are distinct neighborhoods to this day. There's a Newtown Creek and a Newtown High School, but what happened to Newtown?

Jul. 20 2010 07:27 AM
Eva Garfield from Kew Gardens, Queens, NY

Before the PanAm Building was built in Manhattan, PanAm occupied a space in Long Island City. I remember the Chase Manhattan Bank downstairs and the PanAm logo atop the bldg which also had a bell tower (or clock). The building's still there but when I point it out to people as I drive by, I think they really don't believe me. Do you know the bldg? Are there any photos with PanAm logo. Am I the only one who remembers?

Jul. 19 2010 10:48 PM
Cesar from Jackson Heights

I saw a 1903 map of Jackson Heights-Elmhurst that showed two ancient roads (Trains Meadow Road and Bower Bay Road). It looks like they intersected near Traver's Park. Who made the final decision to eliminate these roads? Was Jackson Heights a marsh land?

Did the Dutch and the English live peacefully in Newtown? I read that the British used the Dutch Church on Corona Ave and Broadway to store their ammunition during the Revolutionary War. Not a very respectful act.

Did the Dutch really go to Suicide Paradise (Woodside) to die and what do you know about the Stewart slaves in Woodside?

Is it true that the coop apartments of Jackson Heights use to have clauses in their constitution that Jews and African Americans were not allowed to buy into them? Have these clauses been removed?

Jul. 19 2010 10:41 PM
Paul

So how did the NRA get it's start in Queens?

Jul. 19 2010 09:14 PM
Larry in Nyack from Nyack NY

I grew up in Rockaway Park. Why is Rockaway part of Queens and not part of Brooklyn? What native American tribe gave Rockaway its name? What railroad served most of Rockaway until the 1950's and why did it leave?

Jul. 19 2010 09:02 PM
Kathleen from Roosevelt Island

At the southwest corner of Vernon Blvd and Queens Plaza South, just under the 59th Street Bridge, there is a beautiful old brick house with very cool architectural features (the house is now boarded up, behind a chain link fence) -- is there a name for this house? Is there any information / history on the house or any former occupants?
Thank you!

Jul. 19 2010 04:48 PM
Anna from Great Neck

Hello,

I once read an article in the NY Times about how Queens has the oldest trees in NYC, 300-400 years old -- is this true?

Also, are Little Neck clams originally from Little Neck Bay?

Thanks!

Jul. 19 2010 04:19 PM
gabrielle from Queens, NY

If Roosevelt Island is under the political jurisdiction of Manhattan, why does the island receive all other services from Queens?

Jul. 19 2010 03:46 PM
Adrienne from Astoria

Why in the world is there a 31st Road, 31st Street, 31st Drive, and 31st Avenue within a half mile radius in Astoria? Where these all planned around the same time, or where some added significantly later than others?

Jul. 19 2010 01:54 PM
Kit Bland from Can't Be Sure Where I Am

Why did the street planners allow for such confusing intersections of numbered streets, numbered avenues, numbered places, and numbered roads? I consider myself a person of above average intelligence, especially when it comes to geography and navigation, but I long ago decided that I could never master the streets of Queens!

Jul. 19 2010 01:34 PM
Kit Bland from Can't Be Sure Where I Am

Why did the street planners allow for such confusing intersections of numbered streets, numbered avenues, numbered places, and numbered roads? I consider myself a person of above average intelligence, especially when it comes to geography and navigation, but I long ago decided that I could never master the streets of Queens!

Jul. 19 2010 01:30 PM
Kevin from Kew Gardens

I moved here recently, and it sounds like you're the guy to ask: is there a Scrabble club in Queens?

Jul. 19 2010 12:59 PM
Tom Lowenhaupt from Jackson Hts., NYC

I've heard that the section of the BQE that passes through my neighborhood, Jackson Heights, was a stream prior to the road's construction. T or F?

Jul. 19 2010 12:09 PM
Stephen Delroy from Forest Hills

Do you know of the magnifiecent oak treee on 68 Road betw 108 and 110 (South side of street) It is huge, covers most of the street width. I wonder if there is any history to this tree? Also what is the background/history pertaining to Yellowstone Municipal Park? I also wonder whether there are any zoning restrictions for this neighborhood. I constantly see new McMansions being constructed totally out of character for this neighborhood and they are such eyesores.

Jul. 19 2010 12:07 PM
Denis

Why is queens called queens?

Jul. 19 2010 11:04 AM
Mary Shaw from Elmhurst

So many questions to ask!!!! How did Queens come to have a neighborhood called "Jamaica"?

Jul. 19 2010 11:01 AM
Christine from Astoria/LIC

Is Astoria really considered a part of Long Island City - or are they two separate neighborhoods?

Jul. 19 2010 10:28 AM
suzanne antippas from manhattan

In The Great Gatsby, the huge "ash heaps" under the penetrating Dr. T.J. Eckleburg billboard help symbolize the bleakness that can overtake ordinary lives. The ash heaps seem to be in Queens. On the Internet, some have speculated they were real and were in what is now Flushing Meadows, which was then (1922) a swamp in need of landfill. Is the the novel making reference to actual refuse dumps in Queens? In Flushing Meadows?

Jul. 19 2010 10:25 AM
wayne

in what year did laguardia airport begin operating.

Jul. 19 2010 09:21 AM

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