ELMHURST, QUEENS, A ‘CROSSROADS OF THE WORLD’

Wednesday May 4, 2016 | by JULIE BESONEN, New York Times

Elmhurst, Queens, a ‘Crossroads of the World’

 

The palazzo-like Elks Lodge is now the New Life Fellowship Church.

Last September, the Beacon Community Center in Elmhurst, Queens, introduced a free adult literacy program, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL); among those who enrolled were students from Myanmar, China, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Venezuela. The nonprofit Beacon center, part of Sunnyside Community Services, helps immigrants “ease the transition they are making from newcomer to New Yorker,” said Shawn Mullin, the program’s coordinator.

According to the 2013 edition of “The Newest New Yorkers,” published by the New York City Department of City Planning, in the period 2007 to 2011, 71 percent of Elmhurst’s residents, or 77,100 people, were foreign-born. But brokers said newcomers from Manhattan, brownstone Brooklyn and Forest Hills, Queens, were also trickling into Elmhurst, drawn to its low-rise, lights-out-early streets, lower housing costs and proximity to the subway.

Among them are Jenny Oliver, a 31-year-old physician assistant, and her husband, Gareth Oliver, 35, who works in finance in Midtown Manhattan. The couple had a baby last year and were outgrowing their one-bedroom rental on the Upper East Side, which cost $3,500 a month. They were also paying $500 a month to park their car.

In November, the Olivers moved into a gut-renovated, two-bedroom, 1,100-square-foot co-op in the Continental Park on 51st Avenue in Elmhurst, paying $452,000. Common charges are $950 a month, and they park free on the street.

“Before we put an offer in, we came out and walked around at night and on the weekend, and found a lot of families, and liked the diversity,” Ms. Oliver said. “In Manhattan, everything we saw was so tiny and so expensive.” She was also delighted to discover Elmhurst Park, on Grand Avenue, where 9-month-old Jake can play.

Yael Goldman, an associate broker with Nu-Place Realty, said her company had sold almost 60 apartments in the last year in the 153-unit Continental Park. Developers had bought 79 sponsor units in the 1962 co-op and overhauled them while modernizing common areas; the renovated apartments went on the market in 2014.

“People who are priced out of Brooklyn and Manhattan and looking for an urban feel are coming to Sunnyside and Woodside, and now farther east is catching up,” Ms. Goldman said. “There’s great food of all kinds and shopping nearby, and they’re seeing it as hip.”

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Christian Cassagnol, 38, the district manager of Queens Community Board 4, which includes Elmhurst and Corona, said, “I think of Elmhurst as the crossroads of the world.” The neighborhood has also had “enormous growth,” he added. “Buildings are going upward and we’re getting a lot of applications for a lot of variances.”

Marialena Giampino, 31, a makeup artist and a member of the community board, said that “all the new construction has hurt our sense of community.” She is also a member of the Newtown Civic Association — Elmhurst was once called Newtown — which encourages residents to attend planning meetings and advocate for historic buildings to be designated landmarks.

A descendant of Sicilian immigrants, Ms. Giampino grew up in a two-family house in Elmhurst, “around so many different nationalities — it was cool how everyone could live together,” she said. “We want to preserve what’s left of our historical structures, fight for the next generation that comes.”

87-10 51ST AVENUE,#4N Renovated studio in the Continental Park, listed at $225,000. (917) 605-2700 Credit Uli Seit for The New York Times

What You’ll Find

Elmhurst, south of Jackson Heights, is bordered by Roosevelt Avenue to the north and the Long Island Expressway to the south. The eastern boundary is Junction Boulevard, and the western edge, by one popular definition, zigzags along 74th Street, Queens Boulevard and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

The United States Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community SurveyofQueens Community District 4, which includes Elmhurst and Corona, gave a total population of 183,871. The survey said 52 percent of residents of the district were Hispanic and 34 percent Asian.

Elmhurst is service oriented, with food markets, hair salons, day care centers, laundromats, hardware stores, acupuncturists, and dentists’ and accountants’ offices. Broadway is the main drag, lined with an international array of restaurants and brick apartment complexes. Furniture and mattress stores are bundled along Queens Boulevard, which is also home to two malls, Queens Center and Queens Place. Side streets hold modest one- to three-family homes on narrow lots.

What You’ll Pay

In the first quarter of 2016, the median sales price of one- to three-family homes was $773,870, an increase of 5.9 percent over the same period of 2015, according to Jonathan J. Miller, the president of the appraisal firm Miller Samuel. The median sales price for co-ops of various sizes was $275,000, up 25 percent from 2015. For condominiums, the price dropped 2.2 percent to $440,000.

On April 27, a search on Streeteasy.com found 13 co-ops and condos for sale within Elmhurst’s borders, ranging from $169,500 for a 500-square-foot studio co-op to $499,000 for a two-bedroom condo. No houses were listed.

Angela Chen, an agent at Winzone Realty, said typical rentals range from $1,200 to $1,600 a month for a studio, $1,700 to $1,900 for one-bedrooms and $1,900 to $2,400 for two-bedrooms.

What To Do

Joe DiStefano, 47, a 20-year Queens resident, has a culinary blog,Chopsticks and Marrow, and leads food tours in the borough. In the last five to 10 years Elmhurst has had “a robust development in the Thai restaurant scene,” he said, recommending Sugar ClubPloy Thai and Paet Rio for nuanced authenticity. Woodside Avenue, nicknamed Little Thailand, hasAyada and Khao Kang.

The six-acre Elmhurst Park once housed ugly natural gas tanks, but in 2011 it opened to the public as a re-landscaped green space. The playground has a slide, swings and stationary bikes.

The Schools

Daniel Dromm, a New York City councilman who represents District 25 (Jackson Heights and Elmhurst) and is the chairman of the education committee, cited Public School 13 Clement C. Moore as a well-performing elementary school, with about 1,625 students from kindergarten through Grade 5. According to the city’s School Quality Snapshot, 34 percent of students met state standards in English in 2014-2015, versus 30 percent citywide; 44 percent did so in math, versus 39 percent.

Intermediate School 5 serves about 1,825 students from Grades 6 through 9. There 43 percent of students met state standards in English, versus 30 percent citywide; 48 percent met math standards, versus 31 percent.

Newtown High School is a Flemish Renaissance-style city landmark with about 1,905 students. Average SAT scores for the class of 2015 were 401 in reading, 434 in math and 389 in writing; citywide averages were 444, 466 and 439. The Pan American International High School serves about 430 students, with a focus on English language development for recent immigrants. Average SAT scores were 320 in reading, 340 in math and 318 in writing.

The Commute

From Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue, the E, F, M, R and 7 trains are scheduled to reach Midtown in about 20 minutes (the R and M stop part time there). The 7 also stops at Junction Boulevard and 90th Street-Elmhurst Avenue. The E also has late-night service at Elmhurst Avenue, Grand Avenue-Newtown and Woodhaven Boulevard, and the M and the R stop part time at those stations. Among the local buses are the Q29, Q53, Q58 and Q72.

The History

For more than 300 years Elmhurst was known as Newtown. In the late 19th century, it was renamed as developers sought to distance it from Newtown Creek, a fetid estuary on the Queens-Brooklyn border. In 1896, a New York Times article took issue with the new name, asserting Elmhurst “has not a single elm in it.” The Newtown Pippin apple tree, however, is native to the area. According to David Karp, a writer who calls himself the Fruit Detective, the apple, with its “firm, crisp, juicy flesh,” was cultivated by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.