Known for its diversity, Gay Pride parade, food from around the world, and glorious prewar apartments, Jackson Heights, in Queens, looks very different from Brooklyn. Instead of 19th century brownstones and bow-front rowhouses, its streets are dominated by behemoth early 20th century brick apartment buildings, many built around private shared gardens.
Inside, the layouts and details are gracious, with French doors, coved plaster ceilings, large foyers and sunken living rooms. The most coveted buildings are garden apartments from the 1920s, many of which boast elevators, fireplaces, sun rooms, and butler’s pantries. Some also have the added allure of relatively low maintenance charges (in the 700s for two-bedrooms) because they paid off their underlying building mortgages decades ago.
Spurred by the opening of the Queensboro bridge in 1909, Jackson Heights was planned and largely built by one developer, the Queensboro Corporation, from about 1910 to 1950. The historic district, which was designated in 1993, includes apartment buildings as well as rowhouses (the latter starting in 1924). Colonial Revival as well as Tudor and Spanish were typical styles.
The private gardens are thrown open to the public every June for a tour, which has been hosted by the Jackson Heights Beautification Group since 1988. The double English-style gardens at Greystones, a Gothic Revival complex finished in 1918, the enormous lawn at Hampton Court (1921), and the Italian-style garden at Towers (1925) are some of the most beautiful.
In the wider neighborhood, you won’t find many Brooklyn-style restaurants here — or much in the way of hipster culture generally — but you will find lots of young families and plenty of delicious things to eat.
Delicacies include curried chicken samosas and chai from Kabir’s Bakery, homemade milk sweets, Pakistani meat curries and bread cooked to order over a wood fire at Kebab King, American-style baked goods at coffee shop Espresso77, Colombian pastries and coffee at Seba-Seba, giant potato-stuffed crispy dosas with coconut raita and spicy sambal at vegetarian restaurant Dosa Delight, an impressive braised pork shank at Arunee Thai, and rotisserie chicken and cocktails at Pio Pio, a popular spot for large family celebrations.
The selection of grocery stores includes indian, Italian and Eastern European speciality shops. There is also a farmer’s market and a CSA.
The local elementary school, P.S. 69, has a good reputation, and the neighborhood is about 20 minutes to Midtown east via the E, F, R and 7 trains.
Prices run around $400 to $600 a square foot for a prewar apartment, considerably less than a comparable unit in a prime Brooklyn neighborhood, and generally less expensive than more far-flung Brooklyn neighborhoods.
Which one would you choose?