An Insider’s Guide to Queens’ Own Broadway

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    There’s a Broadway in every borough. The most famous runs the length of Manhattan and continues into the Bronx and Yonkers beyond that; another forms the border of Bedford Stuyvesant and Bushwick in Brooklyn; another serves as a spine of West New Brighton in Staten Island and runs past the Staten Island Zoo; and then in Queens, whose Broadway runs from Ravenswood to Elmhurst and serves as one of Long Island City’s key shopping arteries, joining Steinway Street and 30th Avenue.

    Queens’ Broadway, which attained its present length only in the early 20th century, is an amalgam of a number of roads: Broadway in Ravenswood ran southeast to the now-demapped Ridge Road near Newtown Road; and the eastern part between Woodside Avenue and Queens Boulevard is the easternmost section of the colonial-era Hellgate Ferry Road, which connected Elmhurst and the East River; twisting Woodside Avenue follows most of its route today. The routes were joined in the years before the new IND subway was routed along a lengthy section from Steinway Street to Queens Boulevard in the 1930s.

    I walk Broadway frequently and find myself there twice a week, and sometimes more often than that. I’m most familiar with the road’s many businesses in the stretch between the 46th Street subway station serving the M and R trains and the Broadway station serving the N and Q. Found here are a number of establishments that the guidebooks seem to ignore.

    Sparr’s Militaria and Antiques, 41-15 Broadway near the Steinway Street station, has been in business since 1946 and buys and sells items like helmets, hats, medals, badges, uniforms, swords, daggers and flags, and specializes in collectibles like Japanese swords. Equipment such as multi-use knives, shovels, mirrors, commemorative plaques and mirrors are displayed in the window.

    Queens' Broadway walking tour

    D&F, at 35-17 Broadway, is a traditional Italian delicatessen in every sense of the word; Italian sausages hang over the checkout spot, tubs of sardines and freshly wrapped mozzarella are on the counter, and Italian imported specialties fill the sunny, well-lit space. D&F has been in business since 1973 and the current owner hails from Naples.

    Queens' Broadway walking tour

    A couple of doors down is where another Broadway veteran, the Broadway Silk Store, 35-11 Broadway, in business since the 1930s, anchors the block between 35th and 36th streets. The store deals mainly in fabric and costume jewelry, and for the past couple of decades it has been in a propitious location a couple of blocks from the Astoria-Kaufman studios. It has been hired to supply costuming for several of the television shows and feature films produced at the studios. For old signage aficionados, its stark black on white display sign is the original.

    Queens' Broadway walking tour

    Directly across the street, the Thomas M. Quinn and Sons funeral home has been a Broadway mainstay for decades, but for a casual Broadway visitor, a key attraction is ensconced on the fourth floor: The Greater Astoria Historical Society, founded in 1985, has its offices and collections here at 35-20 Broadway. The Society is the go-to place for Astoria and Queens history: its collections feature hundreds of newspapers, books, maps and more, and GAHS also sponsors frequent walking tours throughout the city, including those by my own organization, Forgotten New York.

    GAHS usually has two separate historic photo installations on its walls, and its collection is open to the public by request. On most Saturdays GAHS shows a feature film, and once a month a feature presentation: the Beatles’ 50th anniversary in America and the 50th anniversary of the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows have been recent themes. For hours or membership information, call (718) 278-0700 or email info@astorialic.org.

    Queens' Broadway walking tour

    For the past two years a welcome addition in Long Island City has been the Astoria Bookshop at 31-29 31st Street, just north of the Broadway N/Q train station, especially refreshing in an age when independent bookstores as well as large chains are becoming harder to find. In fact, as of August 2015 it was Queens’ lone indie bookstore. It features books by Queens authors, children’s events and sponsors the Newtown Literary Journal, a nonprofit helping authors who are just starting out.

    Kevin Walsh is the webmaster of Forgotten NY and the author of Forgotten New York and, with the Greater Astoria Historical Society, Forgotten Queens. Forgotten New York the website was the first recipient of Outstanding New York Website, first awarded by the Guides Association of New York City in 2015.

     

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