Close-Up On: Ridgewood, Queens

 Portions of this article have been updated.


Thrifty Williamsburg expats typically flee to nearby Greenpoint or Bushwick. But that epicenter of cool also shares an untrendy border with Ridgewood, Queens, an often overlooked neighbor. Taking the M train a mere three stops from the county line into the heart of Ridgewood is like hopping into a time machine. Everything's a little cleaner, quieter, and, well, quainter. Poles, Romanians, Albanians, Serbians, and Bosnians are recent arrivals, while a German and Italian past is still felt. "Old World" isn't a favored adjective for no good reason. In 1979 northern parts of then-troubled Bushwick adopted the Queens zip code. Consequently, Ridgewood's borderlands still retain a Brooklyn flavor. Walk fewer than 10 blocks from the imaginary line and you'll see ads for salt cod shift to smoked sausage, street-by-street.

Boundaries: Demarcations are far from tidy. In a clockwise direction starting north: Metropolitan Avenue, the LIRR tracks, and the Brooklyn-Queens border.

Picture-perfect: a family strolls down 68th Street.
photo: Sarah Pores
Picture-perfect: a family strolls down 68th Street.

Main Drags: Myrtle Avenue is the primary shopping strip, while Fresh Pond Road pulses with small businesses.

Mass Transit: Expect a 35- to 45-minute trek to Fresh Pond Road from Union Square. Take the L train to Myrtle Avenue, where you can transfer to the M or walk. The M can also be caught at points in Lower Manhattan.

Average Rent: One-bedroom, $850 to $1150 ($750 to $1050); two-bedroom, $950 to $1400 ($1050 to $1400); three-bedroom, $1050 to $1500 ($1200 to $1550)

Average Price to Buy: A typical two-family home costs $450,000 and up ($350,000 to $450,000.)

Cultural Institutions: The Greater Ridgewood Historical Society at the landmark Vander Ende-Onderdonk House, 18-20 Flushing Avenue, is dedicated to preserving local lore and educating the public. The nonprofit hosts exhibits and events such as the recent Strawberry Festival and dedication of Arbitration Rock, the rediscovered 18th-century Brooklyn-Queens boundary marker.

Landmarks: Stockholm Street, the only brick-paved block left in Queens, was designated a historic district in 2000.

Butcher Shops: Carnivores have a friend in Ridgewood. A little gem, Forest Pork Store, 6639 Forest Avenue, is more than just full of baloney. A pleasant porcine aroma hovers around the block and can even be detected from the subway at the nearby el stop. Karl Ehmer has over 20 East Coast locations, but the renowned shop's main facility remains at 63-35 Fresh Pond Road in Ridgewood. Western Beef may be a regular grocery store in the rest of the city, but their flagship store, at 47-05 Metropolitan Avenue, houses an enormous walk-in meat locker that draws Manhattanites as well as local bargain hunters.

Community Organizations: The Ridgewood Volunteer Ambulance Corps, on patrol since 1975

Famous Residents: Actor James Cagney and Yankee Phil Rizzuto were schooled at P.S. 71 in Ridgewood.

Sietsema's Picks: Sarajevo, 791 Fairview Avenue, is a "cevabdzinica," an eatery focused on grilled meat snacks. It serves pljeskavica, a behemoth Balkan burger composed of a lamb patty stuffed in a somun (similar to a pita), fixed with onions, chopped salad, and dabs of sour cream and homemade yogurt.

Other Restaurants: Ridgewood proper retains few culinary vestiges of its German past, yet if you stray two to three blocks east of the neighborhood's nebulous border, you'll discover a year-round Oktoberfest. Gebhardt's, 65-06 Myrtle Avenue, and Zum Stammtisch, 69-46 Myrtle Avenue, are all of the accordion, taxidermy, and decorative-beer-stein persuasion. Sure, mozzarella sticks and Caesar salad have worked their way into the modern menus, but brauts and schnitzel are still king. Alive and well, Niederstein's, 69-16 Metropolitan Avenue, is notable for its bizarre location at the edge of Lutheran Cemetery.

Best Bar: Ridgewood was filled with breweries and beer gardens until Prohibition. Today you can wet your whistle at Everglades, 6621 Fresh Pond Road, with its distinctive assemblage of gnomes above the door. Queens crank callers the Jerky Boys were regulars here in their self-titled movie.

Local Politicians: Councilman Dennis P. Gallagher, Republican; Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, Democrat; Assemblyman Anthony S. Seminerio, Democrat; State Senator Serphin R. Maltese, Republican; and Congressman Joseph Crowley, Democrat; Congresswoman Nydia M. Velazquez, Democrat.

Crime Stats: The 104th Precinct includes most of Ridgewood, as well as Glendale, Middle Village, and Maspeth. As of November 22, 2005, it reported 2 murders, 209 rapes, 157 robberies, 431 felony assaults, and 477 burglaries. (As of June 21, there have been 2 murders, down from 3 this time last year; 10 rapes, the same as last year; 197 robberies, up from 184; 123 felonious assaults, down from 159; and 444 burglaries, up from 376.)

 
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