Close-up on Astoria
Portions of this article have been updated.
Queens is packed with bustling neighborhoods, and Astoria leads them all. Here is the self-sufficient hamlet described by E.B. White. Commerce abounds: megachains (Gap, Starbucks, et al) exist side by side with mom-and-pop shops and a cornucopia of cuisine that only diversity could afford. Capitol Realty broker Angelica Montaquiza says Astoria is a "real melting pot. . . . You can stand on a corner and find people from everywhere." Once the home of the Irish, Italians, and Greeks, the neighborhood-one of the city's oldest-has been populated by new groups: Asians, Latin Americans, and young folk (professionals and artier types). They leave Manhattan, where "everything's too much," says Thai Pavilion waiter Diana Arjariyawat, who notes that Astoria offers cheaper rents, a mere 10-minute commute to Manhattan's East Side, and a bona fide neighborhood New Yawk-style.
Boundaries: The East River to the north and west, 51st and Hobart streets to the east, and 34th Avenue to the south, which separates Astoria from Long Island City
Transportation: Take the N or W to the end of the line-Broadway, 30th Avenue, Astoria Boulevard, Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard-or the R train to Steinway Street. Ten minutes into Manhattan, about 25 from Union Square.
Main Drags: The community works and shops on Broadway, which stretches from east to west and intersects with two other high-traffic thoroughfares, Steinway and 31st streets
Average Price to Rent: Studio, $850 to $1150 ($850 to $925); one-bedroom, $1000 to $1300 ($925 to $1300); two-bedroom, $1400 to $1800 ($1200 to $1650); three-bedroom, $1700 to $2200 ($1600 to $2200).
Average Price to Buy: One-family houses-typically row houses but occasionally Tudor-style "mansions"-cost $600,000 and up ($350,000 and up).
Cultural Institutions: Socrates Sculpture Park (Broadway and Vernon Boulevard) resides in the limbo that is the Astoria-LIC border and provides a space where artists can exhibit work and neighbors can frolic. Venture one block south of Astoria proper and visit the American Museum of the Moving Image (35th Avenue at 36th Street) for cinema screenings and lectures. And don't forget to visit the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum (9-01 33rd Road at Vernon Boulevard).
Green Space: Overlooked by the Triborough and Hell Gate bridges, Astoria Park surveys 56 acres along the river and houses a pool complex, baseball diamonds, a track, tennis courts, and plenty of space to picnic. Further south, Rainey Park (Vernon Boulevard and 34th Avenue) provides views of eastern Manhattan in a smaller setting.
Local Politics: Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., assembly members Michael Gianaris and Catherine Nolan, State Senator George Onorato, congress members Joseph Crowley and Carolyn B. Maloney-all Democrats. Locals fight the power, literally. Astoria's power plants supply 60 percent of the city's energy, causing numerous asthma cases; Vallone accused the New York Power Authority of making the neighborhood "the ashtray of the entire state." After Coalition Helping Organize a Kleaner Environment (CHOKE)'s three-year protest against the Charles Poletti plant, Governor Pataki announced in September that it would be closed by 2008.
Local Landmarks: Kaufman Astoria Studios (35-12 36th Street), home of Paramount Studios in the '20s; Steinway House (18-33 41st Street), home of piano man William Steinway.
Famous Residents: Tony Bennett sang his first nightclub gig in 1946 in Astoria, his birthplace. Born and raised here, Christopher Walken started acting at the age of 10.
Best Restaurants: The perennial favorites for Greek seafood in New York's Little Athens are Telly's Taverna (28-13 23rd Avenue) and Elias Corner (24-01 31st Street). For other facets of Astoria's multi-ethnicity, try Thai Pavilion (37-10 30th Avenue) for the best chicken masaman or Pollos Mario (40-19 Broadway) for Colombian.
Best Bars: The last of the city beergardens, Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden (29-19 24th Avenue) serves Eastern European beers and Czech comfort food like schnitzel and dumplings. Visit the multitude of Greek café-bars for coffee, baklava, beer, and boisterous beats.
Best Club: Krash (34-48 Steinway Street)accommodates the queer community.
Best Store: Get your favorite anything in industrial size at Costco (32-50 Vernon Boulevard).
Crime Stats: The 114th Precinct serves Astoria, all of Long Island City, and parts of Woodside and Jackson Heights. As of August 21, it reported 6 murders, 18 rapes, 227 robberies, 320 burglaries, and 175 felonious assaults for 2005. (The 114th Precinct serves Astoria, all of Long Island City, and parts of Woodside and Jackson Heights. As of December 22, it reported five murders, same as last year; 30 rapes, down two; 517 robberies, down 59; 739 burglaries, down 100; and 356 felonious assaults, down 20).
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