Close-Up on Woodhaven


Portions of this article have been updated.

Even the most fervent city dweller must admit that the suburbs have their charms. Sure, most of the criticisms of the burbs are deserved—the dearth of vibrant cultural events, the dependence on car culture, the trend toward gated communities, etc. But backyards and barbecues are good things. Woodhaven, like much of Queens, mixes the best of both worlds: front lawns, garages, and trees, all within easy commuting distance to Manhattan and the livelier areas of Brooklyn and Queens. And the area has one giant backyard in the form of Forest Park, a sprawling, mostly undeveloped patch of green space that should be counted among the city’s best. Car owners (plenty of available parking) and mass transit riders can be equally happy here, and the neighborhood is populated by both those who are working toward the day when they can leave the confines of The City, and those who have been here for decades and have no desire to leave. As Maria Thomson, executive director of the Greater Woodhaven Business Improvement District and Woodhaven resident for 36 years, says, “It hasn’t changed a lot, and what has are all good changes.”

Boundaries: Myrtle Avenue to the north, 94th Avenue to the east, approximately Franklin Lane to the west, and Atlantic Avenue to the south.

Transportation: The J and Z trains make two stops in Woodhaven along Jamaica Avenue: Woodhaven Boulevard and 85th Street–Forest Parkway. Both take about one hour to reach from Union Square. The Q11 and Q53 buses travel along Woodhaven Boulevard; the Q55 traverses Forest Park along Myrtle Avenue and the Q56 runs along Jamaica Avenue beneath the el.

Main Drags: Woodhaven Boulevard is the neighborhood’s aorta, a six-lane, north-south thoroughfare that remains one of the best ways to cross the vast expanse of central Queens by car or bus. There are a few shops that line the boulevard, but most shopping and eating takes place under the elevated J and Z tracks that run on Jamaica Avenue.

Average Price to Rent: Studio apartments hover around the $850 area; one-bedrooms rent for approximately $950 to $1,000; two-bedrooms go for $1,200; and three-bedroom apartments cost between $1,300 and $1,500.

Average Price to Buy: Arturo Flores, a real estate salesman for Ohlert-Ruggiere, Inc., describes Woodhaven’s best-selling point as being a little bit of Long Island in the middle of Queens. The vast majority of housing options are the one- to three-family houses that dominate the neighborhood’s many tree-lined streets. One-family houses cost around $380,000; two-family houses go for approximately $550,000; three-family homes cost upwards of $600,000; and the few available condo options in the area (mainly the buildings that line Woodhaven Boulevard north of Jamaica Avenue) start at $80,000. Condos generally cost $40,000 more than co-ops.

Landmarks: As of its certification as a historic place on October 5, one: the grand old carousel, located in Forest Park right behind the visitors’ center, that spins in season and sends its calliope music wafting through the park’s twisting paths. Carved and built in 1903, it’s never crowded and usually empty much of the time, lending the aging wooden horses a slight but charming eeriness; read Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes while seated at one of the nearby picnic tables for some Halloween fun.

Park Space: Forest Park, at 538 acres the third-largest park in Queens, provides first-rate exploration and play options. Touched by the almost musical hand of Frederick Law Olmstead, who also designed Central Park and Prospect Park, it has a band shell, seven playgrounds, 411 wooded acres, curving bike paths, athletic fields, handball courts, basketball courts, a model airplane field, bocce-ball courts (featuring old-school Russian-speaking bocce-ball players on weekends), and a glacial kettle pond that sits in a natural depression and encases visitors within its near pristine beauty. The park also hosts a wide array of cultural events and festivals all year long, including concerts, carnivals, and a Halloween party complete with face painting and pumpkin patch–less pumpkin picking.

Community Hangouts: Not many, but the Victorian-style Oak Ridge building houses the Forest Park administrator’s office, as well as the occasional community event. Call 718-235-4100 for a schedule of events.

Best Restaurants: Thailand Kitchen (86-05 Jamaica Avenue, 718-847-4700) is a bit of a surprise in this neighborhood that prizes local ethnic fare and take-out over experimentation. With a lively decor that would be at home in downtown Manhattan and a menu that is a notch above Thai normal, owner Jimmy Nitikoontanond adds a creative, light touch to his gingery pad khing ($7.95; according to one frequent diner, “It’s fucking really good”) and kaffir lime leaf–speckled coconut chicken soup ($3.25 for a small portion). But for well-made comfort food, nothing beats New Pop’s Restaurant (across the avenue, at 85-22 Jamaica Avenue, 718-846-2037), a ’50s-style—and not in that corny retro way—ice-cream parlor–diner, where owner Spiros Makos keeps it in the family (albeit the fourth family to own the place since it first opened in 1907) with his belly-filling New York steak ($14.95) and his popular list of 14 ice cream flavors. Loosen that belt a bit and try the Moose Tracks sundae ($4.25).

Politicians: City Councilman Dennis Gallagher (Republican), State Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio (Democrat), State Senator Ada L. Smith (Democrat), and Congressman Anthony Weiner (Democrat).

Crime Stats: As of November 22, 2005, the 102nd Precinct reported 5 murders, 18 rapes, 161 robberies, 364 felony assaults, and 392 burglaries. (Crime in five of the seven major categories has dropped in the 102nd Precinct, of which Woodhaven is part, for the 12-month period ending September 5. There have been no murders in the precinct this year so far, compared to three in the previous year. In addition, there have been 191 robberies, down from 204 in 2003; 130 felony assaults, down from 158; 254 burglaries, down from 268; and 367 stolen cars, down from 449. Rapes have remained static, at 19 reported each year; and grand larcenies have gone up slightly, to 312 from 310 during the same period the previous year.)