But for the fickle finger of geographic boundaries, Bayside, at the northeastern edge of Queens, could be considered a Long Island town. Its manicured lawns; sometimes tasteful, sometimes gaudy home design; and the profusion of white kids going for the gangsta-hard thing would feel at home in the Five Towns. Fittingly: hop in the car and head east on Northern Boulevard from Bell Boulevard, and in less than five minutes, you’re out of the city. It even has its own suburb-like Inspiration Point in the romantic parking lot near Fort Totten (alas, the Parks Department doesn’t advertise it as such). That’s fine though, because there’s more than enough prime green space and opportunities for leisure activity, and more than a few nightlife options (though some are, admittedly, cornier than others). Bayside is home to the one of the densest populations of city cops, firefighters, and service workers, and that helps it retain its “everybody knows everybody” feel—an increasing rarity in this city of strangers. With its consistently high-performing schools and low-crime streets, Bayside is rightfully felt by residents to be a great place to raise a family, suburb-style, without leaving the city.
Boundaries: Francis Lewis Boulevard to the west, 223rd Street to the east, the Grand Central Parkway to the south, and Little Neck Bay to the north.
Transportation: True to its almost Long Island nature, the subways don’t reach Bayside. Ah, but the Long Island Rail Road does; take a Port Washington–bound train to Bayside Station ($6.75 peak, $4.75 off-peak), which will let you off just steps from Bell Boulevard and some of the area’s better shopping, eating, and boozing options. Alternately, take the Q13 or Q31 to Bell Boulevard, the Q12 down Northern Boulevard, the Q13 and Q16 to Fort Totten, the Q76 down Francis Lewis Boulevard, or the Q28 to the expansive Bay Terrace shopping center.
Main Drags: Bell Boulevard is the night-out-in-the-nabe strip, where Baysiders and Nassau residents out to party “in the city” rub elbows over plates of pasta or over beers at the Crazy Moose Saloon. Northern Boulevard is the main east-west artery, where you’ll find plenty of other dining options, along with a plethora of car dealerships. On warm spring and summer nights, cars with ground effects (glowing neon lights on their undercarriages) and vibrant pastel-tinted headlamps light up Francis Lewis Boulevard as the local kids compare spinning rims and filling and shaking woofers.
Average Price to Rent: The rental market is concentrated, says Rob Saunders of Mattone Real Estate (214-20 41st Avenue, 718-224-4500), mostly near the areas surrounding Northern Boulevard and Bay Terrace. Studios rent for $900 to $1,000; one-bedrooms, what few are available, go for $1,100 to $1,300; two-bedrooms rent for $1,300 to $1,500; and three-bedrooms run from $1,300 to $1,500.
Average Price to Buy: Bayside is huge, and neighborhoods play a huge role in the price of homes. Two-family homes range widely in price, from $550,000 up to $1.5 million, with price increasing the further north you go. Newly constructed two-family homes range from $850,000 to $950,000. For more info on the range of housing options available in Bayside, visit baysidehousing.com.
Landmarks: Among the main landmarks is the Lawrence Cemetery (at 216th Street and 42nd Avenue), where the founders of Bayside, as it were, can be found. The gravesite is also the final resting place of a slew of Lawrence family members, to whom the Dutch governor granted the land in 1645, as well as a former New York City mayor (Cornelius Van Wyck Lawrence, who held office from 1834 to 1837) and a half-brother of George Washington.
Park Space: Cunningham Park, located in an area that was first settled by the ancestors of the Mantinecocks, spreads out across 358 acres and houses a vast expanse of green fields and thickly forested areas, as well as a large number of ball fields. During the warmer months, the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, and the Big Apple Circus draw huge crowds from all around Queens and Long Island. The bigger Alley Pond Park, at 655 acres, is the second largest in Queens, behind Flushing Meadows–Corona. There are 26 acres of playing fields, the Alley Pond Park Nature Trail, and a 23-acre bird sanctuary. In short, Bayside residents have more options and more green space available to them than the vast majority of New York City’s residents.
Community Hangouts: Fort Totten, once a key to New York’s defensive perimeter, is now little more than a vestigial army base, housing the 77th Regional Support Command, as well as the Old Fort, where more than 15,000 stone blocks were brought during the Civil War to construct the walls encasing a maze of tunnels, mine rooms, and torpedo rooms. The fort’s museum tells of the area’s rich history and affords a breathtaking view of the Throgs Neck and Whitestone Bridges over the area where the Long Island Sound meets the East River. The Cobblestone House, as it’s informally known, at 35–35 Bell Boulevard, has just been designated a historic landmark on October 19th. According to Councilman Tony Avella, it’s rumored to be constructed of the old cobblestones that used to line the city’s streets and is a point of local pride. “I’ve never seen another house like it,” says Avella.
Best Restaurant: Fontana’s (200–02 Northern Boulevard, 718-631-0147) is the joint for locals, where owner Gus Kasimis has been slicing up the gyros for 25 years. Just look for the yellow and red lights at the corner of Northern Boulevard and Francis Lewis Boulevard. The chicken lemon soup with rice comes highly recommended, at $2.50 for a cup and $3.50 for a bowl.
Politicians: City Councilman Tony Avella (Democrat), State Assemblywoman Ann Margaret Carozza (Democrat), state senators Toby Ann Stavisky (Democrat, District 16) and Frank Padavan (Republican, District 11), and Congressman Gary Ackerman (Democrat).
Crime Stats: Crime in Bayside, already one of the city’s safest neighborhoods, has dropped in five of the seven major categories during the past year. According to published stats from the 111th Precinct, for the period ending November 22, 2005, there have been 0 murders, 1 rape, 44 robberies, 246 felony assaults, and 428 burglaries. (According to published stats from the 111th Precinct, for the period ending October 3, there have been 60 robberies, down from 85 during the same period last year; 43 assaults, down from 65; 301 burglaries, down from 336; 379 grand larcenies, down from 386; and 209 stolen cars, down from 265. Murders have remained static at one each year, and only reported rapes have risen, up to six from three last year.)