Close-Up on Elmhurst


Elmhurst is the simmering melting pot writ large; one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the most diverse county in the most diverse country in the world. More than almost any other section of New York, Elmhurst is where the American idea is truest; people move here from every corner of the globe, live and die, marry and give birth and move away, making more room for those yet to come in an ever-changing array of ethnicity. As a testament to the neighborhood’s multilingual multitudes, the Elmhurst branch of the Queens Public Library offers services in Urdu, Farsi, Korean, Chinese, Russian, Italian, Spanish and English. Not for nothing did Prince Akeem of Zamunda look for love at the Queens Boulevard McDowell’s. It’s a Wendy’s now, but no matter—resourceful immigrants can still find the queens of their dreams there. Fittingly, Elmhurst was born as a refuge for immigrants; English settlers moved there in 1652 from a Maspeth colony that was threatened by Native Americans. Named Middleburgh by force of its Dutch administrators (the area was still known as New Netherland—the British would later rename it Newtown), it has long existed as a market and trade hub. That fact has remained through the centuries, as the artery that is Queens Boulevard has grown to accommodate the borough’s quickly expanding population and shopping needs. The intersection of Queens Boulevard and Broadway remains one of the busiest intersections in the borough, and a walk north or east from there highlights wide swaths of commerce and history, of which only a small bit is readily visible. “If you like lots of different cultures and interesting shops, Elmhurst is a great place,” says State Senator John Sabini, whose district encompasses part of the 11373 zip code. “If you’re looking for a Waldbaum’s, go elsewhere.”

Boundaries: Roosevelt Avenue to the north, Junction Boulevard to the east, Queens Boulevard to the south, and the BQE to the west.

Transportation: Take the R or V train to the Elmhurst Avenue or Grand Avenue/Newtown stops. The 7, E, F, R, and V trains also stop at Roosevelt Avenue station in Jackson Heights, at the northern edge of Elmhurst. Buses: Q29, Q72, Q38, Q88, Q53, Q58, Q59.

Main Drag: The Broadway and Queens Boulevard intersection caters to the many and varied interests of its equally-varied residents. From major chains like Target and Best Buy, to smaller, mom-and-pop style Asian supermarkets, such as the Hong Kong Supermarket (82-02 45th Avenue, 718.651.3838) which has huge meat and fish sections that are quite busy at all times of the day.

Average Price to Rent: Studios, $750 to $850; one-bedrooms, $900 to $1,000; two-bedrooms, $1,200 to $1500; and three-bedrooms, $1,500 and up.

Average Price to Buy: If you’re going to buy, your best bet is co-ops, which start around $70,000. One-bedrooms, $90,000 and up; two-bedrooms, $120,000 to $140,000; three-bedrooms, $150,000 to $200,000. For homes, the market has exploded in the past decade. One-family homes go for $400,000 and up. Two-family homes start at $600,000.

Landmarks: No visitor to Elmhurst can miss the grand old Elks Lodge building at 82-10 Queens Boulevard. The building was sold long ago, but it still houses the Elks on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of every month (as well as a majestic weathered Elk standing sentry at the front stairs). At Broadway and 51st Avenue is the St. James Episcopal Church, the neighborhood’s oldest building. Constructed in 1734, the church is now a sometimes-community center and Sunday school, and though designated a landmark, it awaits rehabilitation. That’s OK, though, as its nearly broken-down beams and bent corners lend the corner the undeniable weight of history.

Park Space: Elmhurst boasts few green spaces, but arguably its main playground is the C.C. Moore Homestead Park, named for Clement Clarke Moore, author of A Visit from Saint Nicholas.

Shopping: At the rehabbed and re-inhabited old Macy’s building (at 88-01 Queens Boulevard) shoppers can cut loose at Target and relax over a Bloomin’ Onion at the Outback Steakhouse afterward. Further east down the Boulevard, the newly-expanded Queens Center (the “Mall” has been inexplicably been dropped as part of the $275-million expansion plan) has added more than twice the number of retail stores, and one million square feet of retail space, including a new JC Penney, an expanded Macy’s, and a new food court.

Politicians: City Councilwoman Helen Sears (Democrat), State Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (Democrat), State Senators Toby Ann Stavisky and John Sabini (both Democrats), and Congressman Gary Ackerman (Democrat).

Crime Stats: As it is in the rest of Queens, indeed, in the rest of the city, crime is down in the 110th precinct, of which Elmhurst is part. Murders are down one, from six last year to five this year; reported rapes have dropped from 33 to 28 this year; robberies are down from 528 to 447; assaults dropped from 271 to 237; burglaries are down from 507 to 470; and there are 30 fewer car thefts than last year’s 340 stolen. The only area in the seven major crime categories that has risen are grand larcenies, which have climbed to 640 from 565 last year.