Overview of Queens, New York

Queens is one of New York City's five boroughs; it is the largest in area and second-largest in population (2.3 million people). Today the borough is largely residential and middle class. Many families have made their home in Queens for generations; there is also a growing group of young professionals moving to Queens. The area is amazingly diversified; more languages are spoken in this borough than anywhere else. This makes Queens an area like no other, bringing different cultures, religions, ideas and interests together in one marvelous area of land.

Originally, Queens was a collection of small towns and villages founded by Dutch and English settlers. Queens was officially established in 1683 and named for the Portugese princess who married King Charles II of England. Queens was not a major player in the American Revolution like some New York areas, but was occupied throughout much of the war, quartering soldiers and offering the use of their public buildings. The New York City Borough of Queens was made official in 1898. By the 1920s, the population more than doubled thanks to the use of the electrified trains, the subway and the automobile.

The borough is divided into five towns by the United States Postal Service, but there are no actual names or boundaries. Most residents will tell you the neighborhood they live in rather than say they live in Queens. This is probably due to the fact that there are so many unique neighborhoods, a true melting pot of cultures, including a large Italian American population, a large Irish American population and growing Hispanic and Asian American populations. Astoria, a northwest area, is home to one of the largest Greek populations outside of Greece and becoming a popular spot for the younger generation. Long Island City and Flushing are other popular areas. Downtown Flushing is considered NYC's other Chinatown. There are Croatian, Arabian, South Asian, Polish, Romanian, Jewish, Chinese and Koreans populations. You will find many small communities. For example there is an area known as "Little Guyana" due to its large Guyanese community. Jackson Height, which is where Little India is located, is a much bigger and diverse neighborood. Immigrants have been settling in Queens for more than a hundreds years and show no signs of stopping. Almost 55 percent of the population speak a language other than English at home.

Queens is considered more suburban than Manhattan. As Manhattan becomes quite pricey, many people in their 20 and 30s are moving to the western part of Queens for lifestyle that is more affordable. Housing is more spacious, and it is a fairly quick commute to Manhattan. In general, the closer you move to Long Island City, the more industrial the streets become; the housing is grittier and the rent prices drop. A feeling of the old industrial era still exists in Long Island City. Many people think of the old stereotype of rows and rows of identical duplexes packed close with tiny yards when they think of Queens. Although Queens is home to some very run down neighborhoods, real estate development is revitalizing the area. Compared to many areas in New York City, the apartments in Queens are larger, and you will find many streets lined with rows of nice houses and successful neighborhoods.

Queens has developed a rich cultural history. In the 1940s it was the center of the jazz movement. Many African American artists found refuge from segregation in the mixed communities of the borough. Today successful rap and hip-hop artists are plentiful in Queens. The borough is an artistic hub with many art museums, learning centers, cultural centers and writers. Possibly one of the most unusual museums is the Living Museum, which is part of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center complex, where patients express themselves in a variety of media.

Life in Queens includes some lovely outdoor areas. It is the home of the New York Mets and annually hosts the U.S. Open tennis tournament. It is also home to Flushing Meadow Park. The oldest living thing in the New York metro area is the Queens Giant, the tallest tree in New York. The farmers markets and streets filled with vendors are a chance to experience a bit of the varied cultures.

The economy in this borough is based on tourism, industry and trade. Bulova is headquartered in Queens as is Steinway and Sons, JetBlue Airlines and Glaceau (makers of Vitamin Water). Two of the three major airports in New York are located in Queens (LaGuardia and JFK). Both airports are vital internationally and within the states. This provides many jobs for the residents.

You will get many varied opinions on what the ethnicity diversity has done to Queens. For the most part, the newer immigrant populations have mixed well with long time residents. This creates many diverse, middle-class neighborhoods. Queens has a wonderful variety of ethnic clothes and housewares and the best variety of food, with many affordable restaurants, ethnic supermarkets and small specialty shops. Many churches have changed, becoming more open and liberal, in an effort to unite all the various cultures.

The best thing about life in Queens is the blend of cultures with the rich historical background that makes American history so rich. Life in Queens means can get anything from Bollywood films to Chinese dumplings to a Bohemian Beer Garden. The culture, the food, the religion, the language, and the atmosphere blend into one grand combination. And you get it on a smaller, less hectic and urban scale than an area like Manhattan.

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