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Queens Basics - Getting Your Bearings in Queens, New York

A Brief Orientation to the Most Diverse Place on the Planet


Jackson Heights Greystones

Jackson Heights Greystones

Photo (c) John Roleke A Deli in Woodhaven, Queens

Get a hero or a pack of smokes in Woodhaven under the tracks.

Photo (c) John Roleke Attached Homes in Ozone Park

Attached Homes in Ozone Park

Photo (c) John Roleke

Queens is both a New York State county on Long Island (along with Nassau and Suffolk Counties to the east and Brooklyn, or Kings County, to the south and west) and a borough of New York City (the others are Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island, and Manhattan).

Although New York City includes these five boroughs, when New Yorkers say "the City," they are referring to Manhattan. Queens is the largest New York City borough (109 square miles or about 35% of NYC's total land area), and is the second largest borough after Brooklyn in population. More than 2 million people call Queens home. It's projected that by 2025 Queens will be the most populous borough.

The people of Queens count the rest of the United States and the world as their homelands. Immigrants have been settling in Queens for more than a hundred years, and they give no sign of letting up. Today more languages are spoken in these 109 square miles than anywhere else on the planet. English is spoken at home by the vast majority, followed by Spanish. Rounding out the top ten most common languages are Chinese, Korean, Italian, Greek, Russian, Tagalog, French, and French Creole (according to the US Census 2000, SF3, PCT10).

The US Postal Service divides Queens into five areas: Long Island City (west), Flushing (north central), Jamaica (south central), Far Rockaway (south), and Floral Park (east). Each of these areas contains many neighborhoods. For example, the neighborhood of Briarwood is in the Jamaica postal area; you can put either Briarwood or Jamaica as the city when sending mail, and it will reach the same destination. Residents refer to their neighborhood names when describing where they live.

Queens is bordered by Brooklyn to the west and south, and Nassau County to the east. It reaches the shores of the Atlantic Ocean to the south (the six-and-a-half-mile Rockaway Beach), the Long Island Sound to the north, and the East River to the west. Manhattan lies just west across the East River, and is connected to Queens by the Queensboro Bridge, the Midtown tunnel, the Long Island Railroad (LIRR), and several subway lines. LaGuardia Airport is on the Long Island Sound, and JFK International Airport is toward the southern shore, on Jamaica Bay.

Queens is not set up in a convenient grid, as much of Manhattan is, but in general the blocks adhere to the following pattern:

  • Streets run north-south, and the numbers get higher the further east you go.
  • Avenues run east-west, and the numbers get higher the further south you go.
  • Avenues are often paired with roads and drives. So you may find 85th Avenue, 85th Drive, and 85th Road all next to one another.
  • Queens addresses are a string of numbers that refer to location -- "110-10 10th St." "110" refers to a cross street/avenue, in this case, 110th Avenue. "10" refers to the house number.
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