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Elmhurst in Queens, NY - Neighborhood Profile

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Elmhurst, Queens

Multi-family homes in Elmhurst, Queens

Photo (c) John Roleke
Elmhurst is a complicated neighborhood in western Queens. It has come a long way since troubles in the 1980s, even longer since its colonial founding in the 1650s.

Elmhurst is the thriving home of families -- middle class and working class -- housed in a mix of older multi-family homes, and co-op and apartment buildings. Immigrants, especially from Asia and Latin America, have made Elmhurst the most diverse part of Queens. But despite economic revitalization and safe streets, illegal housing and rundown corners continue to blight the area.

History of Elmhurst, Queens:

One of the first European towns in Queens was present-day Elmhurst. Its original name in 1652 was Middleburg, and then in 1662 New Towne (soon just Newtown). When Queens became part of New York City in 1898, the name changed to Elmhurst, at the bequest of Cord Meyer developers, in order to distance it from polluted Newtown Creek.

The area developed rapidly in the early 20th century, spurred by the subway's reach out into Queens. A mostly Italian and Jewish neighborhood, it began to change in the 1960s, as families left for the suburbs, replaced by immigrants from around the world.

Elmhurst Boundaries:

Elmhurst is in western Queens. Roosevelt Avenue is the neighborhood's northern boundary with Jackson Heights. To the east is Corona at Junction Boulevard. Woodside is to the west along 74th Street and the LIRR tracks.

Elmhurst dips south of Queens Boulevard to the Long Island Expressway (and Rego Park, Middle Village, and Maspeth). The area below Queens Boulevard, especially south of the LIRR tracks, is a sleepy area of row houses, multi-family homes. The neighborhood used to go further south to Eliot Avenue, but a zip code change added a sliver of "South Elmhurst" to Middle Village.

Elmhurst Subways and Transportation:

Elmhurst has the most subway options in Queens outside of Long Island City. Subways include the 7 train that runs local above Roosevelt Avenue, the express E and F at Broadway/74th Street, and the R, V trains that run local down Broadway and out along Queens Boulevard. It takes about 30 to 40 minutes to reach Midtown Manhattan.

Main thoroughfare Queens Boulevard is busy, fickle, and all but essential. There's easy access to Brooklyn Queens Expressway and the Long Island Expressway. Neighborhood streets, especially conduits like its commercial heart of Broadway, can get jammed fast during rush hours.

Elmhurst Real Estate and Apartments (Updated February 2008):

Multi-family homes on tight lots are the most common housing, with plenty of 4-6 story apartment buildings and some co-ops and newer condos, along the main roads. Many of the multi-families are owner-occupied rentals, and "Fedders-style" housing has become common in the last 10 years. The occasional blocks of early 20th-century row houses are sometimes glorious, but sometimes rundown.
  • Apt: 1-br, $900+; 2-br, $1200+; 3-br, $1500+
  • Co-ops, $180,000+
  • 3-Family Houses, $900,000+
  • 2-Family Houses, $800,000+
  • 1-Family Houses, $700,000+
  • Thanks to NYC real estate comps and Karl Alajajian of Anchors Away Realty for info.

Parks, Landmarks, and Things to Do:

Elmhurst suffers from a lack of parks. Moore Homestead Park is a few acres of busy black-top, for handball, basketball, and quieter games of chess and Chinese chess.

In the works is Gas Tank Park, a 6-acre site where the former landmark Elmhurst Gas Tanks used to stand.

For a student of architecture or diversity, the neighborhood's religious buildings are fascinating. You can find: Christian churches with roots in the colonial-era whose congregation is Taiwanese; historic St. Adalbert Church, the main Thai Buddhist temple in NYC, a Jain temple, a Chinese Chan Buddhist hall; and the beautiful Geeta Hindu temple.

Crime and Safety in Elmhurst:

Elmhurst is a fairly safe neighborhood, but the unwary can be intimidated. I would recommend a healthy dose of common sense in the less-traveled industrial area along Corona Avenue (east of Broadway) and Queens Boulevard at night. Though the murder rate has dropped dramatically since 1990, the incidence of rapes has not.

NYPD's 110th Precinct serves Elmhurst and south Corona. For 2007 (12 months), it reported 4 murders, 45 rapes, 395 robberies, 225 felony assaults, 434 burglaries, 739 grand larcenies.

Restaurants in Elmhurst:

A lively, diverse population makes Elmhurst one of the most interesting New York City neighborhoods for food. See our roundup of Elmhurst eats: great Thai, Indonesian, and Argentinian.

Taste Good (82-18 45th Ave) is a homey, totally delicious spot for Singapore-style noodle soups and meals. It's a must for foodies in Queens. Next door the Hong Kong Supermarket (82-02 45th Ave) has it all.

Close to the Queens Center Mall, the Georgia Diner (86-55 Queens Blvd, 718-651-9000) is a can't miss, long-time fave. Ping's Seafood (83-02 Queens Blvd, 718-396-1238) is also a long-time favorite for Chinese dim sum and seafood.

Main Streets and Shopping in Elmhurst:

Home to the Queens Center Mall and the Queens Plaza Mall, Elmhurst's stretch of Queens Boulevard is one of the largest shopping districts in the borough.

Broadway, centered at Whitney, is a commercial heart of Newtown, especially for Chinese and Southeast Asian stores and restaurants. Under the elevated tracks of the 7 train along Roosevelt Avenue is another big commercial strip, shared with Jackson Heights, of Latino shops, clubs, bars, and restaurants.

For a real and calm neighborhood walk in Elmhurst, you can't beat the small shops and restaurants along prosperous Woodside Avenue, near Elmhust Hospital Center.

What We Like About Elmhurst:

  • The food. No doubt, it's the best reason to visit, and maybe to live there.
  • The diversity is amazing. The zip code is considered the most diverse in NYC, with some 57 languages spoken according to the NYC Department of Education.
  • Immigrants have brought a vitality to small businesses throughout the neighborhood.
  • The easy access to multiple subway lines and a wide variety of shopping is exceptional for western/central Queens.

What We Don't Like About Elmhurst

  • Graffitti and some ramshackle housing blight some blocks.
  • Traffic and congestion are bad.
  • In the 2000s it has been common to teardowns older homes, replacing them with two multi-family houses, adding more congestion. Illegal subdivision of houses into single room apartments has strained neighborhood resources.
  • Infrastructure, especially sewage and drainage, are more than a 100 years old and can get overwhelmed by storms, as in the summer of 2007.
  • Many of the neighborhood's schools are at or over capacity. Elmhurst's Newtown High School is a gorgeous building, but its students underperform on standardized tests and the graduation rate is lower than the state average. (That includes many who have just emigrated to the country. In 2006, 17% of students were immigrants within the past three years, according NYC school statistics.)
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