Welcome back to our Untapped Cities series on NYC’s Micro Neighborhoods, where we delve into long standing ethnic enclaves.
Jackson Heights, Queens
Jackson Heights in Queens epitomizes the city’s most ethnically diverse county when judging by the countless cultural distinctions of its residents. Though the neighborhood has a large population of South Americans and East Asians, it is the concentration of South Asians who comprise the majority. Here, the heap of Indians, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis have founded a home of their own. To those paying attention, Jackson Heights will prove an authentic slice of South Asia in New York City’s largest borough.
Jackson Heights is situated in the northwestern portion of Queens. It is bordered by nearby LaGuardia Airport to the north at Grand Central Parkway and Elmhurst to the south at Roosevelt Avenue. To its west is Woodside, cut off by the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and at its east you’ll find East Elmhurst drawn mainly by Junction Boulevard. Despite Jackson Heights’ large size, the E, F, M, R and the number 7 Subway lines serve the area at its southernmost border only running along Roosevelt Avenue, while the Long Island Railroad stops in nearby Woodside. Still, the neighborhood is among the most walkable.
Jackson Heights is as unique in its demographic as it is in its structure. The neighborhood is believed to be the site of the first garden city community in the United States. These “gardens” or private parks are found within the numerous garden-style apartment buildings in the neighborhood and can only be accessed by residents, though some are visible to the public.
About half of the neighborhood has also been designated a New York City Historic District to preserve the stately garden apartment buildings. The Jackson Heights Historic District encompasses the area found between 76th and 88th Streets, from Roosevelt Avenue to Northern Boulevard.
Like many neighborhoods in Queens, Jackson Heights has historically seen influxes of various ethnic groups settling into the area. Prepare to be dazed by the plentiful sight of garments, especially the colorful saris adorned by the neighborhood’s Indian women. The many savory aromas in the air are also certain to arouse hunger. Here, any attempt at interpreting the great number of languages spoken is sure to overwhelm.
Considering the abundant locales and eateries, Jackson Heights doubles as a global ethnic market. While walking down Roosevelt Avenue—the neighborhood’s busiest commercial thoroughfare—you’ll find Indian restaurants juxtaposed with Colombian diners that sit next to Mexican taco shops.
Among the most popular restaurants is the famous Jackson Diner specializing in Indian cuisine. Their Tandoori specials are not to be overlooked by visitors. La Pequeña Colombia (The Little Colombia) is also a favored option for those craving honest Colombian food.
Though Jackson Heights is home to enough eateries to satisfy the most exotic cravings, the neighborhood is also a strong business oasis. Along with the more familiar chain stores we can also find an excess of foreign mom and pop shops. The Butala Emporium serves as a great resort for an Indian souvenir. You’ll be delighted by their extensive selection of Indian clothing, incense, prints, instruments, Bollywood films, etc.
Jackson Heights also caters to the nature lover with its close proximity to Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The nearly 900 acre green space was the site of two twentieth century World’s Fairs and continues to draw visitors with its recreational facilities, Queens Botanical Garden and Zoo, along with the stunning re-opened Queens Museum of Art and New York Hall of Science.
These attractions are only a few stops from Jackson Heights and prove to be some of the greatest attractions in Queens. Still, the opportunity to experience through taste, sound and sight this dynamic enclave is a point of interest in and of itself.
Get in touch with the author @Brennan_NYC.