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What Makes Us Unique

August 24, 2010 4 comments

I recently ran across this very interesting article in New York magazine which revealed how the City has been changing over the past couple of decades. We all probably know it already, but it was still interesting to sift through the data in the article about the changing demographics.

Basically, it says that the “white flight” of the 70’s and 80’s, which saw the city’s white population flee the city to the suburbs, has begun to reverse itself. For the first time since those years, whites comprise the majority of the population of Manhattan.

As a child of the suburbs, who moved to Manhattan in my early 20’s, and then out to Brooklyn, and then Queens, my reaction to this is “What took them so long to figure out that the City is a better place to live than the suburbs?” The suburbia where I grew up was a cultural wasteland. The city was just a short LIRR ride away, but it might as well have been a world away. There was so much more to see and do, and so much more energy. The City was alive.  The suburbs, where I grew up anyway, were pretty dead.

What does Manhattan’s changing demographics mean for Forest Hills and our part of Queens? Well, it’s already happening — with Manhattan and other areas of the City already gentrified, more and more people priced out of these areas are looking for the few affordable areas left, and Forest Hills is one of them.

But while Manhattan is now becoming increasingly homogeneous — it’s amazing to think that is possible, but it is — we here in Forest Hills and the rest of Queens have a great, special advantage: our diversity.

As many have been forced out of the Manhattan market because of the high rents, we have begun to benefit. It’s no coincidence that Forest Hills has suddenly begun to see some great new restaurants and shops open in the past couple of years, and with the current trends this will only continue, and yes, I think so even despite the economy. New York City is a unique place and its resurgence continues unabated. Forest Hills is feeling the effects of that.

We are also lucky in another way — there are entire swaths of the area that await redevelopment, or at least improvement. Both sides of Queens Blvd. east towards Kew Gardens is one example. It’s not surprising that one of the best new restaurants to open in the past couple of years, Tuscan Hills, chose a location there to do so. I don’t know for sure, but I would guess the proprietors got a pretty sweet deal. And other fine restaurants have begun to open near it.

As Forest Hills, like Manhattan, continues to change, I only hope we are able to harness the one thing that really makes us special — our diversity. If Manhattan’s fate is to be an urbanized, upper class Disney World, then hopefully we can corner the market on what makes New York City really special: its amazing mix of cultures.

The Kennedy House of Kilimanjaro

August 22, 2010 5 comments

The mission was a simple one: to bring back a Nick’s pizza, half meatball, half plain, accompanied by two pastries from Bonelle’s next door.

It may sound like an easy task, but first I had to defy one of nature’s greatest challenges: the hurricane-like gales emanating in all directions from The Kennedy House! After all, it was an overcast, rainy day — just the type of weather Kennedy House loves to turn into a wind storm that would make even Jim Cantore flee in fear.

There were times during this fateful journey that I was not quite sure I would make it. I was buffeted by winds that must have been gusting 50 to 60 miles per hour, threatening to take out yet another bargain umbrella from Century 21. Rain pellets stung my face. The pre-Great Recession era priced Nick’s pizza took a bruising, its premium cardboard box being lifted by the wind currents like the wings of a small jet, almost threatening to lift me off the ground with it.

But I finally accomplished the mission, making it back home with the pizza and pastries in hand, all in one soggy piece.

Yes, The Kennedy House of Kilimanjaro had done all it could to make Forest Hills as inhospitable as possible to this pedestrian once again. I could almost hear the voices of its elderly residents shouting out from their rooftop pool above me: “You should’ve drove the couple of blocks!” But I had persevered, and could consume my overpriced pizza with the satisfaction of knowing that I had once again conquered Kennedy House, and its architects, who had erected it where it would cause maximum hardship to the car-less of Forest Hills.

Can You Save My Spot?

August 1, 2010 Leave a comment

I know finding parking in Forest Hills isn’t easy, but this is ridiculous! 🙂

Knish Emergency!

August 1, 2010 Leave a comment

I am sitting here with the windows finally open in my apartment now that the horrendous heat has finally abated, all in an attempt to air out my apartment of the smell of mothballs that has invaded from my neighbors’ domiciles. And what should suddenly come temptingly wafting through the windows? The sweet, delicious scent of knishes! Now is that a genuine Forest Hills experience or what?

I want a damn knish and I want it now!

MTA Fare Hike Proposal

July 28, 2010 Leave a comment

I think this is potentially some of the worst news I have seen in quite a while for the city if you consider how the unlimited MetroCard has transformed riders’ habits and opened up the entire city to its residents. With an unlimited MetroCard you thought nothing of hopping on the express train from Forest Hills to spend an afternoon in Manhattan. Now, you very well might think twice. Bad for Forest Hills, bad for Manhattan, bad all around.

Specifically I am referring to this excerpt from the article: “The unlimited subway and bus MetroCard, which pushed ridership to record levels after its introduction in the 1990s and revolutionized the way New Yorkers imagine their transit system, could also be on the way out. One proposal would place limits on how many rides could be taken on monthly and weekly passes.”

From The Times:

N.Y. / Region
By MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM
Published: July 28, 2010
The proposals are to be unveiled Wednesday, just weeks after severe service cuts were imposed on the transit system.

Forest Hills Chutzpah – (Part 1 of a continuing series)

July 14, 2010 Leave a comment

So I’m just getting on the line at Natural the other evening, when I hear these words spoken at the front of the line:

“Excuse me, do you mind if I just pay for these before you? I’m double-parked outside.”

I can’t believe my ears and turn to glance to the front of the line. I see a well-dressed, middle-aged lady standing there talking to another lady who is at the front of the line with her teenage son. “The nerve!” I say to myself.

“Sure,” says the lady with her son. She then glances behind her and I couldn’t tell if she was embarrassed to have allowed the woman to cut in front of her, or if she herself is repulsed by the chutzpah!

Me – repulsed by the chutzpah, biggie time!!

Have your own favorite Forest Hills chutzpah experience? Email them to me at drakefohinyc@gmail.com. I will pick from the best and post ’em!

Forest Hills And “The City”

July 13, 2010 3 comments

Ever since I moved to Forest Hills it’s always amused me how some people who live here refer to Manhattan as “the city.” As in, “I have to go into the city today.”
I even catch myself saying it in times of weakness.
Because, the question then arises: if we are going into “the city,” then where are we now? You can’t go somewhere if you’re already there, now can you?
For a while there I would always try to correct people. My thinking was, if we want Forest Hills to gain more of a feel of New York City in terms of better supermakets, great restaurants and cafes, charming shops and boutiques, then we had to start thinking of ourselves as living in “the city.”
After all, words can be extremely powerful. Why does the MTA, for example, tell us, “We apologize for the unavoidable delay”? There is no such thing in the universe, including in The New York City Subway System, as an “unavoidable delay.” Something, somewhere, somehow, at some time, could have been done to avoid the delay. But if an authoritative voice on a loud speaker says it, the powers that be think the masses will believe it. The same goes for “smoke condition.” It’s called a “fire!”
But, as I said, words are powerful.
So if you want Forest Hills to gain more of what New York City has to offer, the next time don’t tell someone you’re “going into the city.” Tell them you’re “heading into Manhattan for a bit.” See how that makes you feel, and what kind of impression it makes on your friend.

Heat, Cigarette Smoke and Mothballs

July 8, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s funny because all the media coverage said today the weather would finally feel better. I don’t know about you, but I think this morning was the worst so far. Yes, the extreme heat has abated, but the humidity has finally kicked in big-time. It felt like a freakin’ sponge out there this morning!

The Times ran an article  the other day about how the city seems different during a heat wave. I have another observation- it smells different too! Mostly of mothballs and cigarette smoke, to be exact.

Those odors, quite unfortunately for me, have suddenly become prominent in my apartment since the heat wave began – the cigarette smoke eminating from the two apartments on either side of mine, and the mothballs from whence I’m not quite sure, either the old lady below me or the old couple across the hall.

I’ll say it straight out – if my generation is remembered for anything, for any lasting contribution to mankind, I predict it will be coming up with alternatives to mothballs! In my closet I still have cedar wood blocks that I bought from Home Depot years ago– odorless cedar.

I recall when I was looking at apartments in Forest Hills years ago, walking into one building on the south side of Queens Blvd., somewhere near Ascan, and the entire lobby stunk to high heaven of mothballs. That ended any possibility of me living there in a flash. Awful!

Anyway, I am looking forward to the heat wave ending so hopefully the steamy air will stop carrying the smell of smoke and mothballs into my apartment.

And if there are any seniors reading this — or freakily mothball-possessing young people — please! Trash your mothballs and take a trip to your nearest Home Depot and ask the clerk what’s the latest — odorless — product they have to take its place! Or just go here and order them: http://www.amazon.com/24-Cedar-Wood-Blocks-Repellent/dp/B001CLBTHY

Museum To Reopen In January

July 8, 2010 Leave a comment

After extensive renovations The Museum of the Moving Image in nearby Astoria will be reopening on January 15th, The Times reported yesterday. The museum was due to make the announcement today: http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/07/expanded-museum-of-the-moving-image-in-astoria-to-open-in-january/

If you have never been, the museum as it was before was a great little treat. Smallish, quaint even, but a lot of fun. I really look forward to the expanded version when it opens early next year. And it will probably generate a lot of positive attention for our borough, something that is always nice.

Queens Culture – Part 2

June 29, 2010 1 comment

Wow! I don’t know how many people saw it, but the June 25th edition of The Times had a great story about how hospitals in outer borough areas of the city are losing patients to hospitals in Manhattan. These patients are choosing to use the world-class Manhattan hospitals instead of the, ahem, rather less-than-world-class hospitals right where they live.

From the article: “This fertility flight, echoed in other gentrifying neighborhoods like Chelsea and the Lower East Side in Manhattan and Jackson Heights, Sunnyside and Astoria in Queens, shows how when it comes to picking hospitals, consumers are powerfully affected by intangible forces like reputation and marketing. It is also one more measure of New York’s transformation from a place where people are defined by their neighborhoods to one where people are more likely to be tied by culture, class, education, profession and like-mindedness.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of living in Brooklyn,” said Nicole Reece, who lives in Dumbo and is due to have her first baby in July at Roosevelt Hospital in Midtown Manhattan. But she added, “I do think of myself as living in New York City proper, and I don’t really make a distinction about certain life choices based on whether it’s in my borough or not. Manhattan has some of the best doctors in the country. I live 25 to 45 minutes away from them. Why would I not choose them?”

Need I say more? See my post on June 24th, “Queens Culture – Part 1”, to read more of my thoughts on this. Basically I said I am consistently baffled why many residents of Forest Hills, other parts of Queens, or any other outer borough view themselves exclusively as residents of Queens or that borough and not New York City. We are a quick 20 minute subway express train ride to midtown. Why not avail yourself of the best health care the world has to offer? I have had personal experiences with this and am not just talking out of thin air. There is an enormous difference when it comes to the quality of medical care between Queens and Manhattan. The great thing is, since we live in New York City, we can easily avail ourselves of that great care.

In other words, this apparently new phenomenon of newer and younger residents of Queens and Brooklyn viewing themselves as residents of “New York City” is a fantastic one, one that I have been eagerly anticipating, and one that I am not surprised at all is taking place as areas like Forest Hills continue to gentrify and the differences between outer and inner borough slowly disappear. Who knows, maybe some day soon the outer borough hospitals will rise to the challenge and we won’t have to be hopping on the subway to go into Manhattan. The way things are going, with all the great changes taking place throughout the city, I bet you that day isn’t very far off.

Read the entire NY Times article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/26/nyregion/26hospitals.html

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