City Living: Forest Hills is a gorgeous Queens nabe
The Central Queens neighborhood of Forest Hills is a prime location for anyone seeking a respite outside Manhattan while staying close enough to return in less than a half hour.
Forest Hills is juxtaposed with quiet streets decorated with well-maintained single-family homes and row houses, and bustling blocks with high-rises and busy restaurants. This diversity of architectural styles matched with the area's vibrant commercial corridors strikes a solid balance between urban and suburban.
"It's a highly-walkable area," said Barbara Stuchinski, president of the Forest Hills Civic Association, who grew up here. "You can go up to Austin Street for one type of shopping with high-end stores and chains or movie theaters, or you can walk to the other end at Metropolitan Avenue, home to primarily restaurants."
The area is also saturated with green space including the sprawling Forest Park, MacDonald Park, Olivia Park, and The West Side Tennis Club featuring eight grass courts where members can play and afterward, take a dip in the Olympic-sized pool or dine on the outdoor patio with family.
"The reason a lot of people move here is because we have everything accessible - subways, [the Long Island Railroad], churches, schools, synagogues," Stuchinski said.
Both she and Susanna Hof, a Forest Hills native who owns the local Terrace Sotheby's International Realty with her husband Rob, noted that this is the perfect place to raise a family.
"It's very close-knit," Hof said. "All the parents know each other, the kids make friends quickly."
Activities ranging from little league and a yearly Halloween Harvest sponsored by the local 112th Precinct, to plays held by the Grace Lutheran Church theater group, help neighbors get to know each other.
"You have younger people, quite a few families and younger families moving in now," Stuchinski said. "And it's all for the good since there is a wealth of educational opportunity here."
The neighborhood has a few distinct parts; the most exclusive of them is the quiet, leafy and picturesque subsection, Forest Hills Gardens, which, according to Hof, is one of the oldest planned communities in the United States, designed by famed architect Grosvenor Atterbury.
The privately-owned Gardens includes large Tudor-style homes and estates, some with stained-glass windows, oak moldings and grand staircases.
"When you walk here, you fall in love with it," Hof said of the Gardens.
But Hof, whose husband also grew up in Forest Hills and whose daughter decided to raise her family here too, said Forest Hills Gardens is relatively under the radar.
"A lot of people don't know the Gardens exist unless they know someone who lives here," she said.
Another subsection, Van Court, surrounds the Gardens and features single-family brick homes. Radiating out toward Metropolitan Avenue, a third section, known as the Archie Bunker Houses, consists of wood-framed row houses. A mix of co-ops and high-rise condominiums stand on Queens Boulevard and across the boulevard is Forest Hills North where plenty of new European-style "McMansions" are popping up.
From its beginnings to about 10 years ago, Forest Hills was mainly an Anglo-Saxon community. Recently however, Stuchinski and Hof said, there has been an influx of a range of ethnicities including Indian, Asian and Bukharan Russian.
"It has been ethnically diverse for quite a while," Hof said. Her hope is that the diversity will keep growing. "It's important to the quality of the community."
Despite its glamorous appearance, Stuchinski said there is a common misperception about Forest Hills that its residents have too much time and money on their hands.
In actuality, she said, residents showed their activist side by fighting against rezoning, the building of big box stores on Metropolitan Avenue where the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning school now sits, and the revitalization of Station Square, the Tudor-filled entrance into Forest Hills Gardens just off of the LIRR station. It is also where Theodore Roosevelt gave his famous "Divided Allegiance" speech in June 1917 stating the support of America's entrance into to WWI two months prior.
"But we're not like that. We're working people," she said. "We don't have an awful lot of money; what we do is all to preserve our community."
Forest Hills is shaped like a backward L that’s jagged on one side. Its northern boundary is the Horace Harding Expressway service road. To the south is Union Turnpike. Its eastern boundary is the Grand Central Parkway service road. Its western boundary is a jagged line consisting of a number of streets: 99th Street, Queens Boulevard, Yellowstone Boulevard, Selfridge Street and Woodhaven Boulevard. Some simplify the western boundary to Yellowstone and Woodhaven Boulevards.
Q11, Q21, Q23, Q53, Q54, Q60, Q64, QM4, QM11, QM12, QM18 buses
E, F, M, R trains to Forest Hills/71st Ave.
M, R to 67th Ave.
E, F to 75th Ave.
LIRR at Forest Hills station
Queens Library Forest Hills branch, 108-19 71st Ave.
USPS Forest Hills Station, 106-28 Queens Blvd.
The 112th Precinct covers the Forest Hills neighborhood. According to the NYPD's CompStat report, crimes such as robberies, burglaries, grand larceny and grand larceny auto have decreased significantly since 1990. Grand larceny auto has seen the largest decline with 3,477 complaints logged in 1990 compared to 78 for 2012. Burglaries have seen the second largest decline with 1,680 in 1990 versus 143 in 2012, a 90% decrease. For the week of Nov. 4-Nov. 10,2013, the stats show a big spike in grand larceny. There were 16 complaints in that week compared to only six during the same week in Nov. 2012. There were 50% less burglaries reported during that week this year compared to the same week last year. Overall crime for this year compared to last year is down almost 6%.
Celebs born or raised in Forest Hills
Joey, Tommy and Johnny Ramone
Agora Taverna, 70-09 Austin St.
This spot offers traditional Greek dishes in a Mediterranean-inspired atmosphere. 718-793-7300
Lillian Pizzeria, 96-01 69th Ave.
This small, family-run pizzeria has served Forest Hills since 1971. It’s a beloved spot for many residents, current and past, including Ray Romano. 718-520-8749
danny brown Wine Bar & Kitchen, 104-02 Metropolitan Ave.
Danny brown is a popular spot to sample a wide range of wines, meats, cheeses and large plates of duck confit or braised veal. 718-261-2144
Forest Hills Station House, 106-11 71st Ave.
This beer hall and whiskey den has 16 beers on tap, 30 bourbons, and cocktails infused with Whiskey with names like the Johnny Black Sour and Cherry Smash. 718-544-5000
Tap House Sports Bar, 72-07 Austin St.
Tap House offers a friendly atmosphere to go along with the whiskey, beer and scotch selection. 718-997-0500
Dirty Pierre's, 13 Station Square
Well-loved by locals and visitors, Dirty Pierre's is known not just for their drinks. Their burgers and mussels are big hits. 718-830-9698
Banana Republic, 71-18 Austin St.
This small branch of the classic, trendy retailer offers styles for men and women ranging from casual to dressy looks. 718-268-4714
Austin Street in Forest Hills is a well-known retail corridor in Queens with many boutiques, gift shops and retail chains like Sephora and Barnes & Noble.
Chez Moi Studio, 71-47 Austin St.
A glamorous women’s boutique carrying discount designer dresses, shoes, evening bags and accessories. 718-520-0900
Blue Elephant, 101-21 71st Road
This children's boutique offers trendy clothing for fashion-forward little ones. 718-261-3222
Lynne's Riding School, 88-03 70th Rd.
This horse stable offers basic riding lessons and beginner horse camp. 718-261-7679
Genesis Tree of Life Yoga, 102-06 Metropolitan Ave.
This yoga studio offers a clean, welcoming atmosphere for novices or experts. Classes range from yoga to meditation and dance, as well as workshops. 718-544-5997
Forest Hills Youth Activity Association, 66-01 Fleet St.
The association allows Forest Hills children to be part of the little league, girls softball, pony league, basketball or soccer. 718-544-2296\
The historic Forest Hills Stadium at One Tennis Place in Forest Hills Gardens was recently revitalized to mirror its heyday, a venue for big-name musical acts like Frank Sinatra, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan and The Beatles.
Last summer the stadium, owned by the West Side Tennis Club, reopened after more than a decade with a concert by the Grammy-winning folk rock band Mumford & Sons.
The tennis stadium originally opened in 1923. It hosted the U.S. Open until 1978 when the tournament moved to Flushing Meadows Corona Park because the stadium couldn't accommodate the larger crowds. According to the West Side Tennis Club, concerts were always held alongside the tennis games but the noise and mess often left after shows during the 80s and 90s upset neighbors, causing them to cease. The club considered selling the space to condo developers but a study by the City declared it structurally sound, so the owners worked alongside concert promoter Mike Luba, to bring entertainment back.
The Mumford & Sons concert was the first of 19 that were set to take place over the next few years. But according to the West Side Tennis Club, the date for any future concerts has not been determined yet and there is currently no information on when they will be.
101-06 67th Drive, Two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment; 1,400 square feet. $2,500 per month.
110-20 73rd Road. One-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment; 1,100 square feet. $1,900 per month.
120 Puritan Ave. Six-bed, seven-bath single-family home; 7,700-square-foot lot. $2,150,000.
20 Continental Ave., #5E5F. Two-bedroom, two-bath pre-war condo; 3,260 square feet. $899,000.
Looking for a home in Forest Hills?
Madeleine Realty LTD., madeleinerealty.com
Better Homes and Gardens FH Realty, queensrealty.com
Q&A with Vito Citrano, owner of Eddie’s Sweet Shop
Vito Citrano owns and manages Eddie’s Sweet Shop at 105-29 Metropolitan Ave. His father, Giuseppe, bought the shop in 1968 when the family first moved to Forest Hills. At that time he was the second owner of the historic shop which first opened in the 1920s and was named Witt’s Ice Cream Parlor. His father changed the name but maintained the shop’s old school look and charm with its marble counter, century-old soda fountain, inlaid wood and tapestry on the walls. The Citranos also maintained the one thing the shop is widely known for: homemade ice cream, whipped cream, toppings and syrups. Vito Citrano still lives in Forest Hills with his wife and two children.
How would you compare Forest Hills now to when you were growing up?
We used to play everything after school in the street, from baseball and football to soccer and hockey. Now, my oldest who is 14 is not hanging out outside. There were hardly any cars in the street that time, now there’s a lot more traffic, especially on Metropolitan.
What’s the best thing about living here?
Everything. First, my business is here, I get to see my children all the time. The schools are good, and when you walk down the avenue you’ll always meet people you know.
What do people like about your store?
They instantly get taken back to the 1920s and they love it. It hasn’t changed at all; we even still have one of the first electric refrigerators. We’ve gotten new customers over the last couple of years, mostly by word-of-mouth.