City Living: Howard Beach is a family-friendly neighborhood by the bay
Though named Howard Beach, this south Queens waterfront nabe has more of a bay than a beach. But that doesnt make it any less attractive to the families who move there and remain for years, settling in, raising their children and retiring.
The people who were here 40 years ago are still here; and if not them their children, said Howard Beach native Andrea McDonald who currently lives in Old Howard Beach with her husband and two kids. Everybody knows everybody here; everyone looks out for each other.
This is a mostly Italian-American middle class, suburban community. It is named after William J. Howard, a leather gloves manufacturer who was based in Brooklyn but had a goat farm in the area, according to the book, The Encyclopedia of New York City edited by Kenneth T. Jackson, Lisa Keller and Nancy Flood. Howard purchased land in a section now called Old Howard Beach and constructed the areas first houses on it.
The neighborhood has other smaller sections including Hamilton Beach, Lindenwood, Rockwood Park, Ramblersville and Howard Park.
The best way to describe Howard Beach is: Its a tucked away community in a busy city that has the atmosphere of somewhere on Long Island, said Jerry Fink, owner and broker at Jerry Finke Real Estate on Cross Bay Boulevard who has lived here for 18 years. Its close enough to the city but once you get off of Cross Bay Boulevard you dont feel like youre in New York City.
Throughout the neighborhood are quiet streets lined with well-manicured lawns. American and Italian flags flutter and stunning homes that run the gamut from McMansions and Colonials to co-ops, garden apartments and bungalows in Old Howard Beach.
Older people move into the Lindenwood section and buy condos or co-ops, Fink said, but the younger people are buying homes here because they want to be close to their parents.
He said the average single-family home runs between $400,000 and $600,000. The larger, newer homes can fetch as much as $3 million. Cross Bay Boulevard is the main artery of the neighborhood. Locals simply call it the boulevard or Manga Boulevard.
Though many eateries are primarily Italian ranging from upscale restaurants to pizza shops, the boulevard also has options like sushi, Spanish, Asian-fusion cuisine and the popular Chinese buffet spot, Empire Buffet. It is also dotted with ice cream shops, retail and service businesses from real estate agencies to doctors offices. Many of the restaurants have been here through the ages; some are still family-owned.
Joann Ariola, president of the Howard Beach Lindenwood Civic Association, noted that is that the businesses often hire from within the community, giving the local kids their first working experiences.
They invest and reinvest in the community, she said of local businesses.
The people still say hello to each other here, she added. Its neighborly, its inviting, and its a great place to raise your child because of the wonderful schools and religious institutions.
Howard Beach was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy in 2012 but it has mostly recovered, though Ariola said some residents are still not back in their homes.
Another challenge in the neighborhood is Charles Park in Old Howard Beach -- residents say it needs an overhaul.
It should be redone; there should be staff there all the time tending to it, McDonald said. This is where our children go for baseball games, practice and for Relay for Life. We dont want to start going elsewhere.
But despite those drawbacks, residents dont want to leave. Its funny because I left and came back, Ariola said. I was still getting my hair cut in Howard Beach and coming back here for a lot of things. He added, Where else would you go and find nice people, be close to the water and if you want to go to the city theres a train right there?
Locals say they dont expect the nabe to change, either.
Itll still have the same charm it has now, Fink said of future decades. If anything itll be more attractive for people who want to get away from the busier neighborhoods.
Howard Beach is bordered to the north by 149th Avenue and North Conduit Parkway and to the east by the zigzag lines of 102nd, 103rd and 104th streets. It is hugged to the south by Jamaica Bay and Spring Creek to the west. More »
Trains: A to Rockaway Boulevard, Aqueduct North Conduit Avenue and Howard Beach JFK Airport Buses: Q11, Q21, Q41, Q52, Q53, QM15, QM16, QM17, BM5, B15 More »
Queens Library Howard Beach branch, 92-06 156th Ave. More »
USPS, 160-50 Cross Bay Blvd. More »
Crime: Howard Beach is covered by the 106th Precinct at 103-53 101st St. According to its CompStat report, in the week of June 16-22, there were six burglaries and nine grand larcenies, or major thefts, up from four and six in 2013, respectively. Two cars were reported stolen that week this year and in 2013. Overall crime is up 33% in the precinct from last year. More »