City Living: North Astoria offers a diverse, close-knit community
The lively northern Astoria neighborhood in western Queens is saturated with diversity, restaurants and a blend of old and new residents who coexist.
There is every ethnicity from European and South and Central American to Middle Eastern and Mediterranean, said Ivona Bilicic, owner of Loveday 31, a vintage boutique on 31st Avenue. I love the fact that I can walk down the street and hear my own language; I love the diversity. Its the best thing here.
She moved to Astoria from Croatia in the 1980s.
It still feels like a neighborhood, which is amazing considering people are constantly moving in, she Bilicic. It still retains most of its original roots and cultures.
Andrew Walters, the general manager of Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden on 24th Avenue has called the area home since 1998 and also noted that the neighborhoods pride is its mix of cultures and close-knit community.
Its like a small town here, I know my neighbors on a first-name basis, he said. The people here are more relaxed and family-oriented.
The area is still known for its Greek restaurants, since the culture is still a big part of the nabe, but Walters noted that residents and visitors can find any cuisine.
Youll find anything you want from Italian to Indian or Thai, he said. Theres a real mixture of culture integrated into the community.
Prices of apartments and homes have risen in recent years as the buzz about Astoria, with its vibrant retail corridors and accessibility to midtown, has reverberated around the five boroughs. But despite the rising cost, people still want to live here.
Prices are going up but its still affordable, said Angela Metaras, a real estate agent at Metropolis Realty on 23rd Avenue who was born and raised in the neighborhood.
Theres so much life here, she added. Its 20 minutes from midtown and just walking out your door youll find cafes, restaurants and friendly people.
It is mostly a renters market in northern Astoria and the housing stock is a mix of pre-war buildings and modern developments. According to Metaras, an average one-bedroom runs from $1,600 to $1,800 while a two-bedroom runs from $1,800 to $2,200. She also noted that the units are becoming more pet-friendly.
Though it still offers a relatively good deal, Bilicic and another business owner, George Stelios of Teddys Florist, worry that soon affordable apartments will be gone.
I hear its hard to find affordable places here, Bilicic said. Especially for my customers since most are in their early- to- late-20s.
Though its a vibrant spot for the old and new residents, Bilicic also said that the area could use more green spaces in addition to the popular Astoria Park.
Thats one challenge of the neighborhood, she said. I think we also need more music venues. We have a great restaurant and bar scene but not a place to hear a live band.
Despite the busy main drags, the tucked-away side streets offer quiet for residents and many say they feel safe in the nabe.
I have a tween boy and I dont have to worry about his safety, Bilicic said.
Looking ahead, agent Metaras said the northern half of Astoria wont lose its value and family-friendliness.
A lot of people think theyll be here for two or three years but they end up loving it and living here for over 10 years, she said.
Walters is part of that group.
I always said Id never raise a family in New York but Ive done so here, he said. The feeling of community and that people care about each other is what makes me stay. Theres nowhere else like it.