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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. It’s 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 neighborhood’s pride is its mix of cultures and close-knit community.
“It’s 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.
“You’ll find anything you want from Italian to Indian or Thai,” he said. “There’s 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 it’s still affordable,” said Angela Metaras, a real estate agent at Metropolis Realty on 23rd Avenue who was born and raised in the neighborhood.
“There’s so much life here,” she added. “It’s 20 minutes from midtown and just walking out your door you’ll find cafes, restaurants and friendly people.”
It is mostly a renter’s 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 Teddy’s Florist, worry that soon affordable apartments will be gone.
“I hear it’s hard to find affordable places here,” Bilicic said. “Especially for my customers since most are in their early- to- late-20s.”
Though it’s 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.
“That’s 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 don’t have to worry about his safety,” Bilicic said.
Looking ahead, agent Metaras said the northern half of Astoria won’t lose its value and family-friendliness.
“A lot of people think they’ll 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 I’d never raise a family in New York but I’ve done so here,” he said. “The feeling of community and that people care about each other is what makes me stay. There’s nowhere else like it.”
North Astoria runs north to south from Ditmars Boulevard to Broadway. Its western boundary is Shore Boulevard and the East River, and on the east it is bordered by 49th Street. More »
Trains: N, Q to Broadway, 30th Avenue, Astoria Boulevard, Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard; Buses: M60, Q18, Q19, Q69, Q100, Q101, Q102, Q103, Q104 More »
Queens Library Astoria, 14-01 Astoria Blvd.; Queens Library Broadway, 40-20 Broadway More »
USPS, 21-17 Broadway; USPS, 22-68 31st St. More »
Astoria is covered by the 114th Precinct at 34-16 Astoria Blvd. South. In the week of July 7-13, there were no rapes or murders in the area reported by the precinct. However, there were six burglaries reported that week, 18 grand larcenies, or major thefts, and five cars stolen. Overall crime in the neighborhood so far this year is up almost 10% from 2013. More »
This 24-hour long-time spot is a favorite for locals. A variety of food choices from comfort foods to hearty meals, are on deck for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Traditional Greek dishes are served up at this well-loved, family friendly restaurant. An outdoor patio overlooking Astoria Park and a fireplace for the colder months are both part of its allure.
The Strand Smokehouse
One of the relatively new additions to the buzzing Astoria restaurant scene, this smokehouse is known for its smoked meat, local beers and live music.
Enjoy the party or the dinner at this elegant lounge. The belly dancing dinner show every Friday, flamenco performances every Sunday and ladies’ night every Thursday all bring in a crowd.
Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden
This massive beer garden is popular among Astorians and visitors alike. Claiming to be the oldest beer garden in New York City, they have been in the community for more than 100 years. It offers more than just benches and beer: Stand up comedy is hosted on the first Wednesday of every month in addition to other special events.
O’Hanlon’s Irish Pub
Another long-time Astoria staple, O’Hanlon’s opened in 1939 and since then has been a cozy, nostalgic watering hole.
Find produce and fruits grown in the New York area at this small weekday market, part of GrowNYC. They open every Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Long Island City Kleaners
LICK is an underground clothing shop featuring Queens-focused styles such as snapbacks with “Queens” across the front and sweatshirts, hockey shirts, tank tops and tees with the LICK logo.
This vintage boutique offers an array of one-of-a-kind shoes, accessories, jewelry and dresses that will please the bargain hunter. The dresses are the big sellers with styles spanning the 1960s through the 1990s.
Astoria Park and Pool
The near 60-acre park offers plenty green space where visitors can relax, play tennis, run or picnic. It houses the Astoria Pool, which according to the New York City Department of Parks, is the oldest and largest in the city and still attracts a hefty crowd in the summer months.
Astoria Performing Arts Center
Theater performances are paired with programs for children and senior citizens at this non-profit. Originals and revivals are often showcased on the stage.
Build It Green! NYC Queens
Visitors can partake in composting, volunteering and workshops at this recycling warehouse. BIG Compost Site tours are also offered to interested groups. For those who want to explore and buy, BIG offers deep discounts for items like refrigerators, reclaimed lumber, flooring and other household or home improvement needs.
30-50 21st St. #4K One bed, one bath; 642 square feet: $2,550 per month;25-38 38th St. #1 One bath studio; 450 square feet: $1,500 per month. More »
25-34 Crescent St. #4D One-bed, one-bath co-op; 674 square feet: $339,000;25-40 Shore Blvd. #17T One-bed, one-bath condo; 650 square feet: $529,000. More »
Astoria Cove, a residential project that is in the works to be developed on part of East Astoria’s waterfront, is a much talked-about topic among residents. More »
George Stelios has co-owned Teddy’s Florist at 21-75 35th St. with his sister, Clare Petropoulos, for more than 30 years. More »