Battle of the Boroughs to settle age-old Brooklyn versus Queens debate 

Arbitration Rock was laid down 250 years ago on the grounds of The Vander Ende-Onderdonk House to settle a boundary dispute between Brooklyn and Queens. 
Arbitration Rock was laid down 250 years ago on the grounds of The Vander Ende-Onderdonk House to settle a boundary dispute between Brooklyn and Queens.  Photo Credit: Danielle Silverman

It’s time to settle this once and for all: Brooklyn or Queens?

On Saturday, Aug. 17, at the landmarked Vander Ende-Onderdonk House in Ridgewood, an age-old rivalry will be renewed between Kings and Queens — counties, that is.

Beginning at noon, the Greater Ridgewood Historical Society — the volunteer-based organization that operates the Vander Ende-Onderdonk House — will host the first "Arbitration Rock: Battle of the Boroughs," a festival of food, drink, music, and art observing the history of the boundary between Brooklyn and Queens.

The (theoretically) lighthearted contest will feature a series of competitions between proud representatives from each borough, including a pie-eating contest, trivia, and a tug-of-war, with the highest of stakes on the line: bragging rights.

“I thought it would be cool to have a day of play, celebrating our pride in our communities, but also maintaining that pride by battling it out [in] ridiculous, silly events,” said Emily Waelder, one of the event’s organizers.

The site of the "Battle" is no coincidence. The Vander Ende-Onderdonk House is the city’s oldest Dutch Colonial house and is home to Arbitration Rock, which, 250 years ago, a land surveyor laid down on the grounds to settle a boundary dispute between Brooklyn and Queens.

Waelder expects attendees to don plenty of boisterous borough-based garb — and "I do hope there will be a lot of trash talking" — but at its core, the event is meant to be a celebration of history, both shared between Brooklyn and Queens and independent of one another.

“We don’t see ourselves as ‘the outer boroughs,’ and I think it’s important to see New York City as more than just Manhattan,” said Branka Duknic, executive director of the Queens Historical Society. “We’re still part of New York City and what better celebration than [one] that brings about the differences and obviously the similarities between the people living in those places.”

Nalleli Guillen, a historian for the Brooklyn Historical Society, seconds Duknic’s appreciation for the "Battle."

“It’s always nice to bring close, neighboring communities together, even if it is in a friendly competition sort of way,” Guillen said. “For Brooklyn and Queens … these are communities that have just as deep a history as Manhattan.”

In true Battle-of-the-Boroughs spirit, Duknic and Guillen did offer some local favoritism, while jabbing at their neighbors across Newtown Creek and over the Kosciuszko Bridge.

“I know Brooklyn always claims to be the cooler borough, but, hey, we have the best food,” Duknic said of Queens. “You can speak the rarest language in the world and somehow you’ll find your supermarket.”

When asked which borough was home to better food, Guillen replied: “I mean, I never go out to Queens, unless I’m running to a Mets game or something like that.”

Queens city council members Robert Holden and Jimmy Van Bramer, who’ve both advocated for funding for the Vander Ende-Onderdonk House, said events such as this are vital to helping communities foster pride in their history.

“The Greater Ridgewood Historical Society does important work to keep the rich history of this neighborhood alive by educating the public and hosting such great events as the Arbitration Rock Festival,” said Holden, whose District 30 includes parts of Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Woodside, Woodhaven, and Ridgewood. “Of course, I’m rooting for Queens and I’m confident that we will come out on top.”

“It is so important that residents of Queens and Brooklyn, and all New Yorkers, have the opportunity to learn about the rich histories of our boroughs and our shared boundary,” said Van Bramer, who oversees parts of Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, Astoria, and Dutch Kills in his District 26. “Battle of the Boroughs is a fun event and all, but this battle has long been decided. Queens is clearly the best borough in NYC.”

Though his office acknowledged he proudly represents parts of both boroughs, in a very cool, Brooklyn move, Councilman Antonio Reynoso, representative of District 34’s Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Ridgewood neighborhoods, was on vacation and did not respond to a request for comment.

"Arbitration Rock: Battle of the Boroughs" runs from noon until 6 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 17. Admission is $5, with kids under 18 as well as site members, veterans, and active service members getting in for free.