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Woodhaven, Queens: An oasis of small businesses with a diverse community

As its name implies, Woodhaven is truly an escape in the urban jungle.

The Queens neighborhood is probably one of the few places in the city where you can get off the train, take a stroll through a forest, grab a bite to eat from a Latin restaurant and head home to a house that was built a century ago.

“It’s always been a place where people come in and bring their experiences to the community,” said Ed Wendell, a lifelong resident and the executive director of the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society.

Jamaica Avenue is a bustling corridor stocked with mom-and-pop stores and restaurants that reflect the diverse population in the neighborhood, according to Wendell.

“People ask how many businesses have been around for more than 100 years and there are like seven or eight,” Wendell said of the avenue. “We are proud of our history.”

Meanwhile, the one- and two-family homes south of the avenue have kept their Victorian look from the early 1900s. Most also come with backyards.

“It’s an actual community. People get to know each other and help everyone out,” noted Vickie Messina, 67, who has lived in Woodhaven with her husband in their two-story house for 40 years.

But Woodhaven is becoming less of a hidden gem, and some locals said there are concerns about overcrowding.

For example, there have been complaints about illegal conversions that pack too many tenants into basements and other spaces, Wendell said.

“If you walk around the streets of our neighborhood and you look around what you see is a two-family house that has six satellite dishes or four doorbells,” he said.

Newcomers add to the area’s diversity, however, others noted.

Judith Oquendo, 28, who moved to the area with her two daughters 10 years ago, said she is good friends with her Italian and Chinese neighbors.

“We always talk to each other and it’s great because my kids can grow up and learn from these cultures. These days, we need that,” she said recently as she picked up her kids from Sunday school services at Saint Thomas the Apostle Church on 88th Avenue.

Oquendo added that the neighborhood’s housing prices are affordable for its working-class residents.

However, according to data from StreetEasy, sales prices in Woodhaven are more expensive than some other Queens neighborhoods.

The median sales price in Woodhaven in 2016 was $510,000 as of Oct. 12, compared to $450,000 in Queens as a whole, the site found.

The rental market is a bit cooler, according to StreetEasy. The median rent in Woodhaven in 2016 as of Oct. 12 was $1,650, down from $2,200 borough-wide.

The nabe’s proximity to Manhattan — it is 20 minutes from downtown via the J and Z trains — and its access to Forest Park create competition in its sales market, experts said.

At 538 acres, Forest Park is the third-largest greenspace in Queens and has tennis courts, a golf course, a carousel and three walking trails with over five miles of tree line paths, among other amenities.

“I’ve met people who just wanted to take a walk in the park with their kids and then stumbled upon this nature reserve,” and decided to move to the neighborhood, said Alex Blenkinsopp, 33, a lifelong Woodhavenite and member of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association.

Find it

Woodhaven is bordered to the north by 109th
Photo Credit: Google Maps

Woodhaven is bordered to the north by 109th Street, the south by Eldert Lane and the west by Park Lane South, according to StreetEasy. Its eastern boundary goes from 95th Avenue, down Eldert Street to Liberty Avenue, and up 99th Street to 101st Avenue.

Woodhaven restaurants

Schmidt's Candy, aka Schmidt's Confectionery94-15 Jamaica Ave.This German-style
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Schmidt's Candy, aka Schmidt's Confectionery

94-15 Jamaica Ave.

This German-style candy shop has been creating sweet treats since 1925. It offers everything from sprinkled pretzels to chocolate lollipops shaped in various objects, like cars and cats.

Avenue Diner (pictured)

91-06 Jamaica Ave.

Menu items for breakfast, lunch and dinner include cheeseburgers, wraps and omelets and salads. It also has a selection of Greek delights such as souvlaki sandwiches, spinach pie and chicken gyro platters.



90-19 Jamaica Ave.

A Dominican restaurant that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Caribbean dishes include everything from empanadas to mofongo and seafood.

917- 242-3841

Bars and nightlife

Nebu Hookah Lounge86-72 80th St.This late-night spot features
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Nebu Hookah Lounge

86-72 80th St.

This late-night spot features live DJs and has 50 flavors of hookah.

Mike's Pub (pictured)

79-19 Jamaica Ave.

An Irish Pub has with a full bar, a pool table and darts.


Things to do in Woodhaven

Forest Park CarouselForest Park near Woodhaven BoulevardOne of
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Forest Park Carousel

Forest Park near Woodhaven Boulevard

One of the oldest attractions in the city. The hand-carved attraction is 114 years old and moved to the park from its original home in Massachusetts in 1973. The ride was designated as a landmark in 2013.

Mayo Academy of Martial Arts & Self-Defense

84-33 Jamaica Ave.

Kids and adults can enroll in classes at this 7,000-square-foot facility. Sports offered include boxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and kickboxing. Birthday parties are also available.

Forest Park Golf Course

101 Forest Park Drive

More than 6,000 yards of space is available for golfers of all levels. The course has been around since 1896 and was given a major renovation in 1995.

Where to shop

Kaspa Carpet86-11 Atlantic Ave.Home and business owners looking
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Kaspa Carpet

86-11 Atlantic Ave.

Home and business owners looking for the right additions to their floors can come to this 31-year-old store, which also offers wood and tile flooring.

Hardware City (pictured)

79-06 Jamaica Ave.

In the days when independent hardware shops are becoming a thing-of-the-past, Woodhaven still has you covered. Find everything you need for your small home improvement projects.


Woodhaven real estate data

Median sales price: $510,000 Number of units on
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Median sales price: $510,000

Number of units on market: 24

Median rent price: $1,650

Number of units on market: 67

(Source: StreetEasy)

Q&A with Loycent Gordon, owner of Neir’s Tavern

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Loycent Gordon

Loycent "Loy" Gordon, 37, is the owner of Neir's Tavern at 87-48 78th St. Having first opened in 1829, the tavern is one of the oldest bars in Queens. Gordon, who is also an FDNY lieutenant, moved from Jamaica the country to Jamaica, Queens when he was 10 years old. He saved the tavern from closing when he bought it in 2009. He lives with his wife and 7-month-old son in St. Albans.

How did you come to own Neir's?

I got exposed to Woodhaven because my friend owned the building that had Neir's tavern. He said he had problems with the tenant from paying the rent. They couldn't pay the rent and it was close to shutting down. I said this was a shame, this is a historical place. I thought someone would jump in but no one did. So I struck a deal with him and said I don't know anything about the bar and restaurant business but I decided to go in.

Why else is the tavern special to you?

I'm a big Queens fan and supporter. Queens took me in and accepted me as an immigrant. Neir's Tavern was the social pulse of the neighborhood and it kept people together. In this age when people are kind of...anti-social, I wanted to bring people together.

How is it historically significant?

One of the main thing I'm preserving is the people who connected with Neir's throughout its history. Neir's is that conduit that can connect people with the middle-class, working-class Joe who lives in the neighborhood. One example was William Burlingame. He got married at Neir's tavern in 1946. He didn't have that much money and Neir's fit his budget and it worked well. Years later, I get a letter and he says, "wow I was watching TV and I saw you talking about Neir's Tavern and I couldn't believe that it's still open." He described about all the beautiful details about the wedding and I wrote him back and asked him to come back. He brought his two daughters and he was almost in tears.

As for the neighborhood, what makes Woodhaven unique?

From what I see, Woodhaven is the microcosm of the United States. I say that because of the diversity of the people who live here. You have Sikhs and people from Thailand, Europe, Caribbean, Asian, you have a whole plethora of people. If you want to see what Queens is on a smaller scale, you go to Woodhaven.


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