Woodside, Queens: A diverse nabe in the midst of a balancing act

Woodside is a community balancing the old with the new.

With easy access to mass transit, housing that’s less expensive than other parts of the city and up-and-coming small businesses, it is attracting new residents — but the area is also a well-established community with deep roots and many longtime natives.

The wide selection of businesses along Roosevelt Avenue reveals a diverse community. A walk down it yields Irish pubs, Italian bakeries and restaurants serving, among others, Chinese, Filipino, Salvadoran and Mexican cuisine.

New businesses and trendy food places are always sprouting along the busy artery, like the Colombian restaurant Mis Tierras Colombianas at 54-08 Roosevelt Ave., which opened in February 2015. Casa Del Chef on 64th Street, a farm-to-table Ecuadorean restaurant that also offers a “tasting option,” where the cook improvises a meal of his choice for daring diners.

“It’s a melting pot, a little bit of everything,” 46-year resident Priscilla White, 70, said of the neighborhood.

Denise Keehan-Smith, chair of Queens Community Board 2, said the growing foodie scene is helping attract new residents.

“That’s kind of a new concept, where an old-school kind of Woodside person probably wouldn’t go into, but it’s become very popular,” she said of Casa Del Chef.

At the same time, the neighborhood is anchored by its classic spots, like Donovan’s Pub, at 57-24, an Irish staple that opened in 1966 and is known for its meaty burgers.

Old-school Woodsiders remain faithful to longstanding institutions.

“A lot of us went to Saint Sebastian Grammar School,” said Keehan-Smith, who was born and raised in Woodside. “I am still friends with people that I knew when I was 4 years old.”

The busiest section of the neighborhood is around the 61st Street station, where the Long Island Railroad, the 7 train and several bus lines meet.

Locals have quick access to Manhattan, either via the 7 train which runs express to the city in the mornings and from it in the evenings, and the Long Island Railroad which can get commuters to Penn Station in 10 minutes.

Coupled with its close proximity to LaGuardia Airport, which is easily accessible on the Q70 bus, Woodside is a key transit hub in Queens.

As an added bonus, experts say the area is a good destination for young people looking for real estate that’s a bit more affordable than other parts of the city.

Jordan Amacuegwa, 34, has lived in Woodside for two years and said his rent is more affordable than it was when he lived in Brooklyn.

“It’s cheaper than most places I’ve lived,” he said.

The median asking rent in Woodside was $1,900 in 2015, compared to $2,100 in the rest of Queens and $2,500 in Brooklyn, according to data provided by StreetEasy. The median sales price was $405,000 in Woodside, compared to $438,500 in all of Queens and $560,000 in Brooklyn, according to StreetEasy.

Woodside’s housing stock is predominantly single- and multi-family homes, small pre-war rental buildings and a few co-ops like the Big Six Towers at 60-10 Queens Blvd. which have about 1,000 units

Jessica Escobar, a real estate agent at Citi Habitats and a Woodside resident of 15 years, said the neighborhood offers pre-war housing with expansive layouts.

“You get the space you wouldn’t normally get in the city,” she said.

And despite its growing population, the high-rises popping up in areas like Long Island City and Flushing aren’t expected for Woodside anytime soon, experts said.

Keehan-Smith said that Community Board 2 has not been approached by big developers, adding that she doesn’t think the community would be welcoming if they did.

“I think there would be more push back,” she said. “We’re trying very hard to keep it kind of manageable.”

Some taller buildings, like Big 6 Towers, are more likely to be found along Queens Boulevard. An eight-story, 29-unit mixed-use building is currently being constructed at 64-26 Queens Blvd.

“We encourage low-rise, low density development for much of Woodside, while allowing for slightly taller buildings along Queens Boulevard,” said local Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents Woodside along with Sunnyside and Long Island City. “That’s, for me, a way of maintaining the neighborhood character.”

The spirit of Woodside is also kept alive by the loyalty of its long-term residents.

For example, when John and Kathy Ashton, both 61 and lifelong Woodsiders, lost their son Tommy in the World Trade Center on 9/11, the community supported them, they said.

Locals still come out to an annual spring basketball tournament that raises money for charity in honor of their son. Some of the money goes to Tommy Ashton’s former school, St. Sebastian’s Parish Center at 39-60 57th St., which is where the games are held.

“Woodsiders are a tremendous group of people that really rally around one another,” John Ashton said. “There’s still that sense of community and neighborhood in Woodside.”

Find it:

Woodside is bound to the north by the Grand Central Parkway and to the south by Lauren Hill Boulevard. Its western border is jagged and runs south down 49th, 50th, 51st and 52nd streets. It is bordered to the east by Boody Street and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.