Malba is an upper-middle-class and wealthy neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens. On Malba's waterfront sit some of the largest and most expensive private houses in the city limits outside of Manhattan, though the values of the biggest and most expensive homes in the neighborhood fall well short of a medium-sized apartment in Manhattan's most desirable areas, such as SoHo and the West Village. That Malba's homes can be so large but so relatively inexpensive is attributable to their adherence to the guido architectural vernacular and, frankly, that they are in Queens.
Malba is bounded to the north by the East River, to the east by the Whitestone Expressway, to the south by 14th Avenue, and to the west by 138th Street. Its name is derived from the first letters of the surnames of its five founders of the Malba Land Company: Maycock, Alling, Lewis, Bishop, and Avis. Malba is considered part of Whitestone, one of the most affluent communities in Queens. Demographically, the population is mostly white and of European descent (Greek, Irish, Italian, and Jewish), with a small minority of Asian Americans. Most of the residential properties in Malba are large homes. The neighborhood is part of Queens Community District 7, served by Queens Community Board 7.
The first known resident of the area known as present-day Malba was David Roe, who arrived from England in the 1640s. According to Clarence Almon Torrey's book, David Roe Of Flushing And Some Of His Descendants, Roe became a resident of Flushing circa 1666. In 1683, Roe was taxed upon owning 35 acres (140,000 m2) and thereafter increased his holdings substantially, ultimately acquiring the upland around what was to become Malba. Roe's farm was on the east side of the bay, which was then known as "Roe's Cove". He was among the most well-to-do citizens of Flushing, owning lands, farm stock, carpenter's tools and two slaves.
In 1786, John Powell purchased Roe’s 87-acre (350,000 m2) parcel for 1,685 pounds, 6 shillings, and 8 pence. It has been reported that Roe lost his lands for his allegiance to the crown during the American War of Independence. Powell thereafter built a home and the cove was renamed “Powell’s Cove”, the name it bears today. During the 19th century, some of Powell's land passed into the hands of Harry Genet, a member of the Tammany Hall, New York City's infamous political machine. Powell's house was destroyed by fire in the 1890s.
During the second half of the 19th century, the Roe/Powell land passed to a succession of owners. A map dating from 1873 lists the Smiths, Biningers and Nostrands as landowners in the area. The Nostrand and Smith farms represented a large portion of what is Malba today. The area around Hill Court and 14th Avenue was known as "Whitestone Heights". In 1883 railroad service to Manhattan was extended on the "Whitestone and Westchester Railroad", later the Long Island Rail Road. The terminus of the Whitestone line was at “Whitestone Landing” (154th Street), a popular summer resort area during the late-19th century and early-20th century.
William Ziegler and William Champ
William Ziegler, a self-made industrialist and president of the Royal Baking Powder Company bought all these parcels in or about 1883 and his holdings became known as the "Ziegler Tract". Ziegler died on May 24, 1905, leaving his wife, Electa Matilda Ziegler (a philanthropist for the blind, among other things) and son, William, Jr., then 14 years of age.
William S. Champ (Ziegler's former secretary) and W.C. Demarest (Mrs. Ziegler's nephew) (both to become among the first families residing in Malba) formed a Realty Trust to purchase the Ziegler tract from his estate for development purposes. Champ was vice president of the Realty Trust, and also one of the executors of Ziegler’s estate. The Ziegler Tract had been appraised for $100,000 shortly after Ziegler’s death. In the spring of 1906, the Realty Trust secured over 100 investors from New Haven, Guilford, Bridgeport, and other Connecticut towns, to the planned purchase of the Ziegler Tract. Based on a review of early maps of the area, the developers, at one point, planned a very densely populated community; with homes on lots no bigger than 20 feet (6.1 m) wide. Obviously, this plan was modified and much larger properties were developed. The trust represented to the investors that the property could be purchased from the Ziegler estate for $640,000. In fact, the 163 acres (0.66 km2) which ultimately became Malba, had been earlier purchased from the Ziegler estate for $350,000. Thereafter such Connecticut residents as Samuel R. Avis, Noble P. Bishop, George W. Lewis, David R. Alling and George Maycock were elected trustees (altogether these were the five names that combined to form the MALBA name) of the Malba Land Company. The true, lesser, amount paid to Ziegler’s estate was not uncovered until 1912. (For a complete discussion of the Realty Trust's acquisition of the land and its subsequent defense of a lawsuit from the Malba Land Company, see Crowe v. Malba Land Co., 135 N.Y.S. 454, 76 Misc. 676 (Sup. Ct. Queens Co. 1912)).
Development slowly began in 1908. A railroad station on the Whitestone line was added where 11th Avenue sits today. The Champs and Demarests were among Malba's first families to own homes in Malba. There were thirteen houses by the time of World War I and more than a hundred were built in the 1920s. The railroad station closed in 1932. The triangle by Malba Drive and 11th Avenue was dedicated as “Jane Champ Park” on November 16, 1969 and was renovated by the Malba Field and Marine Club in 2005.
- Malba.org - Community website
- Forgotten New York - Long Island Rail Road Whitestone & Westchester Branch