Briarwood, Queens

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A residential intersection in Briarwood, 85th Avenue and 150th Street
A residential intersection in Briarwood, 85th Avenue and 150th Street
Location within New York City
Coordinates: 40°43′N 73°49′W / 40.71°N 73.81°W / 40.71; -73.81Coordinates: 40°43′N 73°49′W / 40.71°N 73.81°W / 40.71; -73.81
Country United States
State New York
City New York City
County/Borough Queens
Community DistrictQueens 8
Named forBriarwood Land Company
Elevation11 m (36 ft)
 • Total53,877
 • White26.7%
 • Black33.3%
 • Hispanic29.3%
 • Asian14.4%
 • Other/Multiracial16.8%
 • Median income$50,157
ZIP Code
Area code(s)718, 347, 929, and 917

Briarwood is a middle-class neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens. The neighborhood is roughly bounded by the Van Wyck Expressway to the west, Parsons Boulevard to the east, Union Turnpike to the north, and Hillside Avenue to the south.

Briarwood is named for the Briarwood Land Company, headed by Herbert A. O'Brien, who started developing the area in the first decade of the 20th century. Today, Briarwood contains a diverse community of Asian-American, white American, Hispanic/Latino, and African American and Afro-Caribbean residents. It is part of Queens Community Board 8.[2]


Briarwood, located northwest of downtown Jamaica, contains one of the highest points in Queens. It is located approximately between the Van Wyck Expressway (I-678) to the west, Union Turnpike to the north, Parsons Boulevard to the east, and Hillside Avenue (NY 25) to the south.[3]


Briarwood is a diverse community, according to 2010 census data that groups Briarwood with neighboring Jamaica Hills, the population consists of Asian-Americans (14.4%), White (26.7%), Hispanics (29.3%), and African Americans (33.3%).[4] This is a marked change from the post-World War II period (1950s–1980s) when the neighborhood was almost exclusively white, with a large and active Jewish community. Economic activity is mostly confined to small restaurants, delis, markets, and other small businesses.

The neighborhood contains housing for middle-class families.


Schools in Briarwood: M.S. Q217 Robert A. Van Wyck and P.S. Q117 J. Keld/Briarwood School

Briarwood is home to the Catholic Archbishop Molloy High School, which moved to Briarwood from the Upper East Side in 1957. Some of the school's more famous alumni are New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, actor David Caruso, former New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, NBA professional basketball players Kenny Smith and Kenny Anderson and professional wrestler Colin Cassady. Also the infamous Serrao brothers from Richmond Hill, Queens. The school is named in honor of Archbishop Thomas Molloy. It has about 1,550 students.

Also located in Briarwood is Robert A. Van Wyck M.S. 217Q, a middle school of 1,300 students in grades 6–8. The school was established in 1955 and was named after the first mayor of the Greater City of New York, Robert A. Van Wyck, a Tammany Hall lawyer.[5]


The neighborhood is served by the IND Queens Boulevard Line of the New York City Subway at the Briarwood station (E, ​F, and <F> trains). In that subway station, there were many paintings done by the students of Archbishop Molloy High School, M.S. 217Q, and P.S.117Q during the mid-1980s. They are titled, "Beautifying Briarwood". The paintings were removed during a renovation of the station in 2014.


The neighborhood is named for the Briarwood Land Company, headed by Herbert A. O'Brien, which built housing there around 1905 or 1907.[6][7] O'Brien decided on the name Briarwood because of the brambles in its thick woods.[6][7] The Ottilie Orphan Home was built on 148th Street in 1906.[7] The Briarwood Land Company went bankrupt soon afterward, however, and the area was largely empty until 1924 when it was divided and sold at auction. Land went for $300 each for inside residential lots to $2,800 for lots along Queens Boulevard.[8] Over the next four years, several single-family homes were built on the land.[6][8] Briarwood's first school, P.S. 117, was built in 1927.[7] Additional land was auctioned in 1928.[8]

On May 30, 1928, about 500 members of the Klansmen of Queens assembled in the forest of Briarwood.[9] They burned a 50-foot cross, sang songs, and gave speeches.[9] When police officers arrived, the group's leader, Major Emmett J. Smith, said that they had the right to assemble and speak on the land, because they had signed a lease to the land the previous day.[9] The group soon left the area, without any physical violence or arrests having taken place.[9]

In 1936, a company called Briarwood Estates, owned by Leon, Morty and A. B. Wolosoff, started building Colonial and old English-style homes north of 84th Drive and west of Main Street.[7][10] The homes sold for about $5,000, the equivalent to $98,000 in 2021.[11] After World War II ended, other developers built houses closer to Parsons Boulevard.[7]

The United Nations built Parkway Village, a 670-unit development, as housing for its employees around 1947.[12] The development is along Union Turnpike, between Main Street and Parsons Boulevard.[12] Parkway Village is now a co-op and no longer connected to the United Nations.[12]

On November 23, 1954, Main Street's extension south to Queens Boulevard opened, and apartments were built in the neighborhood around the same time.[7][13]

Notable residents[edit]

Notable residents of Briarwood have included:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Elevation of Briarwood, Queens, NY, USA". Worldwide Elevation Map Finder.
  2. ^ Queens Community Boards, New York City. Accessed September 3, 2007.
  3. ^ "Builder Purchases Large Plot in Queens As Site for 870-Room Apartment Project". The New York Times. February 26, 1939. p. R143. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 23, 2020.
  4. ^ Haller, Vera (July 16, 2014). "Briarwood, Queens: A Quiet Refuge Bounded by Traffic". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 23, 2020.
  5. ^ "Robert A. Van Wyck M.S. 217Q". New York City Board of Education.
  6. ^ a b c Sheridan, Dick (July 25, 1999). "Quest Paved Median's Way: Retiree Steering Beautify Project". New York Daily News. p. 1. Retrieved January 23, 2020 – via open access.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Shaman, Diana (July 14, 2002). "If You're Thinking of Living In/Briarwood; Queens Area Gaining a Stronger Identity". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 23, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c "Briarwood Estates Sale; Edwin Mayer, Auctioneer, Will Offer Jamaica Tract". The New York Times. May 6, 1928. p. 197. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 23, 2020.
  9. ^ a b c d "500 Klansmen Defy 1,000 Police in Song; Queens Army, With Stirring Airs and Fiery Cross, Routs "Foes" Deployed at Rallying Place". The New York Times. May 31, 1928. p. 14. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 23, 2020.
  10. ^ "Demand for Houses Spurs Construction in Suburbs". The New York Times. March 15, 1936. p. RE1. ISSN 0362-4331 – via ProQuest.
  11. ^ "Long Island Opens More Home Areas". The New York Times. April 12, 1936. p. RE1. ISSN 0362-4331 – via ProQuest.
  12. ^ a b c Shaman, Diana (June 14, 1987). "If You're Thinking of Living In: Briarwood". The New York Times. p. R11. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 23, 2020.
  13. ^ "Queens Thoroughfare Extended". The New York Times. November 24, 1954. p. 19. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 23, 2020.
  14. ^ Silverberg, Alex. "Comic Thanks His Queens Upbringing" Archived June 13, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, copy of article from The Queens Tribune, July 6, 2007. Accessed October 18, 2007. "Hofstetter has been all around Queens. He spent his younger years in Briarwood before moving on to Forest Hills, and finally settling down in Rego Park for the duration of his teen years."
  15. ^ Garron, Barry. "Eyes on the Prize Archived March 20, 2009, at the Wayback Machine", Emmy Magazine, January 2008.