Fresh Meadows, Queens

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Fresh Meadows
St. Francis Preparatory School
Location within New York City
Coordinates: 40°44′06″N 73°46′48″W / 40.735°N 73.78°W / 40.735; -73.78Coordinates: 40°44′06″N 73°46′48″W / 40.735°N 73.78°W / 40.735; -73.78
Country United States
State New York
CountyQueens
Population
 • Estimate 
(2017)
59,873
Ethnicity
 • White29%
 • Black6%
 • Hispanic16%
 • Asian45%
 • Other1%
 • Multiracial2%
Economics
 • Median income$75,123
ZIP code
11365, 11366
Area code(s)718, 347, 929, and 917

Fresh Meadows is a residential neighborhood in the northeastern section of the New York City borough of Queens. Fresh Meadows is located in the south part of Flushing and is bordered to the north by the Fresh Meadows Playground and Horace Harding Expressway, to the west by South Flushing and the sub-neighborhood of Hillcrest, to the east by Cunningham Park, and to the south by Union Turnpike and St. John's University. The neighborhood is part of Queens Community Board 8[2] and is covered by ZIP Codes 11365 and 11366.

History[edit]

Early history[edit]

The name "Fresh Meadows" dates back to before the American Revolution. Fresh Meadows was part of the Town of Flushing, which had large areas of salt meadows, such as the original "Flushing Meadows". The wetlands in the hilly ground south and east of the village of Flushing, however, were fed by freshwater springs, and thus were "fresh meadows". Fresh Meadows Road (which today follows the same route under a number of names, including Fresh Meadows Lane and part of Utopia Parkway) traversed the area, and served as the route from the landing place at Whitestone to the village of Jamaica.

During the American Revolution, British troops marched through the area.[3] General Benedict Arnold and his troops stayed at farms along was the way.[4] General Arnold drilled his troops in the area, on the current location of M.S. 216. To facilitate the transport of military supplies from British ships using the Whitestone Landing, and the troops encamped further east, a new road was built to connect the Fresh Meadows Road with Hempstead. This road began at what is now the intersection of Utopia Parkway and 73rd Avenue, near a local landmark along the Fresh Meadows Road: the remnants of a large tree that had burned after being struck by lightning, and that was known as the "Black Stump". The road took its name from this feature, and was called "Black Stump Road."[5][6][7] During the 19th century, a farming community known as Black Stump developed in the area. Black Stump School was located at present-day Utopia Playground, at 73rd Avenue and Utopia Parkway.[8] For several years, the woods of Black Stump were rumored to be haunted because people heard strange sounds coming from the woods.[9] In 1908, the mysterious sounds were discovered to be coming from a recluse who lived in a small hut and sang Irish folk songs at night.[9]

Parsons Nurseries and Kissena Park[edit]

In 1868, Samuel Parsons opened Parsons Nurseries, one of the earliest commercial gardens, near what is now Fresh Meadows Lane.[4] With help of a team of collectors, Parsons Nurseries found exotic trees and shrubs to import into the United States, and its advertisements filled gardening magazines with depictions of these exotic plants.[10][11] During the late 1880s, Parsons Nurseries was importing 10,000 Japanese maples into the United States each year with help from Swiss immigrant John R. Trumpy.[10] Parsons Nurseries also was the first to introduce the California privet in the United States from Japan.[12] Samuel Parsons' children, Samuel Bowne Parsons and Robert Bowne Parsons, later took over running the nursery. In 1886, Samuel Bowne Parsons helped renew the plantations of Central Park while serving as Superintendent of Parks.[13]

Samuel Bowne Parsons gave the lake on his property the name "kissena", which he thought was the Chippewa word for "it is cold".[14] Kissena Lake was initially used as a mill pond.[15] Parsons later used the lake for ice cutting, where surface ice from lakes and rivers is collected and stored in ice houses and use or sale as a cooling method before mechanical refrigeration was available.[14] The lake was also a habitat for wood duck through the 1900s.[16] Just east of the lake was a water pumping station.[17]

By 1898, Samuel Bowne Parsons' son, George H. Parsons, had taken over as superintendent of Parsons Nurseries.[18] Later that year, George was found in the lavatory by his father; he had died of heart failure.[18] Parsons Nurseries closed in 1901,[19] and Samuel Bowne Parsons died in 1906.[20] Two real estate developers, John W. Paris and Edward McDougal, bought most of the Parsons land, then built large houses as part of the "Kissena Park" residential development.[20] New York City bought the rest of the Parsons land and a few other land parcels to create Kissena Park.[14][21] A 14-acre (5.7 ha) tract of Parsons' exotic specimens was preserved in the modern-day park and is now the Historic Grove.[22]:3

Fresh Meadow Country Club[edit]

In 1921, Benjamin C. Ribman, a member of the Unity Club of Brooklyn, was looking to build a golf course.[3] Ribman chose the intersection of Fresh Meadow Lane and Nassau Boulevard as the site, because the land was suitable for golf and roads provided accessibility to other parts of the city.[3]

Fresh Meadow Country Club opened on May 30, 1922.[23][24][25] The country club was named after an area northeast of Flushing even though it was actually located southeast of Flushing, just south of what is presently the Long Island Expressway near 183rd Street.[25] The golf course was designed by A.W. Tillinghast.[25] At the golf course's dedication, the first round of golf was played by former NCAA golf champion Jesse Sweetser and club professional Willie Anderson.[23] Sweetser won by two strokes.[23] People in attendance included New York State Supreme Court Justices Mitchell May, Edward Lazansky, and Harry Lewis, and Borough President Maurice E. Connolly.[23]

The PGA Championship was held at Fresh Meadow Country Club in 1930,[26] and the U.S. Open was held at the course in 1932.[27] In 1937, the golf course hosted a charity game between John Montague, Babe Ruth, Babe Didrikson, and Sylvania Annenberg,[28] a game that was watched by 10,000 fans, some of whom rushed the golf course and left Babe Ruth's shirt in tatters.[29]

Holliswood Homes[edit]

Around 1939, Paul Roth bought 27 acres (11 ha) of land that had been part of the Klein farm and the Boggs farm.[30] The land was bounded by 73rd Avenue, Cunningham Park, the Grand Central Parkway, and Utopia Parkway.[30] The 200 homes were designed by architect Arthur E. Allen.[30]

Fresh Meadows housing and retail development[edit]

In February 1946, the golf course's land was sold to New York Life Insurance Company for $1,075,000 in order to build a housing complex on the land.[31][32] The Gross-Morton Company had also made an offer to buy the land, but it was not accepted.[32] The New York Life Insurance Company chose Ralph Thomas Walker as the chief designer, and it signed a contract with the George A. Fuller Company, which had built the Flat Iron Building, to construct the apartment buildings.[33] Construction cost the New York Life Insurance Company $35 million.[34]

New York Life Insurance Company donated land on 69th Avenue at 195th Street to the city so it could build a school.[35] In 1947, the New York City Board of Education awarded contracts of over $1,800,000 to construct P.S. 26, an elementary school with a capacity of 1,494 students.[35] P.S. 26, also known as the Rufus King School, opened in February 1949.[36] P.S. 173 opened soon afterwards, in September 1949, at 69th Avenue and Fresh Meadows Lane.[36]

The first twenty families moved into the Fresh Meadows Housing Development on September 2, 1947.[37] As a result of housing segregation, New York Life Insurance Company did not allow black individuals to live in the Fresh Meadows Housing Development.[38] It was also built to house local World War II veterans. The complex and its eponymous shopping center were among the first in the United States designed primarily to accommodate automobile traffic rather than pedestrian traffic.[39] Apartment rents were between $74 and $108 per month, which included gas and electricity.[37] In 1949, architectural critic Lewis Mumford described the Fresh Meadows housing complex as "perhaps the most positive and exhilarating example of large-scale community planning in this country."[40] The construction of the final residential building, a 20-story apartment building at 67th Avenue and 192th Street, was completed and ready for occupancy in May 1962.[41] At the time the building's construction ended, 11,000 people were living in the Fresh Meadows Housing Development.[41]

Cunningham Park

New York Life Insurance Company built a 12-acre shopping center on 188th Street at Horace Harding Expressway.[42] The shopping center was planned to include a Bloomingdale's, a movie theater, Canterbury Shops clothing store, Mary Lewis, Ormond Hosiery Shop, Woolworth's, Miles Shows, Buster Brown children's shoes, Selby women's shoes, Food Fair, a Horn & Hardart automat, Whelan's Drugs, Fanny Farmer, Union News, Womrath's Book Shop, Barrett Nephews dry cleaners, and Harris Brothers delicatessen, a Bank of Manhattan, a Jamaica Savings Bank, and a post office.[42] Bloomingdale's opened on May 24, 1949.[43][44][45] Century Meadows Theatre opened November 1949.[46] In 1973, Bloomingdale's added a three-level extension to the store, on what had been a pedestrian plaza.[34] Five 36-year-old oak trees were uprooted to construct the extension, to the dismay of nearby residents.[34]

The QM1 express bus to Manhattan started operating in 1968 as part of a 90-day trial run proposed by city traffic commissioner Henry A. Barnes, transportation administrator Arthur A. Palmer, and the New York Life Insurance Company.[47] This service was eventually kept, and it was expanded in 1970 with branches running further east into Queens.[48][49] The combined QM1/QM1A service eventually became among the busiest privately operated express routes in the city by the 2000s.[50]

Harry B. Helmsley and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation partnered to buy the Fresh Meadows housing and retail complex for $53 million from the New York Life Insurance Company in 1972.[24][51] The Macarthur Foundation acquired the property outright in 1995.[51] In 1997, Witkoff Group and Insignia Financial Group bought the residential property, and Federated Realty Investment Trust bought the commercial property. The owners of Fresh Meadows received $215 million from the sale.[51][52]

Two months after the Bloomingdale's store was sold in August 1991, Kmart signed a 31-year lease for the space.[44] Kmart's grand opening was on October 22, 1991.[53] Kmart closed the store in 2003, as part of an effort to close underperforming stores.[54] Kmart sold the lease to the Fresh Meadows location and four other locations to Kohl's for $16 million in 2003.[55] The Kohl's in Fresh Meadows was the first Kohl's location in New York City.[56]

Klein Farm[edit]

Fresh Meadows was home to Klein Farm, the last surviving commercial farm in New York City, located on 73rd Avenue between 194th and 195th Streets.[57][58][59] Adam Klein, from Brooklyn, bought the Voorhis farm in the 1890s.[3][57][60][61] Klein bought the 200-acre plot of land for $18 per acre.[62] The family sold portions of the land over time, but kept the two acres surrounding the farm house.[57][60] His son, Charles Klein, was born on the farm and operated it after his father's death in 1954 at age 89.[57] By the early 1990s, John Klein Sr. ran the farm as well as two larger farms, one in Riverhead and one in upstate New York.[59] The family had received many offers over the years to buy the land in Fresh Meadows. In 1991, the family declined an offer from the owner of a local pizza store, who wanted to buy the property in order to convert the family's home into a country-style restaurant.[59] John Klein Jr., the great-grandson of Adam Klein, was running the farm by the late 1990s.[61]

The farm gradually become unprofitable, and in 2001, John Klein Sr. signed a contract to sell the two-acre property to Flushing-based developer Audrey Realty, who wanted to build 22 two-family homes on the site.[60][63] The farm's last day open was November 21, 2001.[64][65] Many in the community were opposed to the proposed sale, including the Fresh Meadows Tenants Association, the West Cunningham Park Civic Association, the Flushing Heights Civic Association, the Hillcrest Estates Civic Association, the Utopia Estates Civic Association, and the Utopia Park Civic Association.[65] The community later learned that the developer was owned by the family of Tommy Huang, whose permits to restore the landmark RKO Keith's Theater in Flushing were revoked when he destroyed its lobby.[65][66] Huang had also admitted to failing to report a spill of 10,000 gallons of heating oil from an underground tank into the soil beneath the RKO Keith's Theater in 1999.[63] John Klein Sr. completed the sale to Huang for $4.3 million in late 2003.[62]

The land was located in a Special Planned Community Preservation District and required a special permit to build homes there.[60] David Weprin, the neighborhood's representative in the New York City Council, opposed granting the special permit.[65] Faced with strong community opposition, Huang and Audrey Realty decided not to go forward with the plan,[67] and they instead agreed to sell the land to a Westchester-based developer, Steven Judelson.[68] At the time, Judelson said he had not decided what to do with the land.[68] The sale did not go through.[69]

In 2005, Huang sent a proposal to the City Planning Commission to build 18 two-family homes on the site.[70] The proposal was not approved, and a day-care center was opened instead.[71][67] Huang attempted to evict the day-care center in 2009, saying that he needed to end the lease early in order to sell the property.[67] Huang settled with the day-care center to terminate its lease three months early so that Huang could sell the property to Fresh Meadows Jewish Development LLC for $5.6 million.[72] The sale did not go through.[69] In 2012, Huang was convicted of embezzling over $3 million of federal funds that were intended to pay for children's lunches at Huang's Red Apple Child Development Centers.[69]

Huang finally sold the property to Ziming Shen's Fresh Meadows Children's Farm LLC for $5.6 million in 2014.[69] New York City fined Shen $1,600 after Shen's daycare center, Preschool for America, cut down trees and modified the driveway on the property without the required permits.[69]

Demographics[edit]

Zip codes 11365 and 11366 together have an estimated population of 59,873 as of 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.[1]

Fresh Meadows' residents have a median income of $75,123, and the neighborhood has a cost of living at approximately twice the national average.[73] According to recent census data, 44 percent of its 16,100 residents are white, 24 percent Asian, 14 percent black, 29 percent Hispanic and 3 percent describe themselves as multiracial.[74] The neighborhood has historically and traditionally been home to one of New York City's most thriving Jewish communities. Today, there is an increasing presence of younger Asian American and Colombian American families, Israelis, Bukharian Jews, and one Guyanese family living in the neighborhood.[75]

Subsections[edit]

Hillcrest[edit]

Union Turnpike in Hillcrest

Hillcrest is a small residential neighborhood in the center of Queens. Its name comes from its location on the hills between Flushing and Jamaica. Hillcrest stretches from the Grand Central Parkway to 73rd Avenue, between Utopia Parkway and Parsons Boulevard. Its main commercial street is Union Turnpike. Hillcrest is part of Queens Community Board 8. The ZIP Codes for the neighborhood are 11366 (Fresh Meadows zip code) for anything above Union Turnpike, and 11432 (Jamaica zip code) for the southern part of the neighborhood (below Union Turnpike, north of Grand Central Parkway). It neighbors are Jamaica Hills and Jamaica Estates to the south, Briarwood and Kew Gardens Hills to the west, and Pomonok, Utopia, and Fresh Meadows to the north and east. It is mostly made up of single-family homes, is in a relatively well-off public school district, and has a low crime rate according to the New York Police Department's 107th Precinct.

As with many neighborhoods in the city, the perception of boundaries is quite different from whatever official or unofficial maps exist, especially in Queens, where there were many towns and villages. Most people in the northeastern part of Hillcrest self-identify as being in Fresh Meadows, as does everyone living in the nearby "Utopia" area. Others tend to identify with neighborhoods that surround them. There is a small group in the center of the Hillcrest area that identify exclusively with it. Hillcrest is home to an Orthodox Jewish community. Some public high schools in Hillcrest are Queens Gateway to Health Sciences Secondary School, and Queens School of inquiry.

In 1938 and 1939, Moss Brothers built approximately 550 homes along Utopia Parkway between Horace Harding Expressway and Grand Central Parkway.[76][77] Moss Brothers hired architect Arthur E. Allen to design the homes.[77][78] The development was called Hillcrest Gardens.[77][78]

Utopia[edit]

Utopia, a middle-class neighborhood, is in the southeastern part of Fresh Meadows, bordered by Utopia Parkway to the west, 188th Street to the east, Union Turnpike to the south, and 73rd Avenue to the north.[79] Utopia is often considered a part of Fresh Meadows.[79] Utopia is part of Queens Community Board 8.[80] Utopia's residents includes many Conservative and Orthodox Jews, Chinese Americans, Korean Americans, Russian Americans, Indian Americans, and Hispanic and Latino Americans. Utopia primarily consists of houses and tree-lined streets.[79]

The triangular-shaped Utopia Playground, at Utopia Parkway and 73rd Avenue, used to be the site of the Black Stump School, when the area was still called Black Stump.[79] The school was later replaced by Black Stump Hook, Ladder, and Bucket Company, a volunteer firehouse.[79] Today, it has a playground, a softball field, basketball courts, and handball courts.[79]

History[edit]

Simon Freeman, Samuel Resler, and Joseph Fried incorporated the Utopia Land Company in 1903.[81] The following year, the Utopia Land Company bought 161.25 acres (65 ha) of land between the communities of Jamaica and Flushing.[82][83] The Utopia Land Company intended to build a cooperative community for Jewish families interested in moving away from the Lower East Side of Manhattan. They intended to name the streets after those on the Lower East Side, where there was already a large Jewish population.[83]

After its initial acquisition, the company was unable to secure enough funding to further develop the area.[84] In 1909, 118 acres (48 ha) of the land was sold to Felix Isman of Philadelphia for $350,000.[85]

The area remained farmland until the land was bought by the Gross-Morton Park Corporation, run by George M. Gross, Alfred Gross, and Lawrence Morton. Five years earlier, Gross-Morton had bought the land of the Belleclaire golf course in Bayside, around today's 48th Avenue and 211th Street, and the company built houses on the land.[86][87]

On the land it bought in Utopia, the Gross-Morton Park Corporation built colonial and Cape Cod-style homes with either two or three bedrooms, each on approximately 4,000 square feet (372 m2) of land in the early 1940s.[79] Arthur Allen was the architect of the homes.[88][89]

The Batterman family owned and operated a farm on land bounded by Union Turnpike, Utopia Parkway, 75th Avenue, and 170th Street.[90] In 1938, the Foch Building Corporation bought the Batterman Estate in order to develop it into a residential neighborhood, named University Manor.[90] The Foch Building Corporation had previously built 111 houses in what is now St. Albans, Queens.[90]

Post office and public library[edit]

The Queens Public Library manages the Fresh Meadows Library[91] and the United States Postal Service operates the Fresh Meadows Finance Post Office.[92] The Utopia Post Office is in Utopia.[93]

Transportation[edit]

Though there are no New York City Subway stations in Fresh Meadows, several local MTA Regional Bus Operations routes serve the neighborhood and connect to the subway. These include the:[94]

In addition, the Union Turnpike express buses run along Union Turnpike, 188th Street, and 73rd Avenue, providing service to Manhattan:[94][101][102]

The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR)'s Auburndale station is nearby and provides access on the Port Washington Branch to Midtown Manhattan. There are also connections to LIRR stations at Flushing–Main Street and Jamaica.[103] In the 1970s, an extension of the subway system along Horace Harding Expressway was proposed, but it was ultimately not built. From 1873 to 1881, the Central Railroad of Long Island had a station, called Frankinston, on 73rd Avenue, east of the Clearview Expressway, where Cunningham Park is now. The railroad line continued northwest, along the parkland between today's Peck Avenue and Underhill Avenue, ultimately ending in downtown Flushing.

The Long Island Expressway (I-495) connects Fresh Meadows with both midtown Manhattan and Long Island, while the Clearview Expressway (I-295) provides access to the Bronx and the New England Thruway.

The Long Island Motor Parkway, formerly a highway, is now used as a biking and walking trail, as part of the Brooklyn–Queens Greenway.

Education[edit]

The New York City Department of Education operates public schools. Public schools located in Fresh Meadows include George J. Ryan Middle School,[104] P.S. 26 Rufus King School,[105] and P.S. 173 The Fresh Meadows School.[106] Fresh Meadows is also home to St. Francis Preparatory School, the largest Catholic high school in the United States, and the main campus of St. John's University lies on the Hillcrest border at Union Turnpike, with the Hillcrest Jewish Center—the building also utilizing space for The Summit School, a state-approved, tuition-free private school serving students with special education needs—located slightly east on the same street.

On December 22, 1980,[107] The Japanese School of New York moved from Jamaica Estates, Queens into Fresh Meadows,[108] in the former P.S. 179.[109] In 1991 the school moved to Yonkers in Westchester County, New York.[107] The Japanese Weekend School of New York, a Japanese weekend school, holds classes at the Rufus King School. As of 2006 the school had about 800 students, including Japanese citizens and Japanese Americans, at locations in Westchester County and Long Island.[110]

In media[edit]

In October 2011, a book written by Fred Cantor and Debra Davidson that chronicled the history of Fresh Meadows was released.[111] The book is part of the Images of America series.[112]

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