We're headed north to Queens to meet your Neighborhood Champion of Jackson Heights, Louise! Louise found America Josh through her daughter, Emily, and was eager to tell her story about her love for the area and everything Jackson Heights.
Jackson Heights is a neighborhood in the northwestern portion of the borough of Queens in New York City. Jackson Heights is neighbored by North Corona to the east, Elmhurst to the south, Woodside to the west, northern Astoria to the northwest, and East Elmhurst to the northeast.
Is it friendly for people new to the city (is it safe throughout the day and night)?
Jackson Heights is both friendly and safe! I walk home from the subway and sidewalks are well lit, and usually with at least a few other people around. One time, I was talking on the main commercial street (37th Avenue) with my mother, who has never been here, and she said, “Are you on the street? Is it safe?” and I replied truthfully: “Mom, yes, it’s getting dark but there is a mother on a bench nursing her baby with her smiling 3-year-old singing songs out loud to no one.” Pretty safe!
Needless to say, it’s an area perfect for families, but it also includes all ages, all stages of life – and most visibly, people from other countries. My immediate neighborhood is part Hindi/Bengali and part Latino. Though I don’t know too many people in my building everyone is pretty friendly when I see them in the laundry room, elevator or in the lobby.
Why do you like (or dislike) living in the area?
I love the diversity – the different languages, cultures, and food on the streets and sidewalks. In the summer there are parades celebrating different countries and many Indian-Asian festivals in the streets – all so colorful and full of spirit!
Would you say it was a cheaper neighborhood, an average-priced neighborhood, or an expensive neighborhood? Queens, in general, is much less expensive than Manhattan and probably cheaper than most of gentrified Brooklyn, too. But cost comparisons are just one way to judge a neighborhood because each borough and neighborhood has its own distinct vibe. Jackson Heights does not have the hipster-vibe of Brooklyn, (to me, that’s an asset) and its lower rental/purchase prices reflect that.
How would you describe a clichéd person living in the area and how do they live?
The typical person under 40 (seen on the subway, grocery store, or local Starbucks) would probably be a bilingual American Asian or American-Latino. Many Hindi-Bengali women wear beautiful saris and headscarves. There are lots of 1st– or 2-generation students as well as young parents who probably work in Manhattan. On the weekends, neighborhood restaurants and cafes are lively and filled – families dressed as if for an occasion. That being said, as a Caucasian native speaker of English from the Midwest, I feel at home here too – it’s friendly and relaxed, everyone wanting much the same thing – a safe, clean place for themselves, family, and friends.
What is your favorite bar in the area to go with friends?
Jackson Heights does not have as many bars as nearby Astoria, but restaurants serve wine, beer, and spirits. I enjoy going to Espresso 77 (77th Street near 37th Avenue) this place is a Manhattan-style café that has a chill, friendly vibe; big & delicious salads, coffee, etc. and also serves many different types of craft beers and wine. Often live music on Saturday nights, too.
Do you have a favorite spot to go alone or quietly with others (venue or not)?
This summer, a brand new park on 34th Avenue opened up and wow! It totally serves the community. Spacious, green, and safe, with plenty of room for kids to run around, play in the playground (including sprinklers) and friends and families to gather for talking or a little picnic. I have often gone by myself to read or just gaze at all the joy around me. (Corny, but true.)
Are you a café or a deli person? Do you have a favorite café or deli and what is your order?
I’m definitely a café person. I like Espresso 77 (see above); on a more informal level, there is Lety’s bakery – locals of all ages love to gather there after a soccer match or just to chat. And, of course, Starbucks – it sometimes just fits the need. At any of those cafes, you might hear Spanish or Russian or Hindi or English.
Out of 10 how would you rate the neighborhood for Overall? Kids? Going Out? Quiet Living? Food? As a tourist?
Kids (is it fun/good/safe for kids): Yes! Especially with the new park and lots of kids in restaurants with their parents. 10
Going out (as a destination to go out in): If you like to go to ethnic restaurants, there are so many – Jackson Heights is known for them. There are many food vloggers and journalists who come to Jackson Heights (Anthony Bourdain shot a whole episode here) for its great-tasting, cheap, and (for NYC) exotic food. But this is not for everyone, especially those seeking more traditional fare. For Manhattan-style clubs and dancing – you need to go to another neighborhood. 7.5
Quiet living (is it comfortable to live quietly): Quiet, gentle living – as seen with the gardens in front of many apartment buildings. Residents are frequently seen tending the gardens and enjoy being outside, chatting on the sidewalks and benches. 9
Food (cuisine/restaurants/quality): All prices, whether from a food cart or restaurant. There is Indian, Colombian, Brazilian, Thai, and even American food (Ricky’s Café – which makes even a simple chef salad look beautiful and delicious.) 7.5
As a tourist (visiting or staying temporarily): There are some modest hotels but I don’t know anyone who’s stayed there. It’s a fun neighborhood to visit and use as a base of operations to visit Manhattan, go to Citi Field for a Mets game or explore the Queens Night Market in the summer or taking the train to Flushing. 6.5
In a few words, how would you sum up the neighborhood?
I love being a resident of this neighborhood – it’s a place for families and others who want a relaxed life in a diversified area. Most recently it’s known for as AOC’s district. Her campaign HQ during her run last year was in the neighborhood. 9
Anything else you’d like to add about the area?
I just love looking at all the beautiful Indian saris in store windows and on people, especially on festival days. Love the momo (Nepalese dumpling) cart on Diversity Plaza and the food from two Bengali food carts nearby. Love Diversity Plaza, for that matter.
How do you describe yourself in one sentence?
A New Yorker by choice (moved here out of college), married-with-grown-kids professional who works with a wide variety of foreigners and expats.
What is your favorite thing to do in the city (outside of your neighborhood)?
I like walking around different NYC boroughs and neighborhoods and take pictures of beautiful or interesting things – people, buildings, shoes (yes – many creative and funky), the river, graffiti, and other things that catch my eye.
Where do you call “home” and where are you “from”?
I grew up in a Chicago suburb but New York is home.
Now’s your chance to promote whatever you want (your business, your hobby, your cool idea, or something you love).
My business, Soho Language Group, provides dynamic, top-notch private English classes for individuals and small groups, mainly adults. All aspects of English are covered: conversation and grammar; pronunciation and accent modification; presentation coaching, both speaking and writing; business writing (speech, emails, reports, reviews); and American culture – pop culture, history, history of New York, music, movies, and more. Whatever your interests and goals are, my classes can get you there – with fun and polish!
From America Josh
Thanks so much to Louise for taking the time to introduce her neighborhood and become the champion of Jackson Heights! It means so much to me that people take time out of their busy schedules to talk about the place they love.
Introducing Neighborhood Champions!
Other Champions: Meet Alice from NoMad, Meet Ross from Jersey City, Meet Preetha from Astoria, Meet Nico from Cobble Hill, Meet Erin from Long Island City, Meet Rachael from FiDi/Seaport, Meet Edwina from Williamsburg, Meet Scott from Greenwich Village, Meet Josh of Alphabet City
Getting to know a neighborhood in New York is one of the most interesting and fun parts of living here. Building community, understanding the nuances of streets, bars, cafés, and cultures, and knowing what’s cool (and what’s not) makes you feel like you’re really part of the city. So, I want to hear about yours!
So. Are you my next Neighborhood Champion for your neighborhood? If so, send an email to [email protected] and we’ll arrange a time to meet!