Yes, it is true. Moving my family from Manhattan to Queens was the best decision I’ve ever made.
Quick backstory: I’m a native New Yorker. My father’s family arrived to NYC from Southern Italy in 1892 and my mother’s family in 1909. We’ve been here ever since… That is five generations.
I was born in Brooklyn and raised in Lower Manhattan, in a neighborhood where my family had been for over a century. Out of dozens of cousins, uncles, aunts, siblings, etc., I can not think of a single family member that ever called Queens home in the history of our time in America — and I could quite literally count on one hand the number of times I’d have visited Queens over my life time (I’m sure at least two of those times was because I got on the wrong train).
I knew about The Mets, The Ramones, Rockaway Beach, and Archie Bunker. That’s it.
So yes, Queens was very foreign to me, even though I lived like 6 miles away my whole life. Admittedly, I arrogantly (and ignorantly) dismissed Queens as a lesser borough. Essentially the Frank Sinatra Jr. to Brooklyn’s Frank Sinatra Sr.
Well, I was wrong.
Welcome to Queens
If Queens was an independent city and not a borough of New York, it would be the nation’s fourth most populous, after Los Angeles, Chicago, and Brooklyn.1http://queens.about.com/od/queensalmanac/f/queens_faq1.htm It is also the most ethnically diverse urban area on the entire planet.2http://traveltips.usatoday.com/queens-new-york-sightseeing-107156.html As of 2012, there are 138 languages spoken in Queens3https://web.archive.org/web/20120224013540/http://www.osc.state.ny.us/osdc/rpt1100/rpt1100.htm, and as of 2017, 48% of the population is foreign born.4https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/queenscountyqueensboroughnewyork,newyorkcitynewyork,US/PST045217
In 2015, travel guide Lonely Planet named Queens the top destination in the country for its cultural and culinary diversity.5http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/queens/queens-best-travel-destination-country-article-1.2040496 And oh boy is that the truth. If you are a foodie like me, Queens is the place to be. You want a hipster-grade celebrity chef who was once featured on Food Network and charges $35 for a side of mashed potatoes? Stay in Manhattan. You want an Ecuadorian grandmother gleefully peeling potatoes 10-feet away from you for a Llapingachos recipe handed down from her grandmother for $4? Come to Queens.
Into history? What a coincidence, so am I, and Queens has plenty of it. What is now known as Maspeth, Flushing, Elmhurst and Jamaica are some of the earliest colonies in the New World, dating back to the 1630s. Native Americans flourished here for hundreds of years before that. The borough has some of the oldest churches in all on NYC and the city’s largest remaining tract of undisturbed farmland, Queens County Farm, which dates back to 1697.
Pop culture? Famous residents from Queens include everyone from Donald Trump, Don Rickles, Tony Bennett, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, John McEnroe, Lucy Liu, and Barbra Bush to LL Cool J, A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, 50 Cent, Run–DMC, and Nicki Minaj. (See an extensive list of famous Queens residents here.)
Arts and culture? Museum of the Moving Image, Queens Museum, New York Hall of Science, MoMa/PS 1, Noguchi Museum, Afrikan Poetry Theater, an awesome zoo, dozens of festivals and street fairs, and much more.
Active lifestyle? Queens hosts an abundance of playgrounds and parks, golf courses, tennis courts, an indoor aquatic center, lakes, as well as nature preserves (yes, nature preserves in NYC!).
Moving to Queens
The key benefit of moving to Queens for me and many others is: quality of life. Queens has everything any major city in the world offers, but with small-town charm. With very few exceptions, the majority of neighborhoods in Queens are void of skyscrapers and high-rise buildings. Queens still has “Main Streets” (like Austin Street in Forest Hills or Grand Avenue in Elmhurst, for example). You know your neighbors — the majority of which own and take pride in their properties. Unlike Manhattan, where the demographics have skewed very young (and very transient) over the last 20 years, Queens residents are planting roots here. On the Lower East Side, I would literally have a different neighbor every year or two. Here in Queens, my neighbors are raising grandchildren.
If you have a family, the majority of schools are above average. Your kids will have all the benefits of living in a big city but in a low-crime environment and exposed to cultures from all over the planet. They will have the best of both worlds and never run out of fun activities to enrich their growth.
Let’s face it, expenses count
Wan’t to purchase real estate in Manhattan? You are looking at upwards of $2500 per-square-foot. (That is $2.5 million for a 1,000 square foot apartment.) Want to purchase property in queens? it is closer to $400-$500 per-square-foot in the most desirable neighborhoods. That means you can purchase two or three multi-family homes for the price of a cramped apartment just a few miles away — and be in midtown in under 20 minutes!
I was a bit skeptical, if not scared, when we first moved here last year — but now I can not imagine living in any other borough of New York City. I plan on proudly raising my son in Queens — after many generations in Manhattan — and probably living out the rest of my life here.
It’s that good.