Friday, May 2, 2014

Jamaica, Queens: A Jewel in the Crown of Queens, NYC

Baisley Pond Park, Jamaica, Queens, NYC

I admit, I am a Manhattan person. But, now it is time to come out of the closet and admit that I live in Queens and it does have its perks. For one thing, I park at my house, either in my driveway or in front of my door. For another, since I work on Long Island, it is extremely convenient for commuting. We can have the suburban life complete with back yard BBQs, perhaps a small swimming pool, birthday parties, kids playing in the back yard or even old school style, the jump roping in the street. Finally, we have the option of hanging out east, on Long Island or west, in Manhattan or our fellow boroughs.

Most folks who live in NYC cannot navigate they borough they do not live or work in and Queens is the worst for getting around. Not only can't the other boroughs find their way, if you take a Queens person out of their neighborhood they'd be lost. The street naming system was designed to so that we would never run out of names so it seems that the streets have the same name: 149 Street, 149 Road, 149 Place, etc. But the address system is ingenious: the first 3 numbers indicate the cross street and the last two indicate actual building number. It was GPS before there was GPS. However, nowadays with satellite navigation and maps, visiting our borough should seem less adventurous. 

Therefore, with all due respect to Matthew Perpetua and his celebration of all things Queens,, he left out a few places. For some reason, in its zeal to promote itself to locals and visitors alike, Queens cheerleaders continually forget to acknowledge Southeast Queens, the 114 zip code, aka Jamaica. So I will shout-out a few places:
The Door: restaurant featuring Jamaican (Caribbean, that is) food. Where the locals go. Enough said. 163-07 Baisley Blvd, Jamaica. 718-525-1083.

Roy Wilkins Park: virtually our country club with an indoor pool; tennis, handball and basketball courts, fitness center; community center with events and activities; track and the best site to see future NFL players. The site of many concerts, fairs and carnivals and home to the Black Spectrum Theatre Company and its 425 seat theater. Truly, this is one of the best parks and recreation centers in the city. Merrick Blvd between 115 Ave and Baisley Blvd. 718-276-8686.

Baisley Pond Park: The majestic looking August Martin High School seems to stand as a mansion over the estate that is Baisley Pond Park. It took a bit of a hit after Superstorm Sandy, but it has been tended to and now the joggers, cyclists, walkers and kids of all ages are playing happily again. Paved paths, playgrounds, tennis and basketball courts surround the pond as people catch and release fish. The park actually continues across Rockaway Blvd to more tennis and basketball courts, playgrounds and a track. But the feature that sets us apart are the cricket matches you are likely to see on the weekend.

Thomasina's: a catering hall that hosts its own events and buffets for holidays and special occasions, such as  Mother's Day, New Year's Eve, etc. 205-35 Linden Blvd, St. Albans. 718-525-5273.

Greater Allen AME Cathedral Church, Rev. Dr. Floyd H. Flake, Senior Pastor. That's former Congressman Flake, who has been instrumental in securing funds for more buildings and businesses along Merrick Blvd and the surrounding area. Allen, along with other prominent churches in Jamaica, Queens, should organize itself like Harlem and have the Gospel Tours. Outside of Harlem and Brooklyn, there is no stronger fellowship of interdenominational churches than Southeast Queens. Allen hosts concerts and other events in addition their usual church services and meetings. 110-31 Merrick Blvd, Jamaica. 718-206-4600.

York College, CUNY. From 1967 - 1980, York looked like the forgotten CUNY, as it was housed in a number of locations throughout Queens. Finally, we got our own campus and today it hosts the usual assortment programs that colleges have for community members: small business workshops, lectures, plays (such as A Midsummer Night's Dream on selected dates May 2-11), concerts and an athletic center that is being refurbished (at least on the outside) so that we can cheer on own local teams. 94-20 Guy R. Brewer Blvd, Jamaica (corner Liberty Ave). 718-262-2000.

Jamaica Multiplex Cinemas (Jamaica Ave and Parsons Blvd) and Shopping on Jamaica Ave: Having a movie theatre nearby is an amenity that people take for granted, but cheers went up when this opened in 2002. The Jamaica Avenue area was in the midst of being revitalized at the time with new subway stations (while we mourned the loss of the elevated trains), a Social Security field office and other businesses to go along with the stores on "The Ave" and the 165 Street Mall, an open air area with stores and it's famous Coliseum of stores. Stand still long enough and you are bound to see someone you know., 718-298-5489;

Rufus King House and Park: our historic house/museum. Hosts lectures, tours, programs and events. A NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission landmark and a National Register of Historic Place, the King Manor Association focuses on the role of Rufus King and family and their role in the early ant-slavery movement. King Park, Jamaica Ave between 150 and 153 Streets, Jamaica. 718-206-0545.

Transportation hubs: Long Island Railroad and the AirTrain JFK at Sutphin Blvd and Archer Ave, along with the E train. This station is the place to transfer to almost all of the LIRR lines. Currently being updated with a new shopping plaza and additional travel services. Local tip: one one the best fish markets is one block up toward Jamaica Ave. The Jamaica Bus Terminal is at 165th Street, and Merrick Ave, where you can catch 10 different city bus lines and 6 Nassau County buses as well as walk to the F train on Hillside or hustle to the E train on Parsons and Archer.

As I researched this, I amazed myself at what Southeast Queens had to offer. Unfortunately, when you access brochures, pamphlets and websites, this area is rarely highlighted or even acknowledged. There is a whole lot more. Check us out, you might like it!