Spirit of Woodside still alive as millennials move in


Woodside is a community balancing the old with the new.

With easy access to mass transit, housing that’s less expensive than other parts of the city and up-and-coming small businesses, it is attracting new residents — but the area is also a well-established community with deep roots and many longtime natives.

The wide selection of businesses along Roosevelt Avenue reveals a diverse community. A walk down it yields Irish pubs, Italian bakeries and restaurants serving, among others, Chinese, Filipino, Salvadoran and Mexican cuisine.

New businesses and trendy food places are always sprouting along the busy artery, like the Colombian restaurant Mis Tierras Colombianas at 54-08 Roosevelt Ave., which opened in February 2015. Casa Del Chef on 64th Street, a farm-to-table Ecuadorean restaurant that also offers a “tasting option,” where the cook improvises a meal of his choice for daring diners.

“It’s a melting pot, a little bit of everything,” 46-year resident Priscilla White, 70, said of the neighborhood.

Denise Keehan-Smith, chair of Queens Community Board 2, said the growing foodie scene is helping attract new residents.

“That’s kind of a new concept, where an old-school kind of Woodside person probably wouldn’t go into, but it’s become very popular,” she said of Casa Del Chef.

At the same time, the neighborhood is anchored by its classic spots, like Donovan’s Pub, at 57-24, an Irish staple that opened in 1966 and is known for its meaty burgers.

Old-school Woodsiders remain faithful to longstanding institutions.

“A lot of us went to Saint Sebastian Grammar School,” said Keehan-Smith, who was born and raised in Woodside. “I am still friends with people that I knew when I was 4 years old.”

The busiest section of the neighborhood is around the 61st Street station, where the Long Island Railroad, the 7 train and several bus lines meet.

Locals have quick access to Manhattan, either via the 7 train which runs express to the city in the mornings and from it in the evenings, and the Long Island Railroad which can get commuters to Penn Station in 10 minutes.

Coupled with its close proximity to LaGuardia Airport, which is easily accessible on the Q70 bus, Woodside is a key transit hub in Queens.

As an added bonus, experts say the area is a good destination for young people looking for real estate that’s a bit more affordable than other parts of the city.

Jordan Amacuegwa, 34, has lived in Woodside for two years and said his rent is more affordable than it was when he lived in Brooklyn.

“It’s cheaper than most places I’ve lived,” he said.

The median asking rent in Woodside was $1,900 in 2015, compared to $2,100 in the rest of Queens and $2,500 in Brooklyn, according to data provided by StreetEasy. The median sales price was $405,000 in Woodside, compared to $438,500 in all of Queens and $560,000 in Brooklyn, according to StreetEasy.

Woodside’s housing stock is predominantly single- and multi-family homes, small pre-war rental buildings and a few co-ops like the Big Six Towers at 60-10 Queens Blvd. which have about 1,000 units

Jessica Escobar, a real estate agent at Citi Habitats and a Woodside resident of 15 years, said the neighborhood offers pre-war housing with expansive layouts.

“You get the space you wouldn’t normally get in the city,” she said.

And despite its growing population, the high-rises popping up in areas like Long Island City and Flushing aren’t expected for Woodside anytime soon, experts said.

Keehan-Smith said that Community Board 2 has not been approached by big developers, adding that she doesn’t think the community would be welcoming if they did.

“I think there would be more push back,” she said. “We’re trying very hard to keep it kind of manageable.”

Some taller buildings, like Big 6 Towers, are more likely to be found along Queens Boulevard. An eight-story, 29-unit mixed-use building is currently being constructed at 64-26 Queens Blvd.

“We encourage low-rise, low density development for much of Woodside, while allowing for slightly taller buildings along Queens Boulevard,” said local Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents Woodside along with Sunnyside and Long Island City. “That’s, for me, a way of maintaining the neighborhood character.”

The spirit of Woodside is also kept alive by the loyalty of its long-term residents.

For example, when John and Kathy Ashton, both 61 and lifelong Woodsiders, lost their son Tommy in the World Trade Center on 9/11, the community supported them, they said.

Locals still come out to an annual spring basketball tournament that raises money for charity in honor of their son. Some of the money goes to Tommy Ashton’s former school, St. Sebastian’s Parish Center at 39-60 57th St., which is where the games are held.

“Woodsiders are a tremendous group of people that really rally around one another,” John Ashton said. “There’s still that sense of community and neighborhood in Woodside.”

Find it:

Woodside is bound to the north by the Grand Central Parkway and to the south by Lauren Hill Boulevard. Its western border is jagged and runs south down 49th, 50th, 51st and 52nd streets. It is bordered to the east by Boody Street and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

Casa Del Chef

39-06 64th St.

This high-end Ecuadorean fusion eatery features a tasting menu in which chef Alfonso Zhicay creates improvised meals out of whatever fresh ingredients he has from the farmers market.

Casadelchefny.com

SriPraPhai

64-13 39th Ave.

Traditional Thai cuisine in one of Woodside's most popular restaurants.

Sripraphairestaurant.com

Engeline's

58-28 Roosevelt Ave.

A Filipino restaurant doubling as bakery selling homemade baked goods.

718-898-7878

(Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang)

Sean Og's

60-02 Woodside Ave.

A classic pub from Woodside's Irish past. Have dinner at the Woodside Cafe next door -- run by the same owners -- and stay late at the bar for a taste of the local nightlife.

718-899-3499

Saints and Sinners

5921 Roosevelt Ave.

An Irish bar and grill that hosts live music and trivia nights.

718-396-3268

The Cuckoo's Nest

61-04 Woodside Ave.

Another hotspot in Woodside's vibrant Irish pub scene. Drink, listen to music or watch the big game with friends in this cozy bar.

718-426-5684

(Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang)

V&V Bakery

61-19 Roosevelt Ave.

Hidden beneath Roosevelt Avenue's elevated train tracks, this old-fashioned Italian pastry shop is piled to the brim with cookies, éclairs and other goodies.

718-476-1669

S. Ottomanelli & Sons

6105 Woodside Ave.

An old-fashioned butcher shop that's been selling meat for a 100 years.

Ottomanelli.com

Woodside Mini-Mall

60-19 Roosevelt Ave

A maze of a convenience store filled to the brim with everything from clothes to office supplies and tools.

718-651-4628

(Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang)

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Windmuller Park/Doughboy Plaza

52nd-56th streets along 39th Road and Woodside Avenue

These connected parks are great for neighborhood families. Go to Doughboy for a quiet escape and Windmuller for sports and playgrounds.

Nycgovparks.org

Topaz Arts

55-03 39th Ave.

Artists can rent out some studio space for your creative endeavors and admirers can see free exhibitions.

Topazarts.org

Sherry Dog Run

Queens Boulevard between 65th Place and the BQE

A fenced-in play area for Woodside's canine community.

Nycgovparks.org

(Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang)

Trains:

7 to 52nd Street, Woodside-61st Street, and 69th Street

R and M to Northern Boulevard

Long Island Railroad into Woodside-61st Street

Buses:

Q18, Q32, Q39, Q47, Q53, Q60, Q70

(Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang)

James Caan

Francis Ford Coppola

Joe Spinell

Edward Burns

Frank McCourt

(Credit: Getty Images / Matt Winkelmeyer)

Median sales price: $405,000

Number of units on market: 87

Median rental price: $1,900

Number of rentals on market: 691

(Source: StreetEasy)

(Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang)

Local officials are considering establishing a business association in Woodside to bring merchants together to address concerns about the area they work in.

Two years ago, a local nonprofit, Woodside on the Move, tried to start a Business Improvement District, along Roosevelt Avenue but couldn't generate enough interest among business owners.

In a second attempt to get local merchants to band together to improve their area, Woodside on the Move has teamed up with the Queens Economic Development Corporation to try to form an association.

Unlike a BID, which requires approval from city and state agencies to form and is mandatory for all business in the designated area to join, an association is voluntary and requires no government authorization.

The monetary contribution required of businesses in an association is also often much less than it would be in a BID and terms would be determined by its members rather than the government, according to Ricardi Calixte, deputy director at the QEDC.

In June, the QEDC gave a presentation about the idea at Woodside on the Move's headquarters at 39-42 59th St., citing needs for improvement along Roosevelt Avenue, including old paint jobs and faulty lighting.

An association would take on small neighborhood cleanup projects, in addition to organizing promotional events for local businesses.

"I think it would be a good thing because there's really not any merchant-based organizations there," Calixte said of Woodside. "There's not a chamber of commerce, there's not a merchant's group, there's nothing there that really caters to the local business owners."

Bob Piazza, president of Woodside on the Move, said he hopes the business association will allow merchants to see the benefits of pooling their resources together and potentially create excitement about future BID proposals.

"We'll let you use our premises for our meetings," Piazza said, referring to local business owners. "But we're not going to control this. This is your organization."

Several area merchants declined to comment on the proposal.

(Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang)

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James Jacobson, 47, is a lifelong Woodsider. He started out at Donovan's, Woodside's most renowned Irish pub, as a busboy when he was a sophomore in high school in 1985. Today, he co-owns it with his brother-in-law Danny Connor. The pair bought it from founder Joe in 2013, beating out a bidder who planned to turn the space, located at 57-24 Roosevelt Ave., into a supermarket. Jacobson is also an operating engineer in HVAC-heating, ventilation and air conditioning with Local 94. He still lives in Woodside with his wife Leni and their three kids. We chatted with Jacobson about life in Woodside.

What do you like about Woodside?

You know, you got people calling me the mayor. I know everybody. Woodside's a community, everybody knows everybody and everybody's very friendly.

Is it a good place to do business?

Seeing how Long Island City, Sunnyside was building up, we knew we were just the next in the wave. It's coming back, this neighborhood, big time, because of the real estate.

What's the nightlife like here?

Woodside's full of Irish bars, so it's definitely lively. If you're looking for a night to hang out have a few drinks and talk and stuff like that, it's more conducive to that.

(Credit: James Farrell)

 

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