Woodhaven sits just outside of Brooklyn in southwest Queens. This is a a semi-suburban nabe lined with Victorian and Colonial homes that are considered to be some of the oldest and most well-preserved in the borough. Woodhaven is a primarily residential neighborhood bisected by Jamaica Avenue whose shops and restaurants are of the locally-owned variety. The area was once known as Woodville for its wealth of trees, and today residents can meander through nearby Forest Park to find its famous bandshell, which often hosts the New York Philharmonic.
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I have lived in Woodhaven for the better part of 25 years. As a child I grew up on the tree lined streets and played in Forest Park. We knew our neighbors and looked out for one another. The main drag, Jamaica Avenue, was lined with Mom & Pop stores, each offering a little something different. And there were a handful of well kept and well loved restaurants each offering a variety of foods from American to Italian to Polish fare. Fast forward to now and it is a completely different story.
Woodhaven was one of the many nabes that underwent huge changes when the great “white flight” of the 80’s and then again in the early 90’s swept through Queens. All of the low to middle income whites left and were replaced with low to working poor and just poor ethnic transplants. Most are from the Dominican republic, but there is a good showing of Mexican, Colombian and Pakistani residents as well. Most of the one family houses have been converted into “dormitoris” or SRO’s (single room occupancy) If you do not know what this means, I will inform you. It is when a single or two family home is gutted and turned into a hotel of sorts. You will never know who lives there because tenancy is held on a week to week or month to month basis. The tenants are usually poor immigrants, who work hard and play harder. Parties till the AM are the norm. Streets littered with beer bottles and Styrofoam cups are a regular occurrence. As are arguments, fights, loud music, gangs of kids and if you’er lucky, gun waving if it is a particularly hot summer evening.
The neighborhood is good if you are very tolerant to noise, and a high tolerance for poor quality food and housewares. There is NO parking anywhere. There are 6 furniture stores in a 2 block radius between 78th street and 80th street. There are at least 3 .99 cent stores per block, and each corner boasts a bodega, and all the fun that attracts.
The Avenue is crowded all times day and night, and people are very into their own world, so don’t expect anyone to help you with a stroller, your bags, or even to get out of the way as they cruise up the block. Crossing the street is also a gamble – a lot of drivers bring their 3rd world views of driving to the streets here. Couple that with nearly every driver using a hand held device – and you’ve got trouble. Hold your kids hands please – I have seen 3 dead kids in my life here. You never forget any of them,
There are a handful of good things about Woodhaven.
You can afford to live here, rooms are about $800. a month. The J/Z train is very reliable, and rarely goes out of service. There is a library and a Duane Reade. 1 good fresh fruit store, Scaturros super market and Sal’s pizza are the last hold overs from a time long ago. Most of the restaurants serve Spanish food, and its more about quantity over quality. There is a great Thai food “Thai Kitchen” on 86h street, but that’s about it. I see this neighborhood in a race to the bottom. In about 20 yrs it will probably gentrify due to its good train service that will take you to the Financial District, but Im moving my family out of her well before that.What's awesome
the J trainWhat's not so awesomeVictoria B