New York Magazine

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Chuck’s Chance
By John Heilemann
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 Real Estate
6 Affordable Neighborhoods
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Sunnyside (Queens)
A leafy middle-class enclave only fifteen minutes from midtown.


If local lore is to be believed, back in the twenties, Sunnyside, Queens, gave new meaning to the term bedroom community. High-flying, pre-Depression executives needed a neighborhood to house their young mistresses that was cheap, nice, and, above all else, quickly accessible to midtown. Sunnyside fit the bill. And for young commuters today who have been priced off the island, it still does. After hearing one of her co-workers rave about it, Kym Gordon, a 29-year-old administrative assistant at Zelnick Media, relocated from Jersey to Sunnyside just last week. She found a comfortable studio a short walk from the subway for only $825 a month, utilities included.

The Numbers

Studios: $800-$950
1BR: $1,000-$1,300
2BR: $1,300-$1,700

1BR: $75K-$95K
2BR: $120K-$140K

1-family: $290K-$360K
2-family: $325K-$450K
3-family: $450K-$600K

Lay of the land Gordon lives in a six-story brick apartment building typical of Sunnyside proper. From nearly every avenue, you can look west to the New York skyline — close enough to see camera flashes at the top of the Empire State building. "It feels like a real neighborhood," she says, "with grass and trees and strollers. I just love it."

The world at your doorstep "It's probably the most polyglot neighborhood in all of New York City," says native son and poet Saul Bennett, who conducts walking tours for the 92nd Street Y called "Sunnyside: Hometown, USA." The neighborhood has always been predominantly blue-collar Irish Catholic (it's been called the Irish East Bank), but today there are also large numbers of Turks, Indians, Pakistanis, and Koreans. The mix was part of the appeal for 26-year-old actor Ron DeStefano, who found the ethnic groups in neighboring Astoria to be a little too segregated.

Sample Listing: 42-20 50TH AVENUE. Four-bedroom, three-bath, two-family brick home. Hardwood floors, high ceilings, one-car garage, low taxes, only four blocks from the subway. Sold in May for $330,000.
Garden variety Since 1998, DeStefano has lived in Sunnyside Gardens — a planned community of brick homes and small apartment buildings built in the twenties. It was one of the country's first major "urban garden" projects and features courtyards, tree-lined pathways, and private and communal flower beds. DeStefano rents the top floor of a two-family house. His two-bedroom, 800-square-foot apartment is only $950, but brokers say that if the apartment went on the market today, it could easily rent for $1,400.

The commute Being an actor, DeStefano also liked the straight shot to the theater district. From the 40th Street station on Queens Boulevard, it's fifteen minutes to Times Square via the 7 line. The F and R lines are also within walking distance. LaGuardia is ten minutes by car.

The cons Being so close to the city but not being able to hail a cab loses its charm quickly.

Creature comforts Queens Boulevard, the area's transportation and retail spine, is lined with delis, bakeries, a trendy bar or two, fast food, and lots of ethnic restaurants. Hemsin, a Turkish bakery and restaurant, has bagels that some say rival H&H's. There's also a Best Buy and a 24-hour Home Depot. Nightlife is mostly of the Irish-pub variety.

Coming soon MoMA Queens will open early next year in the old Swingline Staple factory on 33rd Street and Queens Boulevard, near the border of Sunnyside and Long Island City, not far from P.S. 1.

Schools P.S. 150, which houses 1,200 students, is Sunnyside's elementary school. Sixty-eight percent of students meet the city's education standards, compared with an average of 42 percent for all city schools. P.S. 11 in Woodside and P.S. 199 in Long Island City also serve the Sunnyside area.

Best brokers Carmela Massimo of Welcome Home Real Estate (718-706-0957) and Nilo DelaTorre of Century 21 Sunny Gardens (718-507-9502).

Web Guide


Local News

Queens Tribune Daily paper.

Queens Courier Weekly paper.

General Info

Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce Links to restaurants, schools, and more.

Bourough of Queens The official municipal site.

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From the September 17, 2001 issue of New York Magazine.
Photos by Sean Hemmerle. Maps by BRM.