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.
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.
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
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.
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
Best brokers Carmela Massimo of Welcome
Home Real Estate (718-706-0957) and Nilo DelaTorre
of Century 21 Sunny Gardens (718-507-9502).
the September 17, 2001 issue of New York Magazine.
by Sean Hemmerle. Maps by BRM.