Maspeth in Queens NY


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Maspeth is old-school Queens at its best, a neighborhood of families, small shops, and restaurants. Residential Maspeth is on the Maspeth Plateau, the last high ground in western Queens, with great views of Manhattan's skyline, but the city feels a world away from homey Grand Avenue's Polish delis and Irish bars.

Until recently, industrial jobs in western Maspeth supported the community, but industry has declined. Yet, the neighborhood is vital and real estate prices have climbed.

Maspeth, in a western corner of Queens east of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, Brooklyn and west of Middle Village, seems stuck between the grit of Brooklyn and the airy, almost suburban feel that its eastern and southern neighbors, Middle Village and Glendale have. Maspeth was first settled by Native Americans for centuries before the middle 1600s and by the Dutch and English after that. It was absorbed by a newer settlement to the east (named, appropriately, Newtown--the present-day Elmhust), became a part of the borough of Queens, and then became a part of New York City in 1898.

WHAT YOU’LL FIND IN MASPETH

Grand Avenue, Maspeth’s main commercial strip, is lined with small restaurants and shops, many owned by the same families for generations. In the mid-1950s, the Long Island Expressway was built, effectively cutting Maspeth in half. Ever since, many residents have resented the resulting parade of trucks huffing along Grand Avenue toward the expressway.

But the intrusion has been weathered with small-town hardiness, and the expressway does little to dampen the avenue’s liveliness, even though it bisects it. To those on foot perusing the shops, crossing the expressway at Grand Avenue, which is on an overpass, amounts to only a slight interruption.

The abundance of civic groups — including the Maspeth Town Hall Community Center, Kiwanis and the local Chamber of Commerce — has provided the foundation for a long tradition of volunteer work and activism. In 2005, that force was harnessed by residents opposing construction of a Home Depot on the site of the old Elmhurst gas tanks, on Maspeth’s eastern border. The residents prevailed, and the area is expected to become a park.

Maspeth’s western end is primarily industrial, and the resulting pollution of Maspeth Creek and Newtown Creek has in recent years stirred environmental activism and gained the attention of city agencies and elected officials.

WHAT TO DO IN MASPETH

It is not uncommon to hear a Maspeth resident say that there’s little to do for those who don’t live there, and plenty for those who do. They are not being rude, but acknowledging that many activities spring from Maspeth’s churches, schools and community groups.

On May 18, for instance, the Kiwanis club will be the host of a flea market at the Maspeth Federal Savings Bank. A week later, the day before Memorial Day, Maspeth will hold its Memorial Day Parade on Grand Avenue.

The local branch of the Queens Library is on Grand Avenue at 69th Lane. Metropolitan Oval, on 60th Street, is believed to be the oldest soccer field in continuous use in the country, at least according to James J. Vogt, president of the Metropolitan Oval Foundation. The field opened in 1925. The area also has a number of diners, pubs and Polish delis.

MASPETH THE SCHOOLS

Elementary schools include Public School 153, whose city Quality Review Report last year concluded, “Although the school enrolls more than 1,300 students, it has the feel of a much smaller school.” Last year, 69 percent of fourth graders met state English standards and 82 percent math standards, versus 62 and 74 citywide.

Public School 58 enrolls about 900. It is called School of Heroes, in honor of those in uniform who died on Sept. 11. (The Maspeth firehouse lost 19 firefighters that day, according to Ms. Copquin.) Last year, 70 percent of its fourth graders met state English standards and 80 percent met math standards.

Last year at Intermediate School 73, for Grades 6 through 8, 41 percent of eighth graders met state standards in English and 63 percent in math, versus 46 in each category citywide.

The nearest public high school, Grover Cleveland, is in Ridgewood. SAT averages there last year were 411 in reading, 442 in math and 408 in writing, versus 441, 462 and 433 citywide.

Last month, the city’s Department of Education proposed a combination intermediate and high school, to serve 1,650 students in Grades 6 through 12, for Maspeth. The idea has been welcomed by some as a way to alleviate the neighborhood’s shortage of high school seats, but criticized by others because the proposed location, on 57th Avenue at 74th Street, is near two other schools and would increase traffic congestion.

THE COMMUTE IN MASPETH

The Nos. 58 and 59 buses run along Grand Avenue, and the 54 runs along Metropolitan Avenue, the neighborhood’s southern border, and connect to subway lines. Unlike many other neighborhoods, Maspeth has no express bus to Manhattan.

THE MASPETH HISTORY

Maspeth is named for the Mespat Indians, who originally settled near what is now Mount Zion Cemetery, on the neighborhood’s edge. In 1642, the first formal colony was established in the area, though conflicts with Indians caused settlers to flee east into what is now Elmhurst.

Mount Olivet Cemetery boasts a much-cherished Manhattan view, and Nathanael West, who wrote “Miss Lonelyhearts” and “The Day of the Locust,” is buried at Mount Zion.


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