How Queens, New York Got Its Name

Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge
Tony Shi Photography/Gety Images

Queens, New York is one of five boroughs, administrative districts, within New York City. Queens, the largest borough in New York City, is located on Long Island across the East River from Manhattan. Major landmarks and attractions in Queens include the Unisphere World's Fair Globe in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Rockaway Beach, and Citi Field where the Mets play. The Queens Botanical Garden is a great place to stroll and afterwards head for the restaurants of Queens with cuisine from Greece, Thailand, and beyond. In the evening, Queens Night Market is the place to pick up interesting foods and get a sense of the community.

The Naming of Queens

Queens is a peculiar name for a borough of New York City in a country where independence was favored over royal rule. Eddie Murphy's character in Coming to America thought it was place of Queens, the perfect place to find his Queen.

But Queens is actually named for Queen Catherine of Braganza (1638-1705), the wife of King Charles II of England (1630-1685).

Queens was one of the original counties of New York, formed (and named) in 1683, by the British. It included the land that is now Queens and Nassau counties and part of Suffolk. Adjoining Brooklyn was named King County in honor of King Charles II.

From 1664 to 1683 the British had administered the territory that would be Queens as part of colonial Yorkshire, which included Staten Island, Long Island, and Westchester.

Prior to 1664 the Dutch had the area as part of the New Netherlands. And before the Dutch arrived, Native Americans had many names, some lost and other known, for the areas of Queens. The Algonquian term Sewanhacky is noted in Dutch colonial documents as the name of western Long Island. Sewanhacky means "Place of Shells."

Visiting Queens

Affordable Queens is becoming a destination for visitors and home to immigrants from around the world. Things to see range from the historical to the most stunning of modern art.

  • The Unisphere globe in Flushing Meadows Park, surrounded by a fountain, has become the symbol of Queens. Next door is the Queens Museum of Art featuring the Panorama of New York City, a scale model of the entire city from the 1964 World's Fair.
  • The Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, is the place to go to celebrate the history, technology, and art of movies. On the weekends, enjoy a screening of a classic or foreign movie in the Museum's Rilkis Theater.
  • The Noguchi Museum, home to the art of Isamu Noguchi, a prominent modern art sculptor, is one of the best small museums in NYC. Enjoy the art and rock garden.
  • Savor cuisine from all over the world in the eclectic neighborhoods of Queens. Downtown Flushing is the largest urban center in Queens and home to the second largest Chinatown in New York City where you can enjoy food from many countries including China, Korea, and Thailand and even pick up a delicious noodle dish from a street vendor.
  • There's outdoor recreation, too. You can swim and hang out at the Rockaway Beach and Boardwalk. Kayak the East River from the Long Island Community Boathouse or rent bikes and cycle past art up and down the East River or just enjoy the views from of the many walking trails in the area.
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