Ridgewood, Queens: Aura of Brooklyn on the Border

A homey neighborhood of '20s row houses

Ridgewood, Queens
••• By ALT55 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The urban neighborhood of Ridgewood is known for its brick and stone two-story buildings from the early 20th century, which gives it a more Brooklyn than Queens look. Though it's a high-density area, Ridgewood is quiet and homey, a working-class neighborhood. Once a German and Italian enclave, its newer immigrants are mostly from Eastern Europe, especially Poland, and Latin America. Less than 45 minutes from Manhattan and close to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Ridgewood might one day show up on the hipster radar.

Boundaries and Main Streets

The heart of Ridgewood is along Myrtle Avenue, Fresh Pond Road, and Forest Avenue. Southwest is Bushwick, along with mixed-use Cypress and Wyckoff avenues, though since 1978 when Ridgewood finally got a Queens ZIP code, the border hasn't seemed fixed for most folks. The western edge is industrial Flushing Avenue. On the north are Metropolitan Avenue and Maspeth and Middle Village. The Long Island Rail Road tracks east of Fresh Pond Road separate Ridgewood from calm Glendale. The southeast is a swath of cemeteries.

Transportation

The M line runs elevated through central Ridgewood (Fresh Pond Road, Forest Avenue and Seneca Avenue stations) and cuts across Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan. The Straphangers Campaign ranks the M a mixed bag. At Myrtle/Wyckoff, switch to the L train that crosses Williamsburg on its way to Manhattan's Union Square, a trip that's less than 45 minutes total.

Along the border with Brooklyn is the Jackie Robinson Parkway, which is a short route to the Van Wyck and Grand Central and about 20 minutes to John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport.

The Ridgewood Housing Scene

In Ridgewood, there are no condos or co-ops and few single-family houses.

Ridgewood has not escaped the surge in New York City property values, but it remains a relative bargain for its safety, convenience to Manhattan and attractive housing stock. Look for 1920s row houses with decorative cornices and lintels and bow windows.

Crime and Safety

Ridgewood is generally a safe neighborhood, though areas on the Bushwick border and industrial areas on the western side are best avoided at night or when alone. Even the main drags can seem tough on a late night.

Restaurants and Bars

Bona Polish Restaurant is a great local spot -- heavy on the meat and gravy but so light on the blintzes and wallet. Myrtle Avenue is covered with cheap, greasy pizzerias. Instead, head over to Forest Avenue for Joe's Pizzeria. The Forest Pork Store is a last German taste in the neighborhood. Also, try Bosnian beef and lamb burgers at Bosna-Express.

Landmarks and Architecture

There are more official historic districts in Ridgewood than anywhere else in Queens. A must-see is Stockholm Street, which is the only brick-paved block in Queens.

The Greater Ridgewood Historical Society is headquartered at the Vander Ende-Onderdonk House, a Dutch colonial farmhouse built in 1709 and one of the oldest structures in Queens.

Unbelievably, it has served as a stable, speakeasy and factory for the Apollo space program.

Ridgewood's Famous (and Infamous)

Houdini, the famous contortionist, is buried in nearby Glendale's Machpelah Cemetery on Cypress Hills Street, and well-wishers continue to leave flowers to commemorate his death on Halloween.

Mobster Carmine Galante met his doom by the gun of rival mafioso in 1979 in the backyard of Joe and Mary's Restaurant on Knickerbocker Avenue on the Bushwick border.

And P.S. 71 graduated actor James Cagney and Yankee Phil Rizzuto.