St. Albans, Queens: Legendary Home of Jazz Icons

Addisleigh Park was a music enclave in '40s

Addisleigh Park in St. Albans, Queens
••• By Peter Greenberg (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

St. Albans, a middle-class neighborhood in southeastern Queens, New York, is known for the jazz legends who lived in its ritzy enclave, Addisleigh Park. These days St. Albans is home to middle-class African-Americans and growing numbers of Caribbean immigrants and Caribbean-Americans. This area was farmland in the 19th century. It was named after the English village of St. Albans in 1899 and was mainly developed in the 1920s and '30s.

St. Albans lacks a subway, but it has a Long Island Rail Road station at Linden Boulevard and Montauk Street/Newburg Street and is close to the Belt and Cross Island parkways.

St. Albans is a neighborhood of detached one- and two-family homes, with a mix of attached homes and small apartment buildings, mostly built in the '20s and '30s. New construction, redevelopment of existing homes and illegal conversions have strained infrastructure, affecting the quality of life, from schools to sanitation.

St. Albans Boundaries and Main Streets

Linden Boulevard is St. Albans' spine, and running north and south of Linden is St. Albans' heart of numbered streets, thick with houses. Famous Addisleigh Park addresses are on the less geometric and often named streets north of Linden, east, and west of the LIRR.

St. Albans meets South Jamaica at Merrick Boulevard, South Hollis at Hollis Avenue, Bellaire at Francis Lewis Boulevard and Cambria Heights along Francis Lewis and Springfield Boulevard.

Light industry overwhelms residences near Liberty Avenue.

Addisleigh Park

Addisleigh Park is a beautiful section of St. Albans, famous as the 1940s home of A-list jazz musicians, including the likes of Fats Waller, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne and John Coltrane. The Flushing Council on the Arts' monthly Queens Jazz bus tour visits Addisleigh Park.

Addisleigh Park's large Tudor-style houses are set on wide lots on the streets between Sayres Avenue and Linden Boulevard, west of the LIRR tracks. It has the best housing stock in southeastern Queens and the prices to match.

Restaurants in St. Albans

Linden Boulevard is thick with Jamaican eateries, but the standout is Jean's Caribbean-American Restaurant. Jean's serves American diner food, but the home-style Jamaican platters are what you want to order. Riddick’s Catering & Restaurant serves great Southern diner food and Carolina-style ribs. In nearby Cambria Heights, the Proper Cafe is the best local night spot, with theme nights and popular karaoke Thursdays.

Shopping

Linden Boulevard is a small business paradise from the LIRR east to Cambria Heights. The busiest area is near the intersection of Linden and Farmers Boulevard. The American Roots Gallery is a custom framing and trophy shop, but it also represents African-American artists. Shopping options along Merrick Boulevard and Hollis Avenue are mostly small corner shops and takeout places. 

Culture and Green Spaces

Roy Wilkins Park can be a hectic scene of basketball, tennis, and handball in the summer. The Roy Wilkins Family Center has a pool, gym and fitness classes.

The park is home to Black Spectrum Theatre and its socially conscious productions, after-school programs, and concerts. Each summer, the park hosts Irie Jamboree with top reggae and dance hall acts. St. Albans Park is an oasis of green on the edge of Addisleigh Park.

Crime and Safety

St. Albans is a safe neighborhood. The industrial strips to the north shouldn't be visited alone or at night. 

Churches

The number of churches in St. Albans in amazing. Almost every block of Linden Boulevard has at least one house or worship, from storefronts to large churches. The Greater Allen Cathedral of New York is one of the largest churches in New York and a catalyst for local economic development.