Thursday, August 19, 2010

"Meet Queens"

Meet Queens

Queens is the largest by area (comprising a third of the city's total land area), and second largest by population borough of New York City. Though it has the second largest populous comprised of some 2.3 million people, it is only the 4th most densely population, ahead of only Staten Island. It was established in 1683 as one of the original 12 counties of New York, and today it is home to two of the three major New York City Airports - JFK International and La Guardia - as well as Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets.

Queens is by most estimates the most ethnically diverse political jurisdiction in the United States, if not the entire world. 47.5% of its population is comprised of immigrants. Almost half of the populace is white while blacks and latinos make up an additional twenty and twenty five percent respectively. The remainder is distributed among other races, mostly Asian. It is not unusual to find fifty different languages spoken as native tongues on the same block, and neighbors are often recent arrivals who can barely communicate with one another in an almost pidgin English. For those who wish to see the world without spending a lot of time and money, Queens is an explorer's delight.

Of course, what you get is only a glimpse into the world, but it's a view with a lot of impact. The world-famous Number 7 route of the New York City subway system is labeled the Oriental Express not only for the Asians who ride it daily, but other commuters who hail from equally faraway and exotic lands. Exotic no more, however, these immigrants have transformed the entire length of the line into a panorama of the world. For example, the eastern terminus of Flushing is one of the most jam-packed areas anywhere in the city - and almost none of these people are tourists! Alternatively, the line is also called the International Express, for similar reasons in that it passes through several ethnically diverse locations, especially Roosevelt Avenue.

To be sure, Queens is downright sleepy compared to Manhattan. It has its attractions, but only a few would qualify as world-class wonders in most guidebooks. However, as mentioned at the outset, it is a place for adventurers, which are not quite the same as tourists. Adventurers tend to want to get off the beaten path and experience the authentic, and so-called outer boroughs like Queens offer an arguably truer New York experience than the usual fancy tourist destinations. Why, in terms of culinary delights alone the eager explorer can sample cuisine from around the world: Greek, Italian, and Arabic specialties in Astoria, German, Polish, and other Central European fare in Maspeth and Middle Village, and Indian, Pakistani, and Spanish foods in Jackson Heights.


Written by Paul Wise, who has lived in Queens recommends for more reading on the subject and New York City in general.

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