Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Kew Gardens, Queens
Kew Gardens is a neighborhood in central Queens bounded to the north by the The Jackie Robinson Parkway (formerly The Interborough Parkway) and Queens Boulevard, to the east by Kew Gardens Road, to the south by Myrtle Avenue, and to the west by Forest Park. Much of the area was acquired in 1868 by Albon P. Man, who developed the neighborhood of Richmond Hill to the south, chiefly along Jamaica Avenue, while leaving undeveloped the hilly land to the north.
Maple Grove Cemetery on Kew Gardens Road opened in 1865. A station was built for mourners in October and trains stopped there from mid-November. The station was named Hopedale, after Hopedale Hall, a hotel at what is now Queens Boulevard and Union Turnpike. In the 1890s, the executors of Manís estate laid out the Richmond Hill Golf Course on the hilly terrains south of the railroad. This remained in use until it was bisected in 1908 by the main line of the Long Island Rail Road, which had been moved six hundred feet (180 meters) to the south to eliminate a curve.
The golf course was then abandoned and a new station was built in 1909 on Lefferts Boulevard. Manís heirs, Aldrick Man and Albon Man Jr. decided to lay out a new community and called it at first Kew and then Kew Gardens after the well-known botanical gardens in England. The architects of the development favored English and neo-Tudor styles, which still predominate in many sections.
In 1910, the property was sold piecemeal by the estate and during the next few years streets were extended, land graded, and water and sewer pipes installed. The first apartment building was the Kew Bolmer at 80-45 Kew Gardens Road, erected in 1915; a clubhouse followed in 1916 and a private school in 1918. In 1920, the Kew Gardens Inn at the railroad station opened for residential guests, who paid $40 a week for a room and a bath with meals. Elegant one-family houses were built in the 1920s, as were apartment buildings such as Colonial Hall (1921) and Kew Hall (1922) that numbered more than twenty by 1936.
In July 1933, the Grand Central Parkway opened from Kew Gardens to the edge of Nassau County; this road was extended in 1935 as the Interborough Parkway to Pennsylvania Avenue in East New York. Because the parkways used part of the roadbed of Union Turnpike no houses were sacrificed.
The greatest change was wrought by the opening of the Independent subway along Queens Boulevard to Union Turnpike on December 31, 1936; four months later, the subway was extended to Jamaica, Queens. Residents could now reach Manhattan and Brooklyn twenty-four hours a day for five cents. The immediate effect was to stimulate the construction of larger apartment buildings like Kent Manor and high-rise buildings along Queens Boulevard, and the last vacant land disappeared.
A large community of Jewish refugees from Germany took shape in Kew Gardens after the Second World War. The neighborhood attracted many Chinese immigrants after 1965, about 2500 Iranian Jews arrived after the Iranian revolution of 1979, and immigrants from China, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Israel, the Soviet Union, India, Colombia, and Korea settled in Kew Gardens during the 1980s. The commercial center of the neighborhood has traditionally been Lefferts Boulevard.
In 1964, the neighborhood gained news notoriety when Kitty Genovese was murdered by the railroad station. The New York Times article reported that none of the neighbors responded when she cried for help. The story came to represent the apathy and anonymous nature of urban life. The circumstances of the case are disputed to this day. However, many sources are claiming that neighbors did indeed call the police, but they responded 20 minutes later.
Kew Gardens remains a densely populated residential community. Private, one-family houses line the sidestreets near Queens Borough Hall, a courthouse on Queens Boulevard.
Source: Vincent Seyfried, Encyclopedia of New York City, Edited by Kenneth T. Jackson. New Haven, Yale University Press. 1995.
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