Wednesday, July 30, 2008

14 Monroe Visits Astoria: Part 1

video
Armed with video above and a quest to find Tony Bennett's childhood home the 14 Monroe team visited a neighborhood that had some of that old world charm that KVers love.
from wikipedia
Astoria is a neighborhood in the northwestern corner of the borough of Queens in New York City. Located in Community Board 1, Astoria is bounded by the East River and is adjacent to three other Queens neighborhoods: Long Island City, Sunnyside (bordering at Northern Boulevard), and Woodside (bordering at 50th Street).
Originally, Astoria was known as Hallet's Cove, but was renamed after John Jacob Astor, who never set foot in the neighborhood, in order to persuade him to invest $2,000 in the neighborhood. He only invested $500, but the name stayed. A bitter battle over naming the village was finally won by supporters and friends of Astor who had become the wealthiest man in America by 1840 with a net worth of over $40 million. Astor did live in a place called "Astoria" (his summer home), built in Manhattan on what is now East 87th Street near York Avenue, from which he could see across the river the new Long Island village named in his honor.
Beginning in the early 19th century, affluent New Yorkers constructed large residences around 12th and 14th streets, an area that later became known as Astoria Village (now Old Astoria). Hallet's Cove, founded in 1839 by fur merchant Steven Halsey, was a noted recreational destination and resort for Manhattan's wealthy.
During the second half of the 1800s, economic and commercial growth brought about increased immigration from German settlers, mostly furniture and cabinet makers. One such settler was Henry Steinway, patriarch of the Steinway family who founded the Steinway Piano Company in 1853. Afterwards, the Steinways built a sawmill and foundry, as well as a streetcar line. The family eventually established Steinway Village for their workers, a community that provided school instruction in German as well as English.
In 1870, Astoria and several other surrounding villages, including Steinway, were incorporated into Long Island City. Long Island City remained an independent municipality until it was incorported into New York City in 1898. The area's farms were turned into housing tracts and street grids to accommodate the growing number of residents.
Astoria was first settled by the Dutch and Germans in the 17th century.
The 1960s saw a large number of ethnic Greeks from Greece, Albania and Cyprus, giving Astoria the largest Greek population out of any New York City neighborhood.The Greek cultural imprint can be seen in the numerous Greek restaurants, bakeries, tavernas and cafes, as well as several Greek Orthodox churches. With approximately 25,000-30,000 residents claiming Greek ethnicity, Astoria has one of the largest concentrations of Greeks outside Greece.
Beginning in the mid-1970s, the neighborhood's Arab population grew from earlier Lebanese immigrants, to include people from Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Morocco. In the 1990's, Steinway Street between 28th Avenue and Astoria Boulevard saw the establishment of many Arabic shops, restaurants and cafes.
Astoria's Latino population has seen significant growth since the early 1990s, including a large population of Brazilians, who reside in the 36th avenue area. Albanians have also shown a rise in the numbers. South Asian immigrants predominantly from Bangladesh also constitute a sizable population in Astoria specially around 32nd Street and 34th Avenue.
There is some debate as to what constitutes the geographic boundaries of Astoria. The neighborhood was part of Long Island City (LIC) prior to the latter's incorporation into the City of New York in 1898, and much of it is still classified as LIC by the USPS.
The area south of Astoria was called Ravenswood, and traditionally, Broadway was the considered the border between the two. Today, however, many residents and businesses south of Broadway identify themselves as Astorians for convenience or status, since Long Island City has historically been considered an industrial area, and Ravenswood is now mostly a low-income neighborhood. Some of the thoroughfares have lent their names to unofficial terms for the areas they serve. For instance, the eastern end of Astoria, with Steinway Street as its main thoroughfare, is sometimes referred to simply as "Steinway", and the northern end around Ditmars Boulevard is called "Ditmars". Banners displayed on lamp posts along 30th Avenue refer to it as "the Heart of Astoria".
Astoria is served by the R and V lines that run through the stop Steinway Street and 46 Street as well as the N and W subway lines – formerly called the BMT – which run along an elevated track above 31st Street. Subway stops are located at several east-west avenues, with the terminus at Ditmars Boulevard, which extends roughly eastward from Astoria Park to the Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia Airport. The next major avenue south of Ditmars with a subway stop is Astoria Boulevard, which flanks the Grand Central Parkway and the Triborough Bridge. Below that is the 30th Avenue stop, then Broadway.
Farthest south is 36th Avenue or Dutch Kills, a low-density commercial area that features traditional Bengali restaurants and shops. The primary streets running north-south are Vernon Boulevard along the East River; 21st Street, a major traffic artery with a mix of residential, commercial and industrial areas; 31st Street; and Steinway Street (named for Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg, founder of the Steinway & Sons piano factory[6]), a major commercial street with many retail stores, and a very prominent Middle Eastern section between Astoria Boulevard and 28th Avenue referred to as "Little Egypt".
* Attractions in Astoria include the Kaufman Astoria Studios' Museum of the Moving Image, Isamu Noguchi Museum, and Socrates Sculpture Park. Astoria Park, along the East River, is Astoria's largest park and also contains the largest of New York City's public pools which was also the former site of the U.S. Olympic trials.
* The Hell Gate Bridge and New York Connecting Railroad viaduct rise high above Astoria.
* The oldest beer garden in New York City, Bohemian Hall, was founded in 1910 when Astoria was largely Irish, Italian, Bohemian (Czech), and Slovak.
The block of 37th Street between Ditmars Boulevard and 23rd Avenue is sometimes referred to as "the Seinfeld Street." In the Seinfeld television show, this street is occasionally seen in external establishing shots as the block where George Costanza's parents live.

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