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DEDUNDEDUN, DEDUNdedun, DEdundedun, dedundedun. Those ratchety clanks are the sound of the 7 train above you leaving 61st, Woodside. A few steps later, the whoosh of the quickly passing LIRR train located just underneath blows your hair in your face. It is one of the few stations in the city that offer access to both MTA subway and LIRR services that can get you to Penn Station in 11 minutes.
As you walk down the stairs from one of the few above ground train lines that exist in the city, instead of the typical high rise buildings popping up left and right, all that can be seen are residential buildings. A clip of Manhattan’s skyline catches the eye as you make the descent.
It’s hard to put your finger on the demographic of this stretch of Queens. That is the beauty of Woodside, Queens.
The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs released a report whose figures show that Queens is the home to the most naturalized immigrant population, the most undocumented immigrants and the most Green Card holders and individuals of other status as of April, 2018. Woodside is the perfect proof of this.
When you reach the bottom of the train’s steps the first thing you encounter is a small newsstand. Across the street you encounter a fried chicken spot, a crepe shop, a sushi place, and an irish pub, back to back to back to back. The smells swirling in the air are destined to leave your eyes peeled for some food. Strolling down Roosevelt Ave will lead you to further edible temptation with a Peruvian grandmother selling churros on the corner. If you haven’t found the meal for you, just keep walking. The diner, butcher, chinese, deli, bbq, or fast food chains sprinkled in between, will be more than able to provide.
“What CAN’T you eat here?” a local says. It indeed was a struggle to find that answer.
Along the walk the history of this part of Queens subtly makes its impression.
There must be a pub on every block that was passed along this walk. The more accurate statement would be there’s about two on every block. In the 1860’s Woodside was home to the larger Irish population in Queens and it’s plethora of pubs to pick from is living proof. In a two block radius from the 61st Woodside train station, there are 13 pubs to choose from as you walk home from work.
Welcome to Woodside.
With the warm weather the crowds gathered around the pubs are not the only attraction of this special nook of Queens. A pub goer recommended two places for a first-time visitor to go see in Woodside. “The church is brilliant, yeh or the park for sure.” she replies.
Despite her slightly slurred speech, she was true to her word.
Ironically, across the street from the Saints and Sinners pub stands a tremendous structure known as St. Sebastian’s Church. This megastructure certainly sticks out in the neighborhood though it is sneakily tucked in just under the train tracks.
St. Sebastian’s Church was the former location of Loew’s Woodside Theatre, a movie theatre that opened on September 27, 1926, and sat 2,000. Until this day it is still one of the largest church’s you’ve ever visited, even compared to some of the more famous ones you’ve seen.
The domed ceiling on the inside featuring art similar to the Sistine Chapel stretches for the whole church and holds your gaze. The baby blue background feels strangely warm as you scan through the heavenly images painted on it.
Soon the smell of sage overcomes you and you realize you still need to walk this food off.
As you exit the side door you see the hill whose peak contain’s Doughboy Park. The park is huge in size and features amenities most NYC parks do not enjoy. A small dog park, an olympic-size outdoor pool, a decent-sized track field, four handball courts, a large children’s playground, and a huge grassy hill for lounging. The perfect place for the slightly better weather. The park shares a small slope with the freshly renovated P.S.11.
After asking what the busiest street in the neighborhood was I was pointed towards Queens Boulevard, or as the gentleman called it “the boulevard of death.” Earning it’s infamous name for the amount of people killed crossing this unusually large street, it leads right towards another huge patch of green in this part of Queens known as the Calvary Cemetery. Queens Boulevard connects Woodside with literally the rest of the city. The two biggest highways of NYC, the Long Island and Brooklyn Queens Expressways, find their way to Queens Boulevard depending which way you venture and if you followed it all the way down it connects with you Manhattan via the Queensboro bridge.
Queens Boulevard is the perfect metaphor for Woodside. Besides 100-floor high rises, any aspect of NYC that you’re looking for can be found here off the 7 train line. The intermingling different cultures connect the neighborhood in a way that makes it seem like it’s own small city. Anything you can’t find here is a short walk away in the adjacent neighborhoods. Still one of the city’s best kept affordable secrets, it truly is a gem of the city.