Kew Gardens Hills
Compiled by Tina Morales
Tucked into Flushing's southwest corner, on the east side of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, is the compact community of Kew Gardens Hills. When the Dutch sailed into Flushing Bay in 1628, they saw swamps, marshes and meadows. They called it Salt MarshValley. Seventeen years later, they returned to settle, and the community became the Town of Flushing. Since Flushing Meadow was an impassable swamp at the time, it created a natural boundary. For travelers to Flushing, it meant wagoning along Queens Boulevard until they reached Vleigh Road, a road that ran along the eastern perimeter of the swamp. Visitors followed the road into the heart of the village. The road still exists, and is now called Vleigh Place.
Kew Gardens Hills has had several name changes. It has been known as Head of Vleigh, East Forest Hills or Queens Valley. During the 1700s, the area was owned by William Furman, who called his farm Willow Glen because of its lovely weeping willows. He sold the property to Timothy Jackson in 1820. Jackson expanded the farm to keep and breed fine trotting horses. The Burtis Farm was next to Jacksons' and contained a spring noted for its crystal-clear drinking water. This portion was sold to Edgar Wakeman, who made his living bottling and selling the water.
Queens Valley was still farmland in the late 1800s, but transportation enhancements attracted speculators who purchased land and started to develop the nearby communities of Hopedale (Kew Gardens), Whitepot (Forest Hills) and Richmond Hill.
Since developers were hoping to draw New York's prosperous and affluent residents to the area, several golf clubs soon opened in the region. The Queens Valley Golf Club opened in 1922, and was followed by the establishment of Arrowbrook and Pomonk Golf Clubs. The former was used as a summer residence for former Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia.
With the success of the neighboring developments and the opening of the IND subway service in 1936, it wasn't long before the Head of Vleigh section became attractive to developers.
Abraham Wolosoff purchased land and began to design his own community of small homes and apartments. His brochure extolled the community's good points -- its construction on high ground, its lovely view of the park and its rural setting -- he named it Kew Gardens Hills. Legend has it that Wolosoff so enjoyed the hospitality of a hotel in Kew Gardens that he decided to incorporate the community's name into his new development.
Twenty minutes traveling time to Manhattan, coupled with the completion of the Grand Central Parkway, attracted hundreds of new residents to "the hills," and by the time the World's Fair opened in 1939, more than 1,200 homes were built withplans for hundreds more. In 1950, the Flushing Post Office, responding to the population surge, opened to handle the mail.
Today, Kew Gardens Hills is a tightly packed neighborhood of garden apartments, co-ops, both new and conversions, and private homes. In the 1960s, orthodox Jews from Brooklyn and the Bronx, attracted to the wide variety of kosher food stores and restaurants, moved to Kew Gardens Hills.
The community contains and continues to attract a large Israeli population. Their presence is noticeable by the variety of Israeli-owned businesses along Main Street.
Kew Gardens Hills has retained its attractiveness, but it does have some problems. Residents complain of an increase in crime, a shortage of parking, traffic congestion along Main Street, airplane noise and the increase in co-op conversions.
The Concerned Citizens of Kew Gardens Hills and the Queens Valley Homeowners Civic Association are two civic groups working to have these problems recognized and satisfactorily solved.
Noted Residents Former and present Kew Gardens Hills residents include State Sen. Jeremy S. Weinstein; Jacob Koussevitsky, internationally known cantor, and Paul Stanley, lead singer for the rock group Kiss.
Rabbi I. Usher Kirshblum Traffic Triangle, 73rd Avenue and Main Street, was named to honor a former rabbi of the Jewish Center of Kew Gardens Hills who was also a local civic leader. Kirshblum, a native of Poland, settled in Borough Park, Brooklyn, in 1923, and studied at the Jewish Institute of Religion. He was first assigned to the Flushing Jewish Center, but came to Kew Gardens Hills in 1946 and helped build the center's congregation and a new building. He died in 1983; the triangle was dedicated in 1986.
Queens of Peace Church, 77th Road and Main Street, began in 1939. Second-generation Germans, Irish, and Italians from Brooklyn and the Bronx came here to take advantage of the "rural" settings. The congregation grew, and two years later, a new church was built and dedicated at its present site.
Reprinted with permission,Copyright © Newsday, Inc.,1997
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