Saturday, January 17, 2009

Walking Tour: Ridgewood

Ridgewood is perhaps a bit out of the way for the average New Yorker, but the effort to get there is well worthwhile. Historically, this is a German neighborhood but today it is as diverse as anywhere else in Queens – and is home to a major Polish enclave (mainly along Fresh Pond Road), and a smattering of former Yugoslavs, among many other groups.

The neighborhood is home to a major historic district, focused on its fantastically preserved early 20th century residential buildings. When the historic district was declared in 1983, it was the largest in the country, with nearly 3000 buildings included. Even beyond the Slavic sites here, the historic architecture makes Ridgewood a nice place to spend an afternoon.

Though there are several transportation options, Slavs of New York came from Manhattan on the L line to Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenue, and walked across Myrtle Avenue (though there is also a connection to the M line that runs straight through Ridgewood).

The Balkan presence is quickly felt on Myrtle Avenue. Walking across, you’ll first hit the Bulgarian grocery Parrot Coffee Grocery (58-22 Myrtle Avenue). Nearby is the Serbian-owned European Music & Video Store (59-13 71st Avenue), then Muncan Meat Market (60-86 Myrtle Avenue).

A bit further down, the deli Balkan Express (64-02 Myrtle Avenue), featuring a Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia flag on its awning has unfortunately closed, though the awning (and the flag) remain for now. From here, it’s a quick walk over to the next neighborhood in Queens, Glendale, home of the Serbian Club (72-65 65th Place).

An outpost of the Greenpoint-based Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union (60-95 Myrtle Avenue) on the corner with Fresh Pond Road is the gateway to a Polish enclave second only to Greenpoint itself. Walking up Fresh Pond Road, you’ll first hit Bona Restaurant (71-24 Fresh Pond Road).

The road has a string of Polish delis, too numerous to list here. They include Teddy's Market Polskie Delikatesy (71-08 Fresh Pond Road), Wawel Meats (68-33 Fresh Pond Road), Pulaski Deli (67-12 Fresh Pond Road) and Okruszek Polish Bakery (67-10 Fresh Pond Road). Just around the corner, down Putnam Road, is a Polish bookstore.

After a couple more delis, including Jantar (66-66 Fresh Pond Road) and Starowiejski (66-51 Fresh Pond Road), there are two excellent Polish restaurants: Kredens (66-36 Fresh Pond Road) and Krolewskie Jadlo (66-21 Fresh Pond Road). Either is a good place for lunch or dinner.

Further up, you’ll find many more Polish delis, as well as Video Random (66-02 Fresh Pond Road) and Aga Book Store (65-18 Fresh Pond Road).

A short walk down Linden Street from Fresh Pond Road will take you to
Gottscheer Hall (657 Fairview Avenue), which is worth poking your head into. The well-preserved deco lobby is impressive, as is the beer-hall on the first floor.

Along with the early German presence came the Gottscheer Germans, a group from what is today Kočevje, in Slovenia. Very few Gottscheer Germans remain in Slovenia because of post-World War II repression of German culture in Yugoslavia, and so their presence in Ridgewood is rather unique. The Gottscheer community here has a number of institutions – most visibly Gotscheer Hall, but also a dance group, a hunting club, a women’s chorus and more.

Down Fairview, the excellent restaurant Bosna Express (7-91 Fairview Avenue) sits next door to the Albanian Café Tirana, a sight possible perhaps only in Queens. Also nearby are even more Polish delis, joined now by a few Balkan ones. Check out Old World Bakery (66-91 Forest Avenue), Europa Grocery (99 Forest Avenue), Korona Deli & Grocery (66-65 Forest Avenue), and Burek's (68-55 Forest Avenue). Also nearby is St. Matthias Roman Catholic Church (58-15 Catalpa Avenue), a German parish that now serves the Polish enclave.

And from here, you will be within striking distance of the Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenue L train.


Ajlouny said...

There is so much history in all these landmarks mentioned here. Enjoyed the quick tour.

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Ana Lazarevic said...

Thank you for this information!

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