Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Why Queens Matters

Here's an oldie but goodie from the City Journal:

Why Queens Matters

Surprisingly, this was written by someone from the Manhattan Institute as well. This should be required reading for all politicians.


Martin said...

We're the best kept secret in the city!

Anonymous said...

The writer does not seem to have a good grasp of Queens history, though. Yes, in the last 30 years the number of immigrants in the borough has risen steeply.

However, historically, the reality was more complex. Although Queens always had a sizable number of immigrants, even more so did Manhattan, Brooklyn, and most of urban (and a large chunk of rural) United States. This remained true throughout the 19th and 20th century.

Queens did not noticeably stand out as a place of immigrants like, for example, the Lower East Side or Little Italy, or Chinatown. The reality of Queens is more complex.

If you read historical records of Queens, well into the 20th century old Yankee and Dutch stock still had a strong presence in the county. Until quite recently, eastern Queens and much of middle Queens, although settled by first or second-generation immigrants, did not seem to regard itself or describe itself as 'immigrant.'

It is most interesting that areas experiencing the greatest housing boom, Long Island City, for example, native born is actually increasing as immigrant is decreasing (if recent census info is to be believed.)

So perhaps, after 30 or so years or so, it might be time to reconsider the borough's image and embrace its true diversity, both historic and current. One word can no longer describe Queens.

Anonymous said...

The previous poster knows his or her stuff. As someone who writes a lot of local history, Queens being caught up, and singularly identified with, immigration is a very, very, recent development.

Early in the twentieth century, anti-immigrant groups like the Klan and Bund were sadly quite active on Long Island (and Queens.) Also, notable developments, as Jackson Heights and Forest Hills Gardens, actually had clauses banning certain immigrant groups.

Anyone who writes of history always runs the risk of projecting the social dynamics of today back in time. By the same token, to take a look at Queens today, and to breezily project the current state of things forward is a mistake, too. This is a common error by amateur (and some professional) historians.

History almost never moves in a direct line.

Anonymous said...

Bloomberg doesn't seem to think that Queens matters except at election time! Keep Manhattan great and dump it all in Queens!