Monday, January 5, 2009

Queens mosaic rejects journalist

From the NY Times - In Queens: A Melting Pot, and a Closed Book:

...I lived for six years in developing nations, and upon my return to the States, I sorely missed those exotic environments. I figured the best place to find similar places was in the borough that claims more languages spoken and more passports possessed than any county in the world. Queens, I hoped, would be the ultimate consolation prize for a grieving former expatriate.

Over the next 18 months, I learned a humbling lesson. The underworlds of Queens are so authentic that they are impossible to discover, at least for a white American like me. The only authentic experiences I had were acquired as I sat alone in half-empty ethnic restaurants.

I should have realized early on that I was destined for outsider status.

When befriending locals proved difficult, I invited my Manhattan-based friends to explore Queens. Only three friends made the trip, and none of them came a second time.

Nightlife was downright depressing. Bars along Roosevelt Avenue were packed with Latino laborers who send currency back home via the dozens of money-transfer businesses along the drag. Each night, rows of men could be found draped over the bars, passed out. The only women I saw were the baristas. Almost all apparently were in the country illegally, hence afraid to talk to me.

I'm sorry you didn't find our vibrant diversity as exciting as borough hall and the Queens press make it out to be. Thank you for shattering the myth that we all hold hands and dance in circles here. This is an instant classic. As an astute commenter on another blog pointed out:

"This article brings out into the open the sad reality that all the different groups in Queens basically get along because they simply co-exist, keep to themselves, and don’t socially interact with each other. This is the modern day norm in the borough - we actually DON’T want to deal with each other (and this especially goes for the most recent arrivals, as was exposed in the article). There was much more interaction in traditional Queens communities in the past, when everyone had a stake in seeing the place where they lived improve. That type of neighborly-ness is vanishing and being replaced with absentee landlords and folks who don’t care because they’ll soon be moving on."


Anonymous said...

Translation yuppie: stay in Manhattan where these people are being pushed out.

Besides, housing is soft so no need to go to the middle of no where.

If at all possible, live in a landmarked district. White people for the most part that knows how do keep those people out.

Anonymous said...

I should have realized early on that I was destined for outsider status.

The journalist is on the money with his observations on his experiences with dinning out along Roosevelt Ave and in the surrounding Jackson Height's area. The novelty of living in a mosiac is that as a white individual, one is not welcomed warmly anywhere but a white establishment and even then is suspect as described in the Irish bar experience.

Anonymous said...

Colorful mosaic my f----g ass!
All I see is the dirt stained grout!

Anonymous said...

Wow, the folks over at have no idea what you are talking about.

Eating in a restaurant with bengla cab drives is the coolest thing to write home to daddy and mommy in St Paul.

Until they pick up something.

And I don't mean a check.

Anonymous said...

My jaw drops!

I guess someone in the NYT had some experience with the gorgous mosaic and decided to expose the truth for a change.

Mexican music in the air shaft at 2AM? The punget odor of dahl permeate your apartment? A Guyanese three day weeding next door? A 2000 member Korean church open up in a residential tree lined street?

The possibilities are endless.

Mr. Angry said...

I love the ending, where he finally moves to Manhattan. I wonder what he expects to find there? Being white I'm sure he can blend in more with the Bridge and Tunnel crowd.

There is no more diversity there than there is here. I went to a korean birthday party at an all korean bar once and I swear if we weren't with a cop packing heat they probably woulda told us to get lost.

NYC hasn't changed all that much since the 70s (and probably before that) - back then we'd chase people who didn't belong in our neighborhood out just for walking down the wrong street. Today we can all walk down whatever street we want more or less, but don't expect to be welcomed in every business you enter, or every bar. Not going to happen. You can probably live amongst anyone you want, but they'll all look at you like you're crazy, and chances are you won't blend into their culture...

It's interesting to note that this guy moved into a building where 2 little old white ladies screened him, and not say, a mexican flophouse or korean apartment building. It is as if he only half tired to get a diverse experience...

Anonymous said...

golly gosh, the model Irish bar? the Irish immigrants hate Irish Americans, they see them as the stupid natives. They do not hire Americans in their business's only illegal immigrants, usually the good slaves are non English speaking Mexicans.

Maybe the author could have interviewed Shiobhan Wafter waitress of Donovans who moonlights plying her trade in her attempts to get long time tenants evicted. She's the Queen's slumlords best friend.

or maybe he could have just asked those of us who live in Queens how disgusting it is to see women completely veiled in black or to see what a mess the illegal immigrants are making of Queens.

Anonymous said...

Our strenght as a nation and as a city does indeed lie in our diversity, as we are a nation of immigrants. The problem, as you correctly point out, is the chilling grip of "multi-culturalism". If we keep separate cultures, then we are doomed to fail in all our efforts. Assimilation is good, sepratism is bad, even evil.

Anonymous said...

hahahahahaha...move to williamsburg

Miles Mullin said...

If we keep separate cultures, then we are doomed to fail in all our efforts. Assimilation is good, sepratism is bad, even evil.

E Pluribus Unum

Three words that sums it up.

The seperation between us is cooked up not by QC or ficticous Archies, but the clubhouse.

Divide and Conquer

are their three words.

Anonymous said...

This is the most insightful article I have read all day. Yes. It is everybody for themselves. That is very sad.

Anonymous said...

More about the author:

I think the source in this case is reflected more than the subject.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why the author was trying to penetrate ethnic underworlds and how he expected to accomplish that while on his morning jogs. If he really wanted to earn the trust of, make friends with and learn about the underworld of other ethnicities why would he go to a bar or try to crash a family wedding by acting like a pedophile his next victim. Who goes to a bar to meet people or shows such disrespect as to ogle a young girl in front of her father? Surely someone as smart as a journalist for the NYT could have found better places to meet people. I can recommend many such venues - the Queens Library, the Queens Museum, Laguardia Community College, the Flushing YMCA, any senior center or community organization that offers free ESL classes where good volunteers are always treated with the utmost respect by the students.

georgetheatheist said...

On Christmas Day, I took walk by the Astoria Park and got hungry. There's a pizza store on Ditmars off of 21st Street(Van Alst for the Old Timers). I eat there quite often. The pizza's pretty good and the owners and staff are Mexican. But they were closed.

So, I meandered eastward further down Ditmars past 31st Street and finally got something to eat in a take-out taco place owned and run by a guy from China.

Italian food cooked by Mexicans.
Mexican food cooked by Chinese.

I live in Queens. Burp.

LibertyBoyNYC said...

It's laughable. People expect Epcot Center when they go to Roosevelt Ave. hahaha what a moron!!!!

It's a small world after all. Even smaller if you don't have an "in".

The author didn't realize he was probably charged triple in the "ethnic" bar. I call it "Gringo Pricing". And it's real. It's a small world hahaha

Anonymous said...

Well, one or two more like this and they will leave our tourism expert Terri O to hang out to dry.

Anonymous said...

I am white and 18 years old and have lived in Woodside my whole life. I have been friends with people living in Queens from all over the place. I think this is true of almost all the young people around here regardless of ethnicity.

Maybe all the Mexican/Colombian/Irish/Korean/whatever immigrants only keep to their own kind, but their kids don't.

Anonymous said...

That's because their kids are born and/or grow up here.