Ozone Park, Queens: A Congenial Area Welcomes a New Wave of Residents

In the past decade, the neighborhood has seen a “tremendous transformation,” with new developments and an increasingly diverse population.

Last year, Yi Xu and her husband, Vail Gold, moved from Long Island City to Ozone Park.

The couple had run across a Zillow listing for a $580,000 house with three bedrooms in the Queens neighborhood, which lies just east of Brooklyn and west of the Aqueduct Racetrack, four miles from John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Ms. Xu, 30, a management consultant for a hospital, was born in China, and Mr. Gold, 31, a software developer, came from upstate New York. They hadn’t heard of Ozone Park, so they didn’t know that it was developed in the late 19th century, when “ozone” referred to the sea breezes from Jamaica Bay that supposedly swept away threats of malaria.

Nor were they aware that John Gotti, the Gambino crime family boss who died in 2002, was its most notorious former resident, with the Beat Generation novelist Jack Kerouac coming in maybe second.

But the price was right. They paid $560,000 for the newly renovated half of a semi-attached house in Tudor Village, a 1920s enclave with 388 dwellings and a 13.5-acre park.

The couple intended to start a family, and they were impressed that three of the neighborhood’s public schools had a GreatSchools rating of 7 out of 10. “Nowhere else that we could afford anything was the rating above ‘poor,’” Mr. Gold said.

Now they have a room for a baby, and another for Ms. Xu’s parents when they visit from Beijing. The couple use the garage for storage and park on the street, almost always in front of their door. Travel time to their jobs in Manhattan is between an hour and 90 minutes. Although planes skim low in the sky with regularity, they pose no real distraction, the couple said.

An eclectic cohort is sweeping into Ozone Park like the original advertised breezes, finding space and opportunity in what residents describe as a safe, congenial neighborhood.

And it is just the latest wave. First came Germans, Irish and Poles; then, Italians and more Italians. In recent decades, Ozone Park has attracted Hispanics, East Asians, South Asians and Indo-Caribbeans. Stoop talk is in a mixed bouquet of languages, and the homemade signs tacked to utility poles are as likely to be in Bengali as English.

“Ozone Park, in the past 10 years, has undergone a tremendous transformation,” said Eric Ulrich, who was raised in the neighborhood and now represents it as a Republican member of the City Council.

In the Centreville district, near the racetrack, for example, P.S. 337, a badly needed elementary school, opened last year on Raleigh Street, and a half-completed $50 million capital project will renovate streets, sidewalks and sewers.

The upzoning of main streets like Rockaway Avenue, 101st Avenue and Liberty Avenue has made way for mixed-used developments and increased retail activity.

And the long-anticipated — and, for many, feared — Resorts World Casino New York City opened in 2011 at Aqueduct, attracting about 10 million visitors a year. Locals were concerned that the casino would exacerbate traffic snarls and drive down property values, but it has settled in comfortably. “They’re a really good neighbor,” said Joseph Caruana, the president of the Ozone Park Civic Association. The casino donates money and gifts to local charities and festivals, holds job fairs and employs a substantial slice of the community.

A brick clock tower on Atlantic Avenue is all that remains of the 19th-century Lalance & Grosjean tinware factory, which was a catalyst for the area’s development.CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

Of the approximately 1,000 people who work for Resorts World in jobs like food service, maintenance and accounting, 62 percent live in the area and other parts of Queens, said Michelle Stoddart, the company’s director of public relations and community development. The casino is currently building a 400-room hotel with restaurants and shops that is expected to open in 2020.

An influx of residents — Ozone Park’s population was estimated at 56,111 in 2016, an increase of 4 percent over the 2010 census — has brought typical urban side effects. There is a shortage of seats in the city’s universal prekindergarten program. Express bus lanes on Cross Bay Boulevard have smoothed commuting for some residents but contribute to traffic clogs at rush hour and eat up parking spaces near businesses. Noise from outdoor activities, like park gatherings, is a top 311 complaint.

Even so, “it’s a great neighborhood,” Mr. Ulrich said. “Anyone who’s interested in coming here should get in on the ground floor now.”

Single-family and two-family homes with stoops and enclosed front porches make up much of Ozone Park’s housing stock. Set closely on narrow lots, they are often embellished with Corinthian columns, rippling wood shingles, decorative brickwork or leaded-glass windows. White-picket, wrought-iron and chain-link fences enclose the tiny front yards, as do pink marble balustrades with finials shaped like globes or, sometimes, eagles.

In Tudor Village to the southwest, the houses make heavy use of gables and red brick with chunks of rusticated stone. In the Liberty Heights neighborhood, to the north, they tend to be detached, single-family buildings whose higher prices reflect their proximity to the A train, which runs along Liberty Avenue.

Condominiums can be found at Magnolia Court, a gated, 48-unit townhouse development that was built on the neighborhood’s southern border in 2004. Balsam Village is a 1975 apartment complex on Pitkin Avenue with 45 six-family buildings.

Ozone Park’s main retail stretch is Cross Bay Boulevard, a broad, busy thoroughfare that runs from Atlantic Avenue and connects to the Belt Parkway. Notable establishments include Aldo’s Ozone Park, a pizzeria; Hana Asian Bistro; and Arepalicious, a restaurant run by a couple from Colombia.

Businesses are also strung along Liberty Avenue, where Milk Farm Supermarket offers bins of yucca, ginger and Korean batata; and Rockaway Boulevard, the home of Enzo’s, another popular pizzeria. Nearby, on 97th Avenue, is Cherry Valley Marketplace, which sells groceries and beauty products. A Stop & Shop supermarket and a Petland Discounts can be found at Clocktower Plaza, on Atlantic Avenue; the A & S Italian Pork Store and M & O Bagels are just a couple of retail establishments on 101st Avenue.

The two-acre Centreville Playground has baseball fields and basketball courts, plus a fence decorated with horses in tribute to the long-gone Centreville Racetrack, for which the park, and area, were named. Not far below Tudor Park, in the former Sunrise Stables in Howard Beach, is a branch of Gallop NYC, a therapeutic horseback riding program for adults and children with disabilities.

9614 134TH ROAD | A three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom detached house, built in 1950 on 0.04 acres, listed at $759,000. 718-570-2972 Credit Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

The median sales price of a non distressed home in Ozone Park was $577,500 in July. Property values here have risen steadily, with prices increasing 4 percent over the past year.

As of Oct. 8, the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island had 102 area properties on its website, some pushing east of 108th Street. The least expensive was a three-bedroom, two-bathroom unit in a condominium development, priced at $356,000; the most expensive was a two-family brick building with a terra-cotta roof, priced at $1.569 million.

132-22 84TH STREET | A three-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bathroom detached house in Tudor Village, built in 1940 on 0.05 acres, listed at $649,000. 917-747-9234 Credit Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Among Ozone Park’s suburban tendencies — low buildings, neighborliness, automobile worship — is its embrace of Halloween. By late September, pumpkins, ghouls and their warty, fanged companions were already decorating the lawns. Every year, with the neighbors’ encouragement, trick-or-treaters from surrounding areas descend on Tudor Village like vampires at a blood-sausage festival.

“I sit outside for literally hours,” said Frank Dardani, the president of the 89-year-old Ozone Tudor Civic Association, describing his candy-distribution habits. “It doesn’t pay to walk back in the house, because the bell would be ringing constantly.”

A fall festival is scheduled for Oct. 20 in Tudor Park, with crafts, face-painting, inflatables and a pumpkin patch.


87-18 107TH AVENUE | A three-bedroom, two-bathroom detached house in Liberty Heights, built in 1920 on .06 acres, listed at $579,900. 718-810-0293 Credit Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Founded in 2014, P.S. 316, Queens Explorers Magnet School for Global Conservation and Service Learning, enrolls about 400 students in prekindergarten through fourth grade. (The school will add fifth graders next year.) On 2018 state tests, 55 percent met standards in English, versus 45 percent districtwide; 71 percent met standards in math, versus 40 percent districtwide.

P.S. 63, Old South, enrolls about 1,300 students in prekindergarten through fifth grade. On 2016-2017 state tests, 45 percent met standards in English, versus 38 percent districtwide; 57 percent met standards in math, versus 41 percent districtwide.

P.S. 65, Raymond York Elementary School, enrolls about 470 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. On the most recent state tests, 45 percent met standards in English, versus 38 percent districtwide; 40 percent met standards in math, versus 41 percent districtwide.

JHS 202, Robert H. Goddard, enrolls about 1,100 students in sixth through eighth grades. On recent state tests, 40 percent met standards in English, versus 39 percent districtwide; 33 percent met standards in math, versus 33 percent districtwide.

The High School for Construction Trades, Engineering and Architecture was established in 2006. It enrolls about 1,015 students in ninth through 12th grades. Average SAT scores reported by the Department of Education in 2017 were 454 in critical reading and writing and 499 in math, compared with 433 and 466 citywide.

The A train runs along Liberty Avenue in Ozone Park, stopping at 80th Street, 88th Street-Boyd Avenue, Rockaway Boulevard and 104th Street-Oxford Avenue stations. Express bus service is available on the QM15.

In 1882, Benjamin W. Hitchcock and Charles C. Denton, a pair of real estate developers, issued an advertisement for parcels of land on Long Island. Residents of the new community, called Ozone Park, would have access to three railroad lines, public schools and jobs at the nearby Lalance & Grosjean tinware factory, in Woodhaven. There would be “pure ocean air,” “elegant shade trees” and “artificial stone sidewalks.”

Given that Queens was not yet a borough, the new suburb was described as “the Harlem of Brooklyn.”

Courtesy of NYT.com

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