Nestled in the heart of Queens, Forest Hills is primarily a residential area that offers the calmness of suburban living alongside the whirl of the big city. The contrasts are sharp. Take a stroll through the idyllic Forest Hills Gardens and you’ll find tree-lined streets and homes with manicured lawns. Cross the LIRR train tracks that slice through this neighborhood and you’re in a different world, one dominated by apartment complexes that straddle both sides of Queens Boulevard, one of the busiest and widest commercial streets in the city.
Forest Hills is first and foremost a community that has stood the test of time. It is a haven for families, young adults and retirees alike. It’s the kind of place that you visit for an outdoor summer concert and never want to leave. Who wouldn’t find the low-rise Tudor styled apartment buildings along Tennis Place and Burns Street alluring.
Plainly put, one can get anywhere from Forest Hills in a reasonable amount of time. Accessible transportation is a core virtue and not surprisingly, the introduction of subway lines to Forest Hills in the mid 1930s changed the neighborhood forever. By 1940, the population swelled to 32,000, more than three times the local population just twenty years earlier. Today Forest Hills is home to about 85,000 people and transportation is a key checkbox. You can not only commute to Manhattan below ground, but above ground as well via the LIRR from Station Square. The LIRR can deliver you to Penn Station in 15 minutes or eastward toward the Long Island beaches in forty.
Forest Hills High School at 110th Street between 66th Road and 67th Road anchors the far northern edge of Forest Hills, covering multiple city blocks. Fanning out from the high school are entire blocks of tree-lined streets with single-family homes. In contrast to the Gardens, these blocks are a mix of older and newer homes, even some McMansions.
There are two main streets that run through Forest Hills. Austin Street is an endless retail strip of local and national stores, many of which seem to be carved out of the tudor buildings that they occupy. Restaurants are aplenty and reflect the diverse cuisine of the neighborhood’s inhabitants. Queens Boulevard, once deemed the “most dangerous road in America,” is a 12-lane road (could be as wide as 16 lanes in some places) that represents the impact and consequences of urban sprawl. Queens Boulevard is literally a 7.5 mile sprint to and from the city through the heart of Queens.
As can be expected, the older variety of multi-family buildings in Forest Hills are largely low-rise prewars, typically five and six stories. They are split between co-ops and rental buildings. The newer post-war buildings, have grown taller as housing needs have changed. Most of these high-rise structures align Queens Boulevard and stand from 20 to 30 stories tall.