Jackson Heights has one of the most diverse populations in the city, and over 100 languages are spoken here. With this cultural diversity comes supporting restaurants, bars, shops and cultural opportunities. It is a mix of commercial and residential properties. There is a wide range of shops and service businesses, so that anything you would need, from a barber, to a pharmacy, to clothing, and food is available right in the neighborhood, no matter which culture or language you might need these services provided in.
Jackson Heights has three nicknames, based on micro-neighborhoods with the neighborhood as a whole. Little India occupies an area on 74th Street, while parts of 73rd Street are known as Little Pakistan. Little Columbia is along 37th Avenue.
A large portion of Jackson Heights has been designated as an historic district, from Roosevelt Avenue to Northern Boulevard, between the east side of 76th Street to the west side of 88th Street.
Jackson Heights was a planned community, where the first “garden apartments” were created in buildings constructed around central gardens and green spaces that gave neighbors a place to meet and socialize with one another, created places for children to play, allowing light to come into the apartments and air to flow freely through them. These gardens are private and only residents have access to them. Passing by the buildings, you might not even guess the gardens were there, as they are not generally visible from the street.
Additionally, there are some mid-rise apartment buildings. Some of these are rentals, some are co-ops, and some are condos. There are a few attached row houses that provide housing for one to three families.
As much as Jackson Heights might be full of noise and mix of cultures, it also has a quieter side, where the various cultures mix and mingle and learn about each other against a backdrop of beautiful architecture and a culinary landscape that brings the world to Queens.
Diversity Plaza. The neighborhood has been gathering in this square since 2012 and sharing their multitude of cultures through impromptu pop-up readings, musical performances, political demonstrations, and food crawls to sample global cuisine. Located at 7319 37th Road, between 73rd and 74th Streets.
Roosevelt Avenue. As dusk descends over Jackson Heights, food vendors and food trucks show up at this location. You can sample the cuisine of Mexico, El Salvador, Columbia, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. The locals mix with the bar patrons from the Roosevelt Avenue watering holes, as everyone lines up at their favorite vendor to enjoy Latin American treats. Located across the blocks under the 7 Train Line.
Terraza 7. While technically across Roosevelt Avenue from Jackson Heights, Terraza 7 is still considered a popular Jackson Heights venue for Afro, Middle Eastern, and Caribbean music. There are also literary events, film screenings, and poetry slams. The decor is a bit off-beat, with seating in hammocks and on comfy couches. Bright colors adorn the walls and interesting streamers, glass hearts, crosses, skulls and twinkling lights are suspended from the ceiling. Beers and margaritas flow non-stop. Located at 4019 Gleane Street.
Travers Park. This 2-acre community park and playground is the biggest outdoor recreational space in the neighborhood. Half of the park is under asphalt with basketball and tennis courts. There are also playgrounds, benches, and trees to provide shade for children and adults. The park is frequented by families enjoying picnics in the summer, when there are Sunday concerts. There is also a weekly farmer’s market. Located at 769 34th Street.
Espresso 77. This espresso bar has a diverse selection of brewed coffees, iced coffees, cappuccinos, frappes, macchiatos, and lattes, together with an extensive tea menu featuring unique flavors. There are also fruit drinks and smoothies. While the food menu is not huge, there are several sandwiches and wraps. Located at 3557 77th Street.
What You Might See
With so many Jackson Heights residents being immigrants from Indian and Pakistan, you will frequently see women in bright Indian saris and men in the traditional salwar-kameez Pakistani garb.
What’s In The Future
There is an influx of young professionals coming to Jackson Heights in search of affordable housing. Prices in Manhattan and Brooklyn are rising quickly and people are seeing Jackson Heights as an affordable alternative, especially if their jobs are on the East Side of Manhattan, where living in Jackson Heights makes for a quick commute.
Many of the original co-op buildings of the planned Jackson Heights community, between 37th Avenue and Northern Boulevard, have now been landmarked as historic buildings, in order to preserve the beautiful interior details of these apartments, including beautifully detailed fireplaces and ornate woodwork, and as such, a lot of the neighborhood cannot ever be changed..
It is highly likely that Jackson Heights will retain its approximate mix of row houses and semi-detached homes outside the historical district. There only a few mid-rise condo buildings and no post-war high-rise buildings.
What You Might Not Know
Have you ever played the board game of Scrabble? It was co-invented right here in Jackson Heights during the Great Depression, by the unemployed architect Alfred Mosher Butts. He combined the concepts of crossword and anagram puzzles, first calling his game “Lexiko” and then changing the name to “Criss-Cross Words.” When he tried to sell his new game to various game-making companies, nobody was interested. He ended up selling the rights to the game to a fellow entrepreneur, who made a few changes, including changing the name to “Scrabble.” There is a brown-and-white street sign, designating historical status, at the corner of 35th Avenue and 81st Street, that has the Scrabble subscripted letter values on the 35th Avenue sign, in tribute to the ever-popular game’s invention.
What We Love
The ethnic diversity of a neighborhood where over 100 languages are spoken by the residents who live there, quiet streets lined with apartment complexes that are a mix of rentals and co-ops no more than six stories tall, and streets with semi-detached houses, many child-friendly activities, the walkable nature of the neighborhood, parades, festivals, and easy access to transportation that can get you into Manhattan in only 15 to 20 minutes, all make Jackson Heights a very convenient and livable neighborhood, especially for families with young children.