Unique for being a symbolic and literal bridge between Brooklyn and Queens, Ridgewood incorporates both distinct elements of these boroughs into its persona. Originally considered part of Brooklyn, the neighborhood broke off with Bushwick in the 1700s at a point called, appropriately, Arbitration Rock. When the blackout of 1977 occurred, the residents of Ridgewood only further wanted to dissociate themselves from their Bushwick neighbors as the bedlam that ensued in between the looting and the riots made them feel just a tad superior.
And yet, just because its zip code changed didn’t mean Ridgewood could ever fully break free from its proximity and entwined identity with Bushwick. Pegged as the next “it” destination and hipster haven to move to circa 2016, Ridgewood has surprised many with its steady pace of growth, therefore well-maintained “neighborhood” feel.
Rife with quiet blocks filled with quaint, colorful buildings, Ridgewood offers the bodegas and local businesses one also expects of “old world” Brooklyn. An increase in the number of coffee shops, bars and DIY venues have continued its natural association with Bushwick, however, the deeper into the neighborhood you go, the more apparent it becomes that Ridgewood is very much its own very Queensian thing.
The Vander-Ende Onderdonk House. Known for being the oldest Dutch colonial stone house in New York City, it was originally built by Hendrick Barents Smidt in 1661. The structure was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 after suffering severe fire damage. The house is also significant for having been an early demarcator of the Bushwick-Ridgewood boundary, and currently offers rotating exhibits, workshops and lectures.
Topos Bookstore. Part of the kitsch of Bushwick by way of Ridgewood is traceable in the whimsy of Topos Bookstore, a small, well-curated shop with a coffee shop and seating area inside. Those looking to use Wi-Fi on their laptops won’t find it here.
The Footlight. With its many offerings for all types of artists, The Footlight bar and event space frequently holds comedy/open mic nights, as well as shows from local bands.
Norma’s Cafe. Inspired by a love of food and community and named in honor of the owner’s grandmother, Norma’s Cafe serves up deliciously decadent breakfast sandwiches, as well as having a lunch menu that features classics like a tuna melt.
Gottscheer Hall. An old staple of the neighborhood, Gottscheer Hall is named in honor of the burst of Gottscheers that migrated to New York in the nineteenth century. Established in 1924, the beer hall has long served the community as a local haunt for taking in sporting events, in addition to being available to rent for events like weddings and bar mitzvahs with its grand ballroom.
The Farmer’s Oval. Officially called Mafera Park, The Farmer’s Oval has been dubbed so as a tribute to the Glendale Farmers Base Ball Club. The site was converted into a park in 1949 after the city of New York acquired the property and got rid of 68th Avenue’s cul-de-sac extension.
Grimaldi Bakery. If you’re craving fresh baked bread or pastries, Grimaldi Bakery is the place to go. Passed down within the Grimaldi family over four generations, it has remained “Home of Bread” to Ridgewoodians for decades.
Joe’s Restaurant. Very much boasting the coveted “old New York” feel so many seek is Joe’s Restaurant. With its hearty dishes and roster of devoted regulars, Joe’s is a slice of Little Italy right on Forest Avenue.
Houdini Pizza Laboratory.. Ridgewood wouldn’t be complete without its own take on Roberta’s in Bushwick, Houdini Pizza Laboratory. With similarly styled thin crust pizzas, some of their signature pizzas include the Queen and the Camorra. Named, as you might guess, in homage to Harry Houdini, the restaurant seeks to bring similar magic to every pizza made, with flavors ranging from the subtle to the piquant.
Queens Brewery. Showing nothing but Queens love, Queens Brewery features beers on tap from Queens Blau, Queens BLVD and Queens Lager. Keeping it in the German tradition that speaks to the neighborhood’s past, there’s also hot dogs and sausages on the ever-changing food menu. Nestled on a discreet street called, appropriately, Covert, the brewery additionally opens up its window to serve Queens Coffee every weekday. For those who like to play games while they imbibe, a giant Jenga stack and cornhole setup offers plenty of entertainment.
Nowadays. If you’re looking for an outdoor drinking setting, knock one back in the massive space at Nowadays. Serving up beer from Queens Brewery (note: it’s not Brooklyn Brewery), the seasonal bar is often frequented in the summer, though its indoor area is open year-round to accommodate special events and DJ nights.
Bad Old Days. Building on the community-based structure of how a bar should be, Bad Old Days bills itself as “an extension of your living room,” which it very much is with its bookshelves, TV in front fo the couch and yearbook wallpaper aesthetic. The bar also hosts weekly trivia and game nights, and invites you to reach out to host your own endeavors (e.g. poetry nights), too.
What You Might See
A wide range of cultural backgrounds. From Polish to Puerto Rican, Ridgewood is rich with varying ethnicities that also contribute to variable cuisine.
A somewhat schizophrenic architecture style. Again, because of its Brooklyn ties, the surface of Ridgewood is populated with six-family buildings on the border and more row houses as you travel deeper into the Queens side.
Old churches of different faiths indicating the array of nationalities that have come to roost in Ridgewood over the decades.
Ample greenery, trees and small parks.
What’s In The Future
Increased interest from new residents and “Bushwick runoff.” With its affordable price points and proximity to both the L and M trains, Ridgewood is a desirable neighborhood both for families and upwardly mobile millennials looking for a good deal.
What You Might Not Know
The largest mutual savings bank in all of New York State is Ridgewood Savings Bank, one of many buildings in the neighborhood that are on the National Register of Historic Places.
The main thoroughfares of the neighborhood are Seneca Avenue, Forest Avenue, Myrtle Avenue, Metropolitan Avenue and Fresh Pond Road.
A population explosion of Gottscheers (a specific ethnic German sect that lived in Slovenia) occurred in the aftermath of World War I, when many were displaced, contributing to the presence of beer halls like, what else, Gottscheer Beer Hall. Large groups of Irish and Italian immigrants also moved into the neighborhood around this period.
When the Dutch first settled Bushwick (then called Boswijk, meaning “heavy woods”), Ridgewood was deemed a part of the neighborhood. It was the English settlers that came after the Dutch who named it differentiatingly as Ridgewood, likely as a result of the combination of its lush greenery and elevated terrain.
A prime example of Ridgewood’s, well, “ridginess” is the point on which Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish stands at 60th Place.
One of the major ways to distinguish between Bushwick and Ridgewood became through the address numbering format, with Ridgewood addresses distinctively featuring dashes in the numbering (e.g. 18-22 Stockholm Street).
The 2016 movie, White Girl, takes place in the Ridgewood neighborhood, the title being a play on the naive gentrification of its protagonist and the nickname of the drug she comes to take a shine to.
Both Phil Rizzuto and James Cagney graduated from Ridgewood’s P.S. 71.
Harry Houdini is buried in Glendale's Machpelah Cemetery (yet another reason Houdini Pizza Lab has him as namesake).
What We Love
Its no frills, “down home” aura, as well as a welcoming sense to all who choose to move into the neighborhood. The openness to all walks of life and all types of business ideas make Ridgewood a wonderful place to call home--for its safety and quietness especially.