Corona, Queens is a majority Hispanic neighborhood these days, with Dominican and Central American restaurants and shops dominating the main thoroughfare, Corona Avenue; but it once was home to large Italian American and African American communities. In one small corner of the neighborhood, the tiny triangular William F. Moore Park on the corner of 108th St. and 51st Ave. - across the street from the Lemon Ice King of Corona italian ice stand - old Italian men still gather on weekdays and weekends alike to play bocce and, on the day we visited, enjoy the beautiful spring weather. 

Row upon row of apartment buildings in Corona, Queens.

Row upon row of apartment buildings in Corona, Queens.

These photos from the Pulaski bridge spanning Greenpoint and Long Island City show the mouth of Newtown Creek, which serves as a dividing line between Brooklyn and Queens until it peters out a few miles east (well actually, technically that is where it begins).

Newtown Creek, though no Gowanus Canal, is still notoriously polluted. There is no natural current in the creek, leading to the buildup of a fifteen-foot thick layer of slimy pollutants on the channel bottom, largely sewage runoff from the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Greenpoint (ew?). It also suffered one of the largest oil spills in U.S. history, when in the 1970s 30 million gallons of crude oil - or roughly the same as the high end estimates in the Exxon Valdez spill - were released into the creek from one of the many oil refineries lining its banks.

The creek was dedicated as a Superfund site in 2010, and the waterfront towards the East River has been spruced up considerably and even offers a “Nature Walk,” if your idea of nature is concrete, toxic soil and a few shrubs. A rezoning plan for the neighborhood was approved several years ago that includes more residential and open public spaces, and residents and local business owners have lobbied hard for a boathouse and educational facility. In a few years, maybe, the dolphin that swam up the creek in March 2010 won’t look like such a total bonehead.

This synagogue, Congregation Tifereth Israel, is the oldest in Queens in continual use, built in 1911. According to Wikipdia, Estée Lauder was an early member of the congregation.

Tifereth Israel was originally built by Ashkenazi Orthodox Jews, but after most of them moved out of the neighborhood starting in the mid-20th century, the congregation dwindled almost into non-existence. In the 1990s, Bukharan Jews from the former Soviet Union began moving into the neighborhood and holding services in the basement of the synagogue. The Ashkenazis and the Bukharans - whose customs are more similar to those of Sephardic Jews - shared the building peacefully for a little while, but eventually a bit of a turf war ensued (money was involved). The synagogue’s Ashkenazi president closed the doors to the Bukharans in 1997. In response, a Holocaust survivor named Viola Milne filed lawsuits in both rabbinical and state courts; both courts agreed that the synagogue could not exclude either group of worshipers, and the building turned over to the Bukharan congregation in September of that year.

As of 2008 the building is designated as a city landmark. When we stumbled across it in April 2010 the caretaker saw us taking photos of the exterior and invited us to look around inside. You can tell the place is quite old, but the avocado-green carpet on the stairs seemed more 1960s or 70s than 1911. From recent streetview pictures, it’s had quite a facelift since then.

Elmhurst was stop number one on an all-day walking excursion through Queens - we later hit Corona, Flushing Meadows Park, and Rego Park. We fortified ourselves beforehand at the exceedingly delicious Malaysian restaurant Taste Good (truth in advertising!), on 45th Avenue right near the Elmhurst Ave. subway station. Elmhurst is an ethnically diverse neighborhood - some say it is one of the most diverse in Queens - as the range of dining options attests. Elmhurst also has quite the variety of churches, synagogues, and temples - Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu. The cemetery here is at the Reformed Church of Newtown, built in 1834.

This little bridge on Grand Street spans the tail end of Newtown Creek between the neighborhoods of what I think is Maspeth in Queens and East Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Google Maps has the Queens-side area of this as Linden Hill, but according to Wikipedia Linden Hill is farther north and east, up near Flushing. Whatever it is, this particular corner of the neighborhood is apparently where they keep all the things that keep the city running; schools buses, regular commuter buses, cranes, etc.