What It's Like to Live in a Diverse Community
Hear from homeowners who live in multicultural and LGBT-friendly neighborhoods and find out what it's really like.
With foreign-born residents making up nearly half of its population, Queens is often cited as the most diverse county in the United States. Seth Bornstein, the Executive Director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation and a Queens resident for 15 years, says on a typical morning, he might go to the gym and be checked in by an African man, get breakfast at a bagel store owned by a Russian couple, and pick up a croissant for his wife at a French bakery owned by an Indian woman. "The great thing about that experience is I don't think twice -- this is normal in Queens," he says.
Getting around: Queens residents rely on many forms of transportation, depending on what area of the borough they call home. "There are parts of Queens that are well-served by public transportation, and there are parts that are much more suburban in character," Bornstein says. Flushing, Forest Hills, Jamaica and other dense urban areas tend to be very walkable, while the Rockaways and other areas further from Manhattan are more dependent on cars.
Owning a home: Like its residents, housing in Queens is very diverse, ranging from high-rise apartments to single-family homes to beachfront condos. In addition to new housing developments, Queens is home to some of America's oldest planned communities, including Forest Hills Gardens and Sunnyside Gardens. "There are really well-planned communities that have stood the test of time in the borough," Bornstein says.
Twenty to 30 years ago, Bornstein says many neighborhoods in Queens were known for having an ethnic or religious majority -- Astoria was the Greek neighborhood, Flushing was the Asian neighborhood and Forest Hills was the Jewish neighborhood. Today, Bornstein says, the array of cultures found in Queens has become much more integrated. Bornstein's neighbors, for instance, are of African, German, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese descent. "And that's just one little block in Forest Hills," Bornstein says.
Finding fun: On a warm summer day, people from all walks of life can be found swimming, surfing and sunbathing at Rockaway Beach on the southern shore of Queens. Flushing Meadows Corona Park is another popular destination for Queens residents. The park plays host to a number of special events throughout the year, including the U.S. Tennis Open, the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival and New York Mets games at Citi Field. On other days, Queens residents flock to the park to play soccer and cricket, stroll along the Flushing Bay Promenade or enjoy the sounds of a summer concert.
"Sports and music bring people together no matter what their background," Bornstein says.
Tallying the cost of living: Compared to Manhattan, you get a lot more for your money in Queens, Bornstein says. And with diverse housing options, there's something for everyone in the borough.
"Unlike Brooklyn or Manhattan, there's a lot more middle than there is upper and lower," Bornstein says. "So there's a lot more variety for middle-class families."