Photo by LARRY WOODCOCK
Woodhaven, Queens is a blue collar, working class immigrant neighborhood located in Southwestern Queens just over the border from Brooklyn.
Encompassing one square mile, its population hovers around 45,000 or so residents with 50 percent being Hispanic.
European settlement began in the middle 18th century and Woodhaven was home to two racetracks that drew thousands of spectators, with one being the Union Course.
It was nationally famous for its dirt track, which was a novelty at the time.
In 1836 when the Long Island Railroad was established along Atlantic Avenue, the cars were pulled along by horses and stopped at all major intersections, not unlike the buses of today. The exception was that back then, people would get on and off while the car was moving.
Nearby, the Jamaica Avenue line is one of the oldest that dates back to 1885 and portions of it remained elevated.
In 1899, a tin factory was opened and employed thousands. It helped develop the community. To commemorate its closing and history, the company’s clock tower stands on the corner of Atlantic Avenue and 92nd Street.
Forest Park can be found here, which the third largest park in the borough, located between Myrtle Avenue and Union Turnpike. The 545 acre park includes a golf course, a band stand for outdoor concerts, and a 100 year old carousel.
Woodhaven is also the home of the Wildcats, 293 Engine. The firehouse is located at 89-40 87th Street.
This company, like many across the city every year, is rumored to be closed when the mayor announces the budget deficit. But thankfully, each year like many others, they are saved from being shut and continue to serve their respective neighborhood with pride.
Originally established as part of a volunteer company in 1907 is Clarenceville Hook and Ladder #2 of Richmond Hill. They later became Hose Company #2 located on Greenwood Avenue between Atlantic and Lexington Avenues.
On January 1, 1915, they moved into their current firehouse, which was built in 1914 by Architect Frank Quinby and have been there since.
The neighborhood is mainly comprised of single and two family homes ranging from rowhomes to colonials and a large portion as taxpayers. They are spread throughout with large concentrations on Jamaica and Atlantic Avenues.
The oldest bar in New York City and perhaps the country is Neir’s. The tavern is on the corner of 78th Street and 88th Avenue. Opened in 1829 and called “The Old Blue Pump House”it has been in continuous operation, except during prohibition and in the same location for its entire history. During prohibition, it was used as a speakeasy and the rooms above were converted to a bordello, further adding to its history and fame.
Actress, singer, playwright and sex symbol Mae West, whose entertainment career spanned seven decades, was born in Brooklyn and raised in Woodhaven. She first performed here. Actors such as W.C. Fields would come here to drink when in New York.
In 1990, it was used in the film“Goodfellas”. There is a historical marker outside the bar that acknowledges its status.
Engine 293 has had several medal recipients and unit citations along with two line of duty deaths in their one hundred and six year exsistance.