Wednesday, November 30


February is my 8th anniversary of living in Astoria. When I decided to finally get my own place in 2003, I was hoping to stay in Brooklyn. At the time I was living between my grandmother's old apartment in Bay Ridge (she passed away a couple of years earlier) and my parents' house in Jackson. I LOVE Bay Ridge, but it was too far from the city for me. I targeted areas a little closer like Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, and Prospect Heights, but the rents were already jacked up after 9/11 and I couldn't afford it.

My friend Gerf was born and raised in Astoria and suggested I check out the neighborhood. My immediate thought was, "Ugh, I fucking hate Queens!" Besides my post-college beer garden shenanigans, I had only been to Queens a few times on my own, once to go to an outlaw (illegal outdoor rave) under a highway overpass (a story for another time), another after a rave in Manhattan led to an acid party at some guy's apartment, and I'm pretty sure once to buy coke, but I didn't get out of the car. Not only did all of my Queens interactions share recreational drug use, but they also shared getting lost. "How can 76th Street be next to 49th Street!?!?!" "Why the fuck is there a 63rd Rd/Ave/Dr right next to each other!?!?! Did Queens run out of numbers!??!"

Out of desperation, I checked out Astoria in January 2004. I found a broker named Eugene who was SUPER nice. He showed me one small apartment that I'm pretty sure was near the post office on 43rd and Broadway. You know how it is in foreign neighborhoods; I had no idea where I was at all. He then showed me another apartment at the top floor of a three family house on 37th Street and Broadway. I said no way, I'm a loud drunk that would wake up the entire building. He laughed and said thanks for being honest because it was HIS building and lived on the first floor.

Last came Delilah Foray (4A). I fell in love with her immediately. A nice one bedroom on a quiet street between the R/V/G and N/W trains, three to four stops from Manhattan. Prime location, good price. Top floor of a sixteen family stand-alone building. Roof access. I moved in a month later.

I didn't really hang out in the neighborhood too often since all of my friends lived in Manhattan, but I did enjoy walking around. Astoria is known for a big Greek population, but that's more on the Ditmars side. On my side of town there are tons of different cultures and ethnicities: Polish, Croatian, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, Italian, Russian, Irish, Asian the list goes on. I remember feeling I was one of the few natural blondes, if not the only one. I don't mean this in a bad way; it was nice to be in a melting pot.

A year later I started working at Company. A lot of my coworkers lived in Astoria too, so it was the first time I really had a social life near home. I guess it was around then that I noticed I had neighbors who were my peers. I enjoyed living among a small group of twenty-something newbies and long time Astorians from around the world.

Fast forward to now. The secret of Astoria is out! Yayboo! Booyay! I'll admit it - I'm torn about the yuppie influx. I'm sure that's how people felt when I moved in. It's all relative.

The Yay!: I barely ever go into Manhattan on the weekends now that most of my friends live in the 'hood. A ton of cool new bars and tasty restaurants are opening up. The subways and streets are always crowded, making the area safer late at night.

That last bit being said, the Boo!: Unfortunately the bad part about being the hot place to live means crime is on the rise.

I heard from a few people that Astoria used to be a pretty shitty neighborhood. Gang violence was common as recent as the 90s. There are projects in Western Astoria; my friend Jules and I made the mistake of walking over there once thinking it was the way to the park. It was not. I don't want class and race to cloud my judgment, then again I don't want to be naive and unsafe.

While I grew up in buttfuck Jackson, NJ my parents and family were raised in Brooklyn. We came to the city at least six times a year, so my parents made sure we had some basic street smarts. I get the feeling the new Astorians do not have any. Do not be fooled, people. This is still NYC. I don't know everything and hell, I have just as much of a chance to be mugged or robbed, but here are some of my observations and opinions:

1. Don't live in a desolate area just because the rent is cheap. Thieves know there are a ton of iPeople in the area. They could break into any apartment and easily walk off with five or six electronics. The number of reported gropings has risen recently, too. It could happen anywhere, but staying in populated areas will hopefully decrease your chances of being attacked. I advise friends not to live too far west of 31st Street on the south side of Astoria Blvd or below 36th Avenue. It seems anywhere east and north of there is okay, although I don't suggest going too far past Steinway because there aren't any subways north of 46th Street. Living near mass transit is best because there will be more people.

2. Be nice to your neighbors. Common courtesy goes along way. I've seen plenty of the new Astorians push pass a woman struggling with a stroller up subway stairs or not hold doors for people. Be polite. Having a strong sense of community and togetherness keeps the neighborhood safe. You never know when you might need help. Pay it forward.

3. Girls, watch your purses. If you put it behind you on a bar chair, be sure there's a coat on top or your friends are surrounding you. If you are at a sidewalk cafe, don't put your purse on the street side of the table. Someone can easily grab it and run off.

4. This I can't believe...DON'T RUN AT NIGHT WITH HEADPHONES ON. Hell, try not to have headphones on at night at all or at least keep the volume down so you can hear if someone's behind you.

5. I've seen at least two or three people leaving an ATM actually counting their money for all to see. This is not Ohio. You are not getting into your car and driving away. Everyone knows if you've gone to an ATM you have cash on you. Don't be dumb.

6. Don't spit on the sidewalks. It's fucking gross. Also, don't litter!

Okay, I'm done. Ruth Clare Jenkins (my 81 year old alter ego) has taken over!

Truthfully I'm not sure what's happening to me lately. Earlier this year I learned what it's like to lose something. Now I find myself more aware, sentimental, kind, and invested. My home is a part of this. I love Astoria. There is definitely a change coming to the neighborhood and I want to do my part to ensure it is for the betterment of everyone.

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