аct Welcome to Flushing

refer Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue

detail         Flushing Main Street is one of the most incredible places in New York. Once a predominantly white enclave, it has developed into a flourishing Chinese and Korean community. The main commercial corridor of Flushing is Main Street, which is also the terminus for many bus routes and train lines. While Main Street stretches for miles down the center of Queens, I will mainly be focusing on the length between Sanford Avenue and Northern Boulevard on this page.

this content Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue Main Street and 38th Avenue

Main Street between 37th and 38th Avenues

Main Street between 37th and 38th Avenues

Main Street and 37th Avenue

Main Street and Northern Boulevard

        Above is the long-abandoned RKO Keith’s Theater. Built in 1928, just as the 7 train began to rumble its way into Flushing, this historic theater was a cultural and communal magnet. Vaudeville shows performed by the Marx Brothers and others alike were a common appearance at RKO Keith’s. In the 60s and 70s, many Hollywood stars, to show that they’ve really made it, performed at this theater. In the mid-1980s the inside of the theater was granted landmark status because of its magnificent, grand baroque architecture, but unfortunately the rest of the building was left unprotected and in 1986 the theater went abandoned. Since then, the theater has been left in a state of disrepair as developers struggled to find a way to turn a profit on this historic building. 

        Recently, however, one developer has proposed an almost complete demolition of the building – with a promised preservation of the landmarked interior – and the construction of a sixteen story glass condo in its place. Naturally, the community is outraged and is currently petitioning the Landmarks Preservation Commission to save the culturally-historic building. Instead of a sixteen story condo, the community argues, the theater should be rehabilitated and turned into a community center similar to the Flushing Town Hall. Personally, I would be heartbroken to see this historic building demolished and a condo built in its place. I think that, were this building to be rehabilitated and turned into a community center, it would strengthen the community in countless ways, and would decidedly not be another cash-in for the rich.

Main Street between 37th and 38th Avenues

Main Street and 37th Avenue

Northern Boulevard and Main Street

Northern Boulevard between Main and Prince Streets

        As far as Flushing is from Manhattan and Brooklyn, situated at the very end of the 7 train line, it is still not safe from the homogenizing effects of gentrification. Being on a train line and relatively close to LaGuardia Airport, Flushing has been targeted with rampant hotel and condo construction. These new twenty story glass and concrete towers loom above the old one to six story buildings. Not only does gentrification bring rent hikes, displacement of small businesses and the working class and erasure of history and culture, but the new buildings just have no soul. And in terms of the look of the street, the stark juxtaposition of soulless and soulful, of new and old, appears almost dystopian.

        In the above few pictures you can see an old two-story building that runs the length of Northern Boulevard between Main Street and Prince Street. This building is bookended by a music school on Main Street and an aquarium on Prince Street, in between these interesting small businesses are countless others, such as a printing store, a computer repair store, a cafe, a tuxedo rental store… the list goes on. And yet behind them is a just-finished, massive luxury hotel with its blank, empty blue glass facade. As it towers over the old building it puts the whole street in shadow. To me, these two buildings are a great metaphor for what is happening all across New York; the new is shiny and luxurious but soulless, while the old is dirty, disorganized and unkempt, but full of the sweat and dreams and spirit of humans. It is full of soul.

Northern Boulevard and Prince Street

Northern Boulevard and Prince Street

Northern Boulevard and Linden Place

Union Street and 37th Avenue

Main Street and 39th Avenue

Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue

Main Street and 40th Road

Main Street between 41 Road and 41st Avenue

Main Street and 41st Road

Main Street and 41st Road

Main Street and 41st Road

Some open-air shops on the corner of Main Street and 41st Road

Main Street between 41st Road and Sanford Avenue

Main Street and Sanford Avenue

        Street vendors are an integral part of Main Street’s constant buzz. These vendors sell everything from hats to fresh produce to grilled chicken with peanut sauce to handmade Hong Kong style egg waffles that, if you’re lucky, are just-made and still warm.

        Here on the corner of Main Street and Maple Avenue, an old furniture store (Q & R Furniture Inc. seen above) has been turned into a vegetable market. The new tenants didn’t even bother to change the sign.

        Several times throughout this walk I tried to capture the sheer amount of people crammed onto the street. None of the pictures do it justice, but this one at least gives you an idea of the crowds. As you look towards the horizon the grey cement of the sidewalk quickly disappears and is replaced by the vibrant shapes and colors of people.

        The Flushing branch of the Queens Public Library sits at the crazy five-way intersection of Main Street, Kissena Boulevard and 41st Avenue. It is here, where two major thoroughfares, six bus routes, a commuter rail station and a subway line converge that people congregate. One woman comes to stand on the street corner for hours handing out communist pamphlets while another woman across the street from her hands out anti-communist pamphlets. Others come to sell street food, play music or panhandle. Still others come to watch the commotion of the street, sitting on the library plaza’s front steps. Families, teens and elders come for the library and while they’re here they take a pamphlet or two, buy some roasted peanuts, or give a homeless person some change. Standing on this corner feels like standing at the center of the universe; everything and everyone is passing in, out, over and around you.

        Another open-air supermarket. This one has a lucky location at the intersection of Main Street, Kissena Boulevard and 41st Avenue, across the street from the Queens Public LIbrary.

        Under the Long Island Rail Road Flushing station is an impromptu street market. Appearing almost as an extension of the open-air supermarket directly next to it, this unlikely place to sell fresh produce is bustling with people browsing the food stands searching for clean-enough looking food and a great price.

40th Road between Main Street and Prince Street