Neighborhood Spotlight: Ridgewood, Queens

 

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Ridgewood row houses. Photo credit: Uli Seit

Located on the border of Brooklyn and Queens, Ridgewood is a quietly up-and-coming residential neighborhood with a lot of home-grown New York character. This diverse little enclave sits adjacent to its trendy sister to the north, Bushwick, so there’s no shortage of culture and nightlife in the area, and Ridgewood is fast becoming a new cultural center in its own right. The neighborhood’s tree-lined streets, full of charming single-family homes, duplexes, and brownstones (many of which were built before 1920), and its close proximity to a variety of parks and greenspaces make Ridgewood the perfect place for new families; professionals who work in Manhattan will appreciate the relative calm that the neighborhood has to offer, and the 25 minute commute.

Ridgewood’s deep roots have so far stymied new residential development. The majority of  residents are homeowners who have been in the neighborhood for many years and are reluctant to sell. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for renters and buyers who are drawn to the neighborhood for its character. While competition for space has, by some reports, reached a fever pitch among potential new residents, prices have remained relatively reasonable; and there is hope for buyers who are looking for something brand new in the area, as residential development hasn’t been totally shut out of the neighborhood. Essex Capital‘s 90 unit complex at 16-26 Madison Street is slated to open its doors later this year, and several other condominium developments have recently broken ground.

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1626 Madison Street. Rendering courtesy of Essex Capital

Ridgewood’s quiet residential sectors contrast sharply with its bustling commercial districts on Myrtle Avenue and Fresh Pond Road, and the neighborhood’s diverse makeup has insured that residents have never wanted for a variety of food options; the recent infusion of new blood into the neighborhood has only broadened horizons for Ridgewood’s casual diners and foodies. The neighborhood, as one of the city’s oldest, also contains a wealth of treasures for NYC history buffs, and architecture enthusiasts. If you’re thinking of moving into the neighborhood, or you’d just like to visit, here are a few of the best places, old and new, to check out in Ridgewood.

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Photo courtesy of The Bushwick Daily

Located a short walk from both the M and L trains, Topos Bookstore Cafe is the cozy brainchild of Benjamin Friedman, a coffee-loving bibliophile who served for over a decade as the manager at the iconic St. Mark’s Bookshop, before deciding to open this inviting haven for book and coffee connoisseurs alike. The selection of books is large, varied, and eclectic, and the coffee is the best this side of Forest Avenue.

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Johnny’s Cafe. Photo courtesy of Johnny’s Cafe

Ridgewood was a predominantly Polish neighborhood for many years, and there’s still a thriving Polish community there today.  Johnny’s Cafe ranks among the best upscale Polish eateries in Queens, and the pierogis and potato pancakes at Hetman Polish Deli and Foods are out of this world.

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Gottscheer Hall. Photo courtesy of the New York Daily News

No trip to Ridgewood would be complete without a visit to  Gottscheer Hall, where old-timers mingle with new-comers over specialty German and domestic beers and bratwurst. Or check out a relatively new edition to the neighborhood’s culinary landscape, Bunker, where head chef Jimmy Tu serves up some of the best and most reasonably-priced  Vietnamese street vendor-style cuisine around. Try a banh mi sandwich or an order of vermicelli noodles.

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Lorimoto Gallery. Photo courtesy of the New York Post

Contemporary Art-lovers will find something to love at Lorimoto Gallery; and if beer, friends, and live music are your thing, The Trans Pecos and Muchmore’s are two of the coolest venues in the area to see up-and-coming bands.

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Vänder Ende-Onderdonk House. Photo courtesy of the Greater Ridgewood Historical Society

Built in 1789, and located right on the Brooklyn-Queens border, Onderdonk House is the oldest stone Colonial dwelling in the city. It houses a collection of archeological artifacts related to the site and region, and a Genealogical Resource Room and library. The Greater Ridgewood Historical Society also hosts candlelight tours of the house several times a year.

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Ridgewood is also home to the sprawling Highland Park. The park sits atop a plateau on the border of Brooklyn and Queens, and provides amazing views of The Rockaways and the Atlantic Ocean. The park is also a great place for walking, biking, and picnicking with friends and family.

In some ways, Ridgewood’s old-school charm seems tailor-made to suit a growing number of New Yorkers who are looking for a bit of quaintness and simplicity in the middle of the big city. While prices in the area have ticked up a bit since last year, the average price per square foot is still under $350, and the median sales price for homes in the area is $706,000.

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