Standing still on a single block in Queens, one could see four active religious sites. My partner and I quickly split the responsibility of interviewing and distributing questionnaires, acknowledging the likelihood that we'll need questionnaires in different languages.
To our delight, this neighborhood block on 48th Ave., which looked like a typical block in Woodside, Queens, was a special meeting ground for religious activity. What had originally looked like 4 religious sites was really a total of 6 congregations, as two of the sites were inhabited by two churches each. The breakdown: a Romanian Orthodox church, a Korean Nazarene church, three Hispanic Christian churches, and a Bangladeshi masjid.
"Wow," I thought, "this is amazing. I wonder what kinds of commotion occurs on this block on a given weekend." I quickly dispelled any loose plans to camp out under the bodega awning as my thoughts drifted to why this very block was a perfect representation of Queens, Community District 2 and how lucky we were to be witnessing this moment.
Community District 2 encompasses Woodside, Sunnyside, Hunter's Point, and Long Island City. Throughout our adventure in this territory, we were not only able to meet incredible religious people, movers and shakers of the city, but also visit restaurants and art galleries of a booming culturally active community. For the cityphiles out there, here are a few places we recommend and would certainly revisit!
La Flor Bakery and Restaurant
5302 Roosevelt Ave.
Woodside, NY 11377
Once upon a time, tucked away underneath the tracks of the 7 train is a cute, little cafe called La Flor. Yes, La Flor can easily come out of a fairy tale; the cafe is that pretty! Food wise- if you're looking for a sophisticated lunch of new wave Mexican, La Flor is the place to go. The pleasant ambiance proves it to be a great place to go for conversations with friends or for meetings. Their menu includes a selection of various quesadillas, tortas, tacos and salad. Best of all, lunch was prepared with presentation in mind (not to mention the food was delicious!). Baked goods, with Mexican essence, are made fresh in their kitchen. Vegetarian friendly!
Himalayan Yak Restaurant and Bar
72-20 Roosevelt Ave.
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
According to the census of 2000, Asian Americans constitutes 17.56% of the population in Queens. Among this population is a thriving Tibetan and Nepalese community and a truly wonderful restaurant that felt like home. With brown color schemes, exposed brick, and authentic wood, the interior design of the restaurant was cozy and welcoming. The Dalai Lama frequents this restaurant when he visits NYC, and I can see why. The wait staff was friendly and chatty as I asked for recommendations on the lunch menu. Lunch is served with traditional Tibetan salted tea, made with yak butter- a must try for the courageous!
P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center
225 Jackson Avenue
Long Island City, NY 11101
P.S. 1 is a branch of MoMA, Museum of Modern Art. Its parent museum gets all the hype, but P.S. 1 is a worthy museum to visit. P.S. 1 symbolizes the dynamism occurring in Long Island City and the growing artist community in Hunter's Point. Set among court rooms and financial buildings, the modern artworks shown in P.S.1 is appropriate for its surroundings. However, to really get a feel of the community inhabited by the artists who help create the energy of P.S. 1, make your way over to Vernon Blvd. for the best cafes, bars, and eating establishments.
I believe the future of Queen, CD2 is gentrification. Gentrification started 10 years ago in Long Island City and Hunter's Point, and will move over to the eastern parts of CD2. As reflected by the ambiance and menu of La Flor and Himalayan Yak Restaurant, establishments like these are attempting to cater to a wider, global audience.