In 2006 when my daughter announced the imminent birth of my first grandchild, it was clear that a move would be in order. Having lived in midtown Manhattan for several years, her Jr. 1BR apt (which was cramped for 2) would not nearly be large enough for 3. With a mother in residential sales it would seem logical that I’d be called on to assist in her search for a 2BR apt. However, seldom does logic coincide with NYC real estate! And so, the search began, with both my daughter and son-in-law having hearts set in Brooklyn.
Little did I know (then) that Brooklyn real estate was beginning to surpass Manhattans on a price per sq ft basis. 2BR apartments in trendy areas such as Park Slope were often in brownstone bldgs. and were almost always ‘walk ups’. The thought of lugging a baby stroller, groceries, laundry and more seemed daunting, not to mention, many of these brownstones had the added inconvenience of long walks to public transportation. It appeared that Manhattan was a better option with many more elevator rental bldgs, and most, in close proximity to amenities. Having weighed pros and cons, it also appeared more affordable. However, after months of attending open houses, and racing to ‘preview’ an apartment not ‘yet’ on the market, (in order to ‘get in first’) we ‘all’ became deflated. One option which held interest, was a large 1BR in Stuyvesant Town. Unfortunately, it came w. a wait-list of up to 1yr., with no guarantee that even then would she be eligible to proceed. The apt that we viewed, would require the addition of a movable wall in order to create a (small) 2nd bedroom. Not ideal, not practical, and not what we were hoping for.
One afternoon, months into our search, my daughter was visiting an old friend who chose to relocate to an outlying borough. Her 1BR apt in Forest Hills, on a beautiful tree lined street, directly across from the ‘E’ train was larger than any 2BR we had viewed. The wheels were set in motion. Within 1 week, an application was submitted to the managing agent for a recently vacated 2BR, w. windowed eat in kitchen and entrance foyer that is now a home office. My daughter ultimately chose a borough perhaps not as hip as Bklyn, nor as accessible as Manhattan, but logistically and financially one, which has served her needs well. A decision she has not regretted, in over 10 years.
The Forest Hills public schools rival any of those in Manhattan, with test scores as high. The large Asian sector, places a strong emphasis on education. These students come from highly competitive homes and are consistently ranked in the top scoring percentage, on a national average. The FH education system is as well regarded, as any of Manhattans comparable public schools.
Over the years, I’ve become familiar with the local markets, restaurants & shops that line Austin Street & Continental Avenue. Based on my love of architecture, the most exquisite interior enclave (in much of NYC) is Forest Hills Gardens. The 142 acre development was fashioned after a traditional English garden in a parklike setting designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. The streets were originally laid-out in 1910, with many of them winding, specifically designed in an effort to avoid through traffic. The project wasn’t completed until the mid-‘60’s when the last remaining lots were developed. Although most of Forest Hills Garden consists of single family homes in the Tudor & Georgian style, the development also includes garden apartment buildings and retail space. Homes in this exclusive community sell for up to several million; comparable to the price of 2BR (max 3BR) apartments in neighboring Manhattan, but with the added charm and privacy of an historic community. These elegant mansions sit on smaller plots of land, but have the presence of those in several of London’s residential sections.
With just a short walk to public transportation; bringing you back to the reality of living in one of the greatest cities in the world! At the center of FHG is a circular garden which branches off leading to streets lined with these beautiful homes. The private community is managed by Forest Hills Gardens Corporation, an organization made up of its 4500 residents. This unique section has retained much of its co-operative idyllic nature and resembles a manor style, fairytale village. British urban theorist Sir Ebenezer Howard inspired a crop of British ‘garden cities’, with similar communities around the country, also modeled on the ‘garden city’ idea and can be found in Arlington County, VA; Village Greens in Los Angeles and the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights, to name a few.
In 1913 the West Side Tennis Club moved from Manhattan to FHG. National championships were held there until 1978, making the name ‘Forest Hills’ synonymous with tennis, for generations. The US Open held matches here that were played on grass (as they are in Wimbledon).
The Stadium, which sits adjacent to the gardens, is still home to some of the top recording artists appearing at ‘sold -out’ concerts, held throughout the summer.
The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) is another convenience, centered in Forest Hills Gardens, with trains running directly to Penn St. in less than 20 minutes. Alternatively, the MTA has express stops to 51st / Lex from Continental Avenue / 71st St on the ‘E’ line. Ideal options for the majority of commuters who have chosen this section of Queens, over other outlying boroughs. In addition, NYC’s 2 major airports, Laguardia and JFK, are within ½ hour door to door.
Forest Hills may no longer be considered a hidden gem….. unfortunately, the secret is out. Hopefully the continuation of combining modern life with a respect for history and community, will be upheld.
Thanks to the Gold Family for inspiring this article.