History of Corona, Queens

Corona is a neighborhood in Queens, New York. It is neighbored by Flushing, Jackson Heights, Forest Hills, Rego Park, Elmhurst, and East Elmhurst. The neighborhood was originally named West Flushing, but was changed when real estate developer Thomas Waite Howard petitioned to have the name changed to Corona in 1870. There are two prevailing theories on how Howard came up with the name. One is that he felt the neighborhood was the “crown of Queens County,” and thus dubbed it Corona. The other is that he took the name from the crown used as an emblem by the Crown Building Company, which allegedly developed the area. Regardless, the name Corona comes from either Spanish or Italian roots, meaning crown.

Corona traces its roots back to creation of the Flushing Railroad in 1853. Prior to that, the land was occupied by only a dozen families who grew crops on the land. The creation of the Flushing Railroad in present-day Corona drew enough interest in the land that a real estate company was organized in Manhattan to sell houses on small plots of land carved out of former farmland. Much of this attention was because of the creation of a horse-racing track hosted by the National Racing Organization in Corona.

Corona became famous for its various landmarks over time. First was the racetrack that garnered much initial attention along with the Flushing Railroad. The first baseball game for which admission was charged took place in Corona in 1858. F. Scott Fitzgerald forever immortalized Corona in The Great Gatsby as “the valley of ashes,” because in 1907 , Michael Degnon made a plan to dump ashes and refuse on salt meadows along the Flushing Creek in an attempt to allow large ships passage. However, all it did was make the entire neighborhood stink and contribute to an ugly view of gray mounds. These mounds remained because of World War I until 1937, when Robert Moses cleaned them up in preparation for the upcoming 1939-1940 World’s Fair held at present-day Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The site was used once again for the 1964-1965 World’s Fair.

During the second half of the 20th century, Corona saw many ethnic successions. Prior to the 1950s, Corona was mainly an Italian and African American community. This was due in part to the mass immigration to the United States from Italy, Germany, Ireland, and other European nations after World War II. Additionally, during the mid-1940s to the 1960s, many legendary African American musicians, civil rights leaders, and athletes moved to Corona. However, the 1950s saw a large wave of Dominicans enter Corona. Later, in the late 1990s, there was a new wave of Latin American immigrants entering Corona.

The heart of the historic African American community was found north of Roosevelt Avenue in Corona. In contrast, the historic center of the Italian American community can be traced to the intersection of Corona Avenue and 108th Street. Today, Corona is overwhelmingly Hispanic, with all other demographics (Asian, black, non-Hispanic) below the borough average.