Background Information

Howard Beach


What do you think of when you hear  the name "Howard Beach?" Popular  media has often depicted it in a negative light because of a few racially motivated incidents, and one infamous resident. This, of course, fails to recognize that the vast majority of Howard Beach residents are regular people; suburbanites in a  metropolis. Although all stereotypes are based on a grain of truth, this largely Italian American neighborhood is more than what the  media may portray it to be.

 Although it is true that a few members  of the Howard Beach community have  been involved in and convicted of violent hate crimes, and although John Gotti is arguably the most famous Howard Beach resident, we should not let these isolated instances define the way in which we view the neighborhood.

Located in Southern Queens, Howard Beach has a higher rate of home ownership than many other areas in New York City. The neighborhood is comprised of mostly married families, with an Italian-American population of 47%, an overwhelmingly larger percentage than that of New York City as a whole, in which approximately 2% of the population is Italian American.

According to the Census, in New York City overall, the majority of number of houses valued stayed in the range of $200,000 to $249,999 in 1990 and in 2000. In comparison, the majority of houses in Howard Beach in 1990 were valued at $250,000 to $399,999 and $300,000 to $499,999 in 2000. This shows an overall trend toward greater home values in Howard Beach, home values that are greater than the New York City home value majority rate during 1990 and 2000.

Despite being negatively depicted in the media, Howard Beach's tight-knit community has also received some attention. In Beyond the Melting Pot, author Nathan Glazer notes that many Italians deeply value family relationships and in the chapter, the author gives examples of a pattern in many Italian neighborhoods. Married children stay close to their parents even when they start a family of their own, which creates Italian neighborhoods with multiple generations living in them. While this builds strong familial bonds, the author mentions that it also breeds mistrust of strangers who are considered “outsiders.” In the New York Times article by Kurt Eichenwald, he writes that Howard Beach, a largely Italian-American neighborhood, is secluded and close-knit. Italian youths may grow up in a nurturing environment centered around family, but at the same time this environment may have an adverse affect in that they may not deliberately seek to interact with others they are not familiar with. In the past when new people attempted to move into predominantly Italian-American neighborhoods they were unwelcome and often met with hostile neighbors. In some extreme cases the Italian-American residents move away to other neighborhoods. This further illustrates both the community’s desire to continue to preserve their traditions.