November 2, 2012, Friday, 306


From The Peopling of New York City

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My Story

~ Eva Raparia. Born in Dallas, Texas, and raised in the small, rustic town Shoreham in Long Island, I am currently a freshmen at Brooklyn College and part of the BA/MD program and Macaulay Honor's College. As the child of immigrants, I have always felt part of two worlds, caught between two very different cultures. Although this has provided me with a unique perspective and given me a greater appreciation for different cultures and people, at times I have felt different and in conflict with my parents' cultural values and traditions, and those I experienced at school, and saw on television. This class - Peopling of New York City - has given me a very interesting look into the various immigrant groups that have came here and made New York City throughout history; it has been an especially enlightening experience because at many times I was able to relate to the struggles faced by these immigrant families. Part of the reason I have chosen to investigate Jackson Heights is I have identified with it as an immigrant- specifically South Asian- community. Yet, when I started to dive into the area's history, particularly 80th street, I learned that the community is much more than just a place where you can currently get Indian sweets and fabric. Not too long ago, it was a community on cutting-edge of architecture, and community development- filled with upper-class Anglo-Saxon city workers. Then how did it become the diverse- socially and economically- melting pot it is today? My research will take you on a journey across time to the birth of Jackson Heights, its significance to not only New York City, but the nation, and how it has transformed through the decades. I hope you enjoy my look into Jackson Heights, its rich history and the diverse people of New York City who fostered its development.

The Research Process

Once I had decided Jackson Heights, narrowing down to a specific street took research and time. At first I considered doing "Little India" because for years this had been my picture of Jackson Heights, however, after researching the area and the history, I discovered that this image I had was only part of the story, only the modern day result of years and years of transformation, development, immigration and constant change. Jackson Heights, located in Queens, NY, stretches from the Grand Central Parkway as its northern boundary, East Elmhurst at its northeast, Corona to its east, Elmhurst to the south and Woodside at its west. Half of Jackson Heights (and specifically this section of it) has been designated as a New York City Historic Distinct by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission because it contains the large Garden Apartment buildings, built in the 1920s when this area was flourishing. I wanted to capture the entire story, from the very beginning, and the significance of the neighborhood today. I finally decided on 80th (between 34th and 37th avenues), partly because I was captivated by the beautiful architecture of the Greystones and Towers, but mostly because in the heart of Jackson Heights' Historical district, it truly embodies the spirit and dramatic changes Jackson Heights has shown through the years.

At first inhabited mainly by European immigrants, today this very diverse block is peopled by immigrants from South Asian (India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, etc), Latin American and former Soviet Union nations. Recently, the South Asian community has flourished in this area. The street is lined by businesses and residential living apartments, including the famous co-ops from the 1920s- the grand looking Greystone Buildings. The juxtaposition of national historic buildings with the immigrant flavors brought from different lands is not only an interesting combination, one that assures cultural conflicts, but also one bound to have a very rich and fascinating history. When and how did this transformation take place? Why was the South Asian community attracted and built around this specific area? The questions are endless, as are the opportunities to explore and uncover the history and secrets of this unique neighborhood.

The most striking feature of this street today is that it simultaneous contains both urban and suburban elements. While the businesses and atmosphere give it an urban-like feeling, the substantial multistory residential buildings, and greenery around the buildings also give it a suburban essence. Its rich history and diverse residents make this street an interesting subject of investigation and holds promise of holding many hidden secrets waiting to be brought out into the open.

Let Your Journey Into Jackson Heights Begin...

[[Discovering 80th Street and the Community Around it]]