November 2, 2012, Friday, 306


From The Peopling of New York City

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Nicole Carrano is a graduate of Townsend Harris High School in Queens that is now a freshman in the Macaulay Honors College at Brooklyn College. Beginning her college career as a premed student, Nicole realized that this path was not as she imagined it to be and is now torn between majors in English and Psychology. A minor in Music is already decided, as her most preferred hobbies include playing the bass guitar/piano/saxophone, singing, and transcribing/learning new songs on the bass guitar/piano. Other than her ability to read music in treble clef and play the saxophone, Nicole's musical performance is mostly self-taught.

Nicole currently resides in Ozone Park, a neighborhood situated in Queens where the focal point of her research for this project is located. Living on a block with about five different ethnic groups, she knew that her neighborhood would be a great utility for gathering information on and gaining a better understanding of the peopling of New York.

Welcome to Liberty Avenue

A view of the tracks.
A view of the tracks.

The street that I would like to introduce you to is the segment of Liberty Avenue between 98th and 99th Street. This block is within close proximity of my house, therefore it is not a hassle to visit it for any information. It is a block that stands apart from the rest of Liberty Avenue: it is often rather empty and seems to be a site of collision between the old and the new. As a brief overview, Liberty Avenue showcases a large variety of stores and restaurants and is often trudged upon by many people. From its birth in the beginning of the 20th century, the avenue has existed today as a street of popularity--perhaps because of its full access to public transportation, perhaps because of the nostalgia it can bring even to those who never lived there before. My goal in researching this street was to find the specific answer, or answers, to this thought-provoking question.

During the beginning of my college career, I was introduced to the segment of Liberty Avenue between 98th Street and 99th Street. Having no other way to get to school other than by train, I found myself passing over this block constantly, watching the neighborhood change with every stop. It was the stop within close proximity of this block that has always served as a “turning point” in the neighborhood for me: Rockaway Boulevard. The streets before it consist of apartment buildings that give it a feel of Brooklyn. The streets after it, going up Liberty Avenue, consist of stores and houses that resemble Queens. It is undoubtedly true, therefore, that this portion of Ozone Park is the overlap between Brooklyn and Queens. While I do consider the train stop to be representative of “change” for the entire neighborhood, I feel that this segmentb consisting of 98th and 99th streets, is the true point of change within the neighborhood.

The most interesting part of this block, to me, is that it is the merging point of the two A train tracks that rest above it. Along part of Liberty Avenue, the A trains travel above ground as opposed to the rest of the route, which travels below street level. When heading toward Queens, there are two A trains that are available for transportation: the Lefferts Boulevard A train and the Far Rockaway A train. During rush hours, a third A train, traveling toward Rockaway Park, is also available. At the 96th Street station, Rockaway Boulevard, these trains finally split in different directions. The Lefferts Boulevard A train continues straight down the track along Liberty Avenue while the other two A trains switch over to a track that turns away from the original track. It is between 98th and 99th Street that this split occurs, and it is quite a structure to look at from the Google Map image provided.

The train tracks themselves hold a lot of history, evidenced by some of the stops along the A-line which pair up streets with avenues that no longer exist. One of these pairs, for example, is apparent at my stop on the train which is referred to as 104th Street – Oxford Avenue. Even the bakery at the corner of the block below the train station is called the Oxford Bakery, clearly suggesting that the avenue existed at one point in time. These train tracks also show a great amount of history through their appearance: they are worn down by weather and time, and the marks show.

In addition to the interesting change within the train tracks, Liberty Avenue showcases a variety of people, such as Italians, Asians, Americans, and Hispanics. Restaurants showcasing the different foods from each of these cultures stand next door to each other and the community itself is very friendly. It resembles other parts of New York City that existed before the sudden rush of construction and renovation. That said, it is almost as if this neighborhood is one that is somewhat already situated further into the past than others – this particular block having an older look to it than most others. Digging deeper into this history may reveal why the area, as I know it now, resists change.

Overall, I feel that this block that I have chosen will be easy to access and has enough active components to pull up an interesting history. One of the last reasons I would like to understand its history, and perhaps the most important of all, is because I have only lived in this area for two years and have become extremely accustomed to traveling in that direction to get just about anywhere on my own. It has become a significant part of my life, and seems to undergo changes together with my life as well. Already, I am leaving my own mark on this street and joining the rest of those who preceded me. There are clearly so many unique characteristics about this area that I am deeply motivated to embark on the journey of probing into its history to learn even more and to share my discoveries with you.

Let's Go For A Walk