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The Ramones Might Just Be Fueling Gentrification In Queens

Punk icons are being acknowledged their original hometown, but for what purpose?

By Jeff Vasishta October 10, 2016
Photo courtesy of spyhollywood.com

Being a pop star and being from Queens was—until quite recently—something of an oxymoron. Kinda like being a rapper who went to prep school in Westchester. It all had to do with street cred. Queens was New York’s unhip, suburban wasteland. The conservative, blue collar home of Archie Bunker that you escaped from when you make it. Case in point: punk pioneers, the Ramones. For many years they were associated with the Lower East Side and their break through years in the mid ’70’s at CBGB’s. Lower Manhattan that was first to name the intersection of 2nd Avenue and the Bowery in honor of their lead singer, “Joey Ramone Way” in 2003. The joke used to be that Queens was a decade or so behind Manhattan and so now, fittingly, the Ramones are getting the dues from the place they grew up, Forest Hills. No, really.

Related: Hipster Evacuation, Amish Style: Lancaster PA May Be The Next New Brooklyn Neighborhood

A corner in front of Forest Hills High School which the band attended will, on October 23rd, be co-named “The Ramones Way”, City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz’s office announced. For those planning to attend the event, it’s on the intersection of 67th and 110th St.

Altruism in politics is even rarer than political affinity for rebellious rockers. The naming of the street feeds the hipster nostalgia that’s rebranding Queens, as the gentrification locomotive rolls on through. Brooklyn has no end of rock, hip-hop and entertainment celebrities that called it home giving it a constant cred. Forest Hills and Queens, it seems have cottoned on to the idea that celebrating their past may actually be good for their future.

“I’m so THRILLED that it’s actually happening,” Mickey Leigh, the brother of Joey Ramone wrote on his Facebook page (all the original Ramones are now deceased) “And, so PROUD of the four guys who made such an amazing impact on the world.” According to Leigh, it took him a decade of canvassing to finally persuade the powers that be to approve the sign.

Hipster nostalgia, though, comes with a price.

“We’re a well-packaged neighborhood, a condensed mini-Manhattan,” Maxine Savel, a real estate agent with Charles Rutenberg Realty, who lives and works in Forest Hills told the New York Times.

Forest Hills’ reinvention would have any aging rocker taking notes. The neighborhood is divided down the middle by two main thoroughfares: the busy Queens Boulevard and the more pedestrian-friendly Austin Street. Old Queens money and new. The latter is lined with small restaurants, shops and bars. A block south of the bustling Austin Street is the Gardens, an affluent section with single-family, Tudor-style, $1 million-plus homes, which lends it a distinctly suburban feel.

The other side of Queens Boulevard offers more urban living options. This area, which spans up to the Grand Central Parkway, is filled mostly with apartment complexes and small homes. One-bedroom rentals there range from around $1,600 to $2,000 and two-bedrooms from $2,100 to $2,800.

Forest Hills also has a collection of new developments in its northern half, including the recently-completed luxury condo buildings the Aston and the Windsor.

“We’re getting a lot of people moving in from Brooklyn and Manhattan who are being priced out,” Madeleine Realty agent Jacques Ambron told AM New York. “Young couples who are looking to move into a single-bedroom apartment” are eyeing Forest Hills.

In the late 80’s an influx of over 60,000 Bukharian Jews from Uzbekistan with a distinct design aesthetic hasn’t sat well with many. Friction escalated last year with an arson spree which targeted Bukharian Jewish owned homes in the Cord Mayer section of the neighborhood.

Gentrification is a domino effect. Now as condo-mania sweeps the Tri-State, Forest Hills prices are taking a hike too. A two-bedroom two-and-a-half-bath condo with a terrace in the Aston is listed at $1.888 million on the MLS.

What would the Ramones make of all this change in both of their old neighborhoods, I wonder? If they saw what had happened to the Lower East Side, they probably wouldn’t have been in such a hurry to leave.

Jeff Vasishta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jeff Vasishta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jeff Vasishta

Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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