Life in Sunnyside, Queens
There are a few affordable areas of New York City left, and Sunnyside, Queens (for now) is one of them. It’s a mostly residential neighborhood sharing a border with Long Island City, Hunters Point, Astoria, Woodside, and Maspeth. You know you’re there when you spot the famous Art Deco “Sunnyside” sign crowning the 46th Street shopping district.
Sunnyside got its start in the 18th century when the Bragraw family owned an estate and named it “Sunnyside Hill.” (Hence, the name stuck.) It turns out that Sunnyside was the first development in the US to model itself after England’s “garden city movement, ” which started in 1898 and meant for communities to become a blend of residents, farms, and businesses.
Fast forward to the early 20th century and Irish immigrants landed in Sunnyside, so without a doubt, the neighborhood was mostly Irish for a long time. Though you’ll still find bits of Irish flavor, in more recent years, it’s become home to a diverse bunch of New Yorkers. Armenians, Romanians, Indians, Bangladeshis, Colombians, Mexicans, Ecuadorians, Chinese, Koreans and a host of other ethnicities call Sunnyside home. And with that much diversity, you can bet that there’s tons of great ethnic food flowing from restaurant kitchens.
A mix of rowhouses and six-story apartments built in the 1920s and ’30s dot the cityscape, but the neighborhood is most known for its lush, well-kept gardens.
The south side of Sunnyside takes on a grittier feel, while the north side, also the location of Sunnyside Gardens – one of the first planned communities in the US – takes on the charm. Private residences boast both front and rear gardens, which lend a very suburban feel to this district. Rental apartments have private terraces. Anyone living in this historic enclave automatically gains access to the community-managed Sunnyside Park, a private gathering place for the area’s residents since 1926.
In Sunnyside, locals love the strong sense of community and the affordability as compared to Manhattan, which is only a 15-minute commute. Just how much less expensive is rent in Sunnyside? A spacious one-bedroom goes for less than $2,000 (sometimes as low $1,650), whereas, a similar one-bedroom apartment across the river would average closer to $3,000 per month.
Schools are rated well making Sunnyside an ideal place to raise a family. Although the 7 train isn’t perfect (gets crowded at peak times and can run slow), in the grand scheme of the NYC subway, it’s not all that bad either. Traveling to other neighborhoods takes minutes by bus or subway, so residents tend to venture to Astoria and Woodside as well as Greenpoint and Williamsburg, Brooklyn for more shops since Sunnyside lacks in that department.
Plenty of eateries and pubs have set up shop here. The Dog and Duck is a front runner for Irish fare; Day Boat is excellent for Peruvian seafood, and TakeSushi puts out traditional Japanese dishes. For casual Italian or a simple New York slice, there’s Marabella, and Cemitas El Tigre is the place for tacos, burritos and Mexican sandwiches. Count on buying local every Saturday at the Sunnyside Greenmarket – open from 8 am. until 2 p.m. and located at Skillman Ave between 42nd and 43rd Streets.
Take a walk with us through this Queens neighborhood!
Many thanks to Eric Barao for the photos in this post.