One of the city’s (and country’s) most diverse neighborhoods, Jackson Heights in Queens attracts immigrants from dozens of countries around the globe. Walk down Northern Boulevard, which used to be Jackson Avenue, and you’ll hear a medley of languages spewed from the mouths of locals. Those locals hail from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bolivia, Nepal, and Colombia, among other nations. In fact, scores of immigrants from Latin America and South Asia have found a home in the neighborhood in recent years, infusing this vibrant community with bits and pieces of their lifestyle, cuisine, and customs.
Jackson Heights is on the 7 train line with easy access into Manhattan – the ride takes just 15 minutes, and that’s a huge advantage of living here. You can also reach the area by riding the F, R, M, and E trains. Once you arrive, walk around and you’ll soon discover tree-lined streets, a mixed architectural styles, and big chains mingled with an array of ethnic eateries that showcase the culture of the people who live and work in the neighborhood.
One question that remains is if Jackson Heights will continue to be an affordable place to live. As rents and housing prices climb all over New York, the safe, eclectic nabe is bound to feel some effects. Currently, one-bedrooms can be had for under $2,000 per month.
Some of the buildings in the enclave are landmarked, making up a section that’s on the National Register of Historic Places as well as a register of New York State. Nearly half of Jackson Heights is a New York City Historic District – you’ll see Tudor-esque apartment buildings that have private gardens, single-family homes, and shops on streets not far from Roosevelt Avenue. Those private gardens provide green space to residents who are lucky enough to live there. Although there’s a plan to add a lawn to the two-acre Travers Park, Jackson Heights still lacks public parks.
Many of the restaurants in Jackson Heights are located on 37th Avenue and 74th Street, with others on Roosevelt Avenue and Northern Boulevard. Head to La Pequeño Colombia for, you guessed it, Colombian food; Himalayan Yak for Nepalese; and Kabab King for Indian and Pakistani. These eateries offer a mere sampling of the diverse food that hits the plate here in Jackson Heights.
I recommend watching the documentary, In Jackson Heights, for an accurate portrayal of the people and neighborhood. This 2015 film takes an in-depth look at the challenges immigrants face, the area’s thriving LGBTQ community, ongoing gentrification, and how Jackson Heights is a melting pot in every possible way.
In these scenes by photographer Eric Barao, we take a peek at everyday life in Jackson Heights.