Bustling with commerce and activity, Astoria - in Queens, New York - is a multi-ethnic neighborhood just across the East River from Manhattan. It is adjacent to three other Queens neighborhoods - Long Island City, Sunnyside, and Woodside.

This area was originally called Hallet's Cove, named after its first landowner William Hallet, who settled there in 1659 with his wife Elizabeth. It was later renamed Astoria, after millionaire John Jacob Astor - in an attempt to persuade him to invest $2,000 in the neighborhood. He only invested $500, but his name stayed on. Astor never actually set foot in Astoria.

First settled by the Dutch and Germans in the 17th century, Astoria later attracted Irish settlers, during the waves of Irish immigration into New York City in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Italians were the next immigrants to settle in Astoria, attested to by the numerous Italian restaurants, delis, bakeries and pizza shops found there today.

During the second half of the 19th century, Astoria's economy continued to grow and more German immigrants began to move into the area. They were mostly furniture and cabinet makers. Astoria’s main street ,Steinway Street is named after one German immigrant, Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg, patriarch of the Steinway family, who founded the well known Steinway & Sons piano company there in 1853.

In 1870, Astoria and several other surrounding villages were incorporated into Long Island City, which remained an independent municipality until it was incorporated into New York City in 1898. The area's farms were turned into housing tracts and street grids to accommodate the growing number of residents.

The 1960s brought a large number of Greek immigrants from Greece, and Cyprus - giving Astoria the largest Greek population outside of Greece. Athens Square Park in Astoria reflects the influence of the surrounding Greek neighborhood. The Greek cultural imprint there can also be seen in its numerous Greek restaurants, bakeries, tavernas and cafes, as well as its several Greek Orthodox churches.

Beginning in the mid-1970s, the neighborhood's Arab population grew from earlier Lebanese immigrants to include people from Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Morocco. In the 1990s, many Arabic shops, restaurants and cafes were established on Steinway Street between 28th Avenue and Astoria Boulevard.

Astoria's South American and white European population has also had significant growth since the early 1990s, including a large population of Brazilians, who reside in the 36th avenue area. The Albanian, Bulgarian, and Bosnian population there has also grown.

Astoria is served by the
EMR New York City Subway trains that stop at the Steinway Street and 46th Street stations on the underground IND Queens Boulevard Line as well as the NQ trains, which run along the elevated BMT Astoria Line above 31st Street.

Places of interest in Astoria include; the Museum of the Moving Image and Kaufmann Film Studios - the home of many early films, the Isamu Noguchi Museum, and the Socrates Sculpture Park. Astoria Park, along the East River, is Astoria's largest park and it also contains the largest of New York City's public pools. Other points of interest are Bohemian Hall, the oldest beer garden in New York City, founded in 1910, and the historic Quinn Memorial Building on the corner of Broadway and 36th Street, which houses the Greater Astoria Historical Society.

The Astoria neighborhood has often been featured as a location in television and film. The block of 37th Street between Ditmars Boulevard and 23rd Avenue has been occasionally seen on the “Seinfeld” television show in external establishing shots as the block where George Costanza's parents live. The television series “Cosby,” starring Bill Cosby, Phylicia Rashad and Madeleine Kahn was set in Astoria and was filmed at the Kaufman Astoria Studios. The 1970s situation comedy “All in the Family was also set in Astoria. Two notable Robert De Niro films were filmed on location in Astoria – “Goodfellas” and “A Bronx Tale.” While the latter was set in the Bronx, most of the exterior scenes were filmed in Astoria as well as the nearby neighborhood of Woodside. Other films shot in Astoria include “Five Corners” (1987), starring Jodie Foster. “Serpico” (1973) with Al Pacino had several scenes filmed in Astoria. The elevated train stop at Ditmars Boulevard was the location for a chase scene and Serpico has a clandestine meeting in Astoria Park under the Hellgate Bridge. The 1982 film version of “Tempest” starring John Cassavetes had scenes shot at the cafes on 23rd Ave off 31st St. Woody Allen's 2002 film “Hollywood Ending” had scenes shot in the neighborhood surrounding the Kaufman Astoria stages. “King Kong” (1976) had a scene in Astoria, at Astoria Boulevard and 31st Street, where the two main characters board the RR train at the Astoria Boulevard station on the BMT Astoria Line. “The Accidental Husband” (2008), Directed by Griffin Dunne - with Uma Thurman, Colin Firth and Jeffrey Dean Morgan was filmed in Astoria on 33rd Street and 23rd Avenue. Astoria was the setting for the book,” A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints”, later made into a film starring Robert Downey Jr. and Shia LaBeouf, about the filmmaker's experiences growing up in the neighborhood during the 1980s. The 2006 movie was filmed at various locations around Astoria.

Astoria is the final resting place of New York City mobster Frank Costello as well as ragtime composer and musician Scott Joplin. Both Costello and Joplin are interred at St. Michael's Cemetery. The cemetery hosts annual public events and concerts to celebrate Joplin's musical legacy.

A Guinness World Record was set in Astoria on July 18, 2009, for the ”'Largest Musical Saw Ensemble.” The record, part of the annual NYC Musical Saw Festival (in Astoria since 2002) was organized by Natalia Paruz at Trinity Lutheran Church, with the participation of 53 people playing the musical saw together.

Edited by Mel Fenson from information derived from Wikipedia.


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