Thursday, May 3, 2007

Op-Ed: Neighborhood Tales: Briarwood, Queens

The streets of Briarwood. Photographed by Nadia Chaudhury.

By Nadia Chaudhury

No one’s ever heard of Briarwood, my quiet, small neighborhood off of Queens Boulevard, tucked in the outskirts of Jamaica and Kew Gardens. My credit card statements are addressed to Jamaica, New York, as if Briarwood doesn’t even exist to Citibank. Though, the MTA recognizes the neighborhood enough to create a subway station there: Briarwood-Van Wyck, home to the F train.

Whenever I tell people I live in Queens, they gasp and say, “Oh my god, that’s so far away! How long does it take you to get to school?” Forty-five minutes to an hour, I answer, depending on the train. Then they gasp again, “Oh my god, that’s so long!” Compared to my hour-and-a-half trek to high school in the Bronx, going to Lang is a breeze. Even getting home during the late hours (or early morning, whichever way you choose to look at it) is easy because the F train never stops; although there might be a twenty minute wait.

I live on 85th Road, on top of a hill. One side is so steep for several blocks that it rests on Hillside Avenue. The other slide slants slowly, twisting and meshing into other streets, until it comes to a stop on Queens Boulevard.

Outside my apartment, there are two other similar buildings, all part of the same apartment complex. In the center is the circular pathway where I learned to ride my bike, going round and round until dark and the pathway that became a make-shift baseball field, each entrance substituting for the bases. A stout, wide bush where I saw my first robin in spring sat in the very center of it. Children walk to the elementary school just across the street, and when they’re a bit older, they walk a bit further to the junior high school right behind that elementary school. The sky’s clearer above and I can count how many stars I see with two hands.

Despite this calm and serene atmosphere (and because of it), Briarwood is not very exciting. Besides the Little League parade every spring, not much happens in this little neighborhood. I spend most of my time in Manhattan, where it’s livelier.

Going home, though, is an indulgence I get to relive every night, because it’s a break from the constant motion of Manhattan, walking through the quiet, hilly roads of Briarwood where I used to play manhunt through the streets and buildings of the neighborhood and watched in awe as a friend threw a ball up to the roof of a six-story apartment building. Briarwood is where I grew up, and for now, it’s nice being here.

1 comment:

PAM said...

I loved your article. I was born on Pershing Crescent 50 years ago, lived there until 1975, and then in California since I was 18. I have such nostalgic and wonderful memories of Briarwood. (I am probably the only person in the world who has a framed picture of The Van Wyck subway station on my wall!) Whenever I come back to NY the first thing I do is walk thru the old neighborhood. Past 117 and the playground, and the Boulevard, which has changed so much except for The Flagship which looks pretty much the same as it did the day it opened in 1965. (I was there on opening day with my Grandmother)You are lucky to live in such a great place.