Jackson Heights Once A 'Garden City'
By Robert Polner
May 10, 2003, 4:03 PM EDT
Jackson Heights is now one of the most crowded and ethnically kaleidoscopic communities in the city. But its transit hub dates back to a time when, believe it or not, the area was sparsely populated.
In 1917, as modern development of Queens was just taking off, the No. 7 train on the elevated IRT Flushing line was extended from Corona to the quaint, well-to-do "garden city" of Jackson Heights, setting the stage for the neighborhood's growth.
The separate IND line, now carrying the E, F, V, G, and R trains, arrived more than a decade later. Jackson Heights developer Edward MacDougall -- politically, but not esthetically, the Donald Trump of his day -- knew the importance of convenient transportation from Manhattan and may have made his influence felt at the Board of Aldermen, writes Daniel Karatzas in his 1990 history, "Jackson Heights: A Garden in the City."
One piece of evidence for this is the odd route of the IND: To reach Jackson Heights, it makes a sharp turn away from its southeasterly track along Queens Boulevard, only to return to its original path. Thanks in part to MacDougall, the line would serve the then-wealthy community of Jackson Heights at the inconvenience of the more working-class, immigrant heart of the borough, influencing commuting and development patterns right up to the present day.
MacDougall built more than 80 garden apartment co-ops, among the country's first, along with distinctive homes and storefronts and even a now-defunct golf course and clubhouse. In the 1930s, the joint subway and bus station sported a streamlined look, an architectural style close to Art Deco. In 1941, a sign bearing the name Victor Moore Arcade was erected over the bus station. Moore was a short, chubby comedic character who performed in vaudeville shows, musicals and movies.
As the story goes, he won the property in a poker bet, and then built the bus station to help the community, long favored by vaudevillians like him because it was only a short trip to Times Square. The bus station that bore his name was taken down two years ago to make way for the current rehabilitation work. Much of the once privately owned "garden city" was designated a landmark district in the early 1990s. But the train station itself never lacked for public recognition. Six years before Moore's death in 1962, Alfred Hitchcock featured the station in "The Wrong Man" with Henry Fonda. (The "right man" was seen there.)
Yet Roosevelt Avenue, one of the few dual bus and subway hubs in the city, never got the kind of overhaul given similarly busy stations such as Jamaica and Flushing -- until now.
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