By MELANIE CARROLL
30 Years Ago
CUNY Freshman: over 90%
Queens Population: 1,985,473
African-American population: 258,000
Hispanic population: unknown
Asian population: 29,795
CUNY Freshman: 32% white
Queens population (estimated): 1,998,853
African-American population: 937,557
Hispanic population: 381,120
Asian population: 229,830
As the No. 7 train clamors along Roosevelt Avenue in
Jackson Heights, people from nearly every continent live and work below its screeching
On 74th Street between Roosevelt and 37th Avenues, a line snakes outside
the Jackson Diner not a greasy spoon, but a famed Indian restaurant. People from
all over come for the diners vegetable samosas and chicken tikka. Exotic scents
linger outside stores selling Indian spices, jewelry and saris. A street vendor offers
bargain prices on The Koran in English or Arabic.
Queens is now home to the best ethnic restaurants in the city.
Continuing on 37th toward Roosevelt Avenue, a Colombian
restaurant advertises its Pollo al Carbon. Crossing over Roosevelt onto Broadway, English
is the second language. A Korean barber shops sign is incomprehensible to the
English-reading eye except for the "Grand Opening" flier flapping in the
wind. On the same block a Pakistani store flanks a Korean cosmetics store, which shares a
building with a Chinese restaurant.
Across the street, a teacher at an English language school takes a break,
inhaling his cigarette. "They say America is the melting pot," he said.
"But this is truly it. Right here in front of you."
Over the last thirty years the number of people living in Queens has
remained nearly the same although the composition has changed dramatically.
If there is one important story to tell about Queens in the past 30 years,
this is it.
But Whos Counting
In 1970 the Census Bureau reported the population at 1,985,473, compared
with 1998s estimate of 1,998,853.
International sports are played in leagues like the Ace Cricket Sports
Thirty years ago nearly 90 percent of the borough was
whitemany of them Irish, Italian or Jewish. Today only half report themselves as
Donovans Pub on Roosevelt Avenue, a Woodside institution, has been
open for 33 years. Inside, not much has changed. The clientele is mainly white with the
exception of one Asian woman who looks lost.
The 224-seat restaurant/bar with stained-glass windows is managed by Jack
Donovan, a retired police detective. "Thirty years ago this area was all Irish. Now
its a big mix. Youve got lots of Asians and Spanish," said Donovan.
"In the 70s people moved to Long Island or Rockland County. They sold their houses to
the newcomers. Still this is a working class neighborhood. That hasnt changed,"
In the 1970s, 800,000 whites fled New York City while 250,000 non-whites
took their place. During the same decade, the citys foreign population expanded by
As we enter the next millennium, the census figures report that Queens in
currently the most diverse county in the country with over one hundred different
nationalities making up its population. Nearly half of its residents speak another
language besides English at home.
And thats unlikely to change. Immigration to Queens is at its
highest point since World War I. In the last nine years, nearly a quarter of a million
people from all over the globe have settled here. Archie Bunker, eat your heart out.
Over a third of the population is foreign born; immigration and
naturalization consultants take up an entire column in the Yellow Pages. The top ten
countries where new immigrants hail from are China, The Dominican Republic, Guyana, the
former Soviet bloc, India, Colombia, Jamaica, The Philippines, Ecuador and Korea.
Signs of the times: Over the years downtown Flushing has been transformed
into a multi-cultural Mecca.
With the 2000 census rolling around next April, this
presents a exhausting task for the Census Bureau and Tony Farthing, its New York City
regional director. "This is going to be harder than the 90 census," he
said. "Sure, areas like Douglaston and Little Neck are easy. But the hot spots are
going to be tough."
The hot spots, according to Farthing, are Richmond Hill, Woodhaven, Long
Island City/Astoria, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Flushing, Jamaica, Forest Hills and Rego
Park. Sounds like half of Queens.
The census workers have started putting up signs and hiring
"partnership specialists"people deeply entrenched in their communities to
get the word out. "These are the heavy hitters in their communities. Leaders who
people listen to," said Farthing.