Astoria – named after the wealthiest man in America in the mid-1800s, has humble beginnings and a modest present. But the neighborhood is quite rich in culture and diversity, and its vibrant community makes up for its lack of architectural marvels.
Astoria (including Ditmars Steinway) is bordered by the East River on two sides. On the remaining two sides, the neighborhood is adjacent to Long Island City, Woodside, and Sunnyside.
Astoria was given to (and named after) one William Hallet by then Dutch director-general around the mid-1600s. Another source claims that he bought the land from two native chiefs in 1664. The next landmark in the history of Astoria was in 1839 when it was incorporated, still under its old name Hallet’s Cove. The name was later changed to Astoria.
It saw affluent residents in the early 1800s and became part of Long Island City in 1870, which later became part of Greater New York City.
Origin Of The Name
Astoria was previously named Hallet’s Cove, after the landowner who settled there in 1652 and owned about 2,200-acres of land, including all of what’s today’s Astoria. The city was named after Astoria sometime after 1939, after John Jacob Astor in an attempt to convince him to give $2,000 to the city (though he only gave $500).
Main Attractions Of The Neighborhood
Great food is something Astoria is famous for, and some of the most highlighted food establishments in the neighborhood are:
- Taverna Kyclades (33-07 Ditmars Blvd): It’s one of the best Greek restaurants in the neighborhood that specializes in seafood, especially Grilled Octopus.
- Sugar Freak (37-11 30th Ave): An example of Astoria’s ethnically diverse food scene, Sugar Freak is a Creole restaurant known for its lively environment and great food. The Jambalaya might be the best in Astoria.
- HinoMaru (33-18 Ditmars Blvd): If you are craving Japanese food, this is the place to go in Astoria. Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup, and HinoMaru’s specialty is different kinds of Ramen.
- Duzan (2411 Steinway St): This restaurant serves affordable Middle-Eastern foods like Shawarma and Harissa.
- Sweet Afton (30-09 34th St): It’s an Irish Pub which is equally beloved for its food and drinks.
Some famous/noteworthy buildings in Astoria are:
- Sohmer and Company Piano Factory (31-01 Vernon Blvd): Originally built in 1886, it was converted for residential use in 2007.
- Steinway Mansion (18-33 41st Street): It was originally a massive property of Benjamin Pike, Jr., who later sold it to the son of Steinway & Sons founder (hence the name).
- Astoria Center of Israel (27-35 Crescent Street): It is a historic synagogue built in 1926.
- Shore Towers (25-40 Shore Blvd): It’s a beautiful 23-story building right beside Astoria Park.
- 10 Halletts Point: It’s a newly constructed (2018), 22-story waterfront apartment building.
The following attractions should be considered if you are ever in Astoria.
- Astoria Park (19 19th St, Astoria): It’s a massive, almost 60-acre park with NYC’s largest swimming pool (Astoria Pool), tennis courts, and playgrounds.
- Museum of the Moving Image (36-01 35th Ave): It’s a media museum that offers amazing displays of processes and equipment used in filmmaking. It also houses interactive exhibits, props, and old arcade games.
- Bohemian Hall (29-19 24th Ave): It’s one of the largest outdoor drinking venues in NYC and combines German beer, Czech food, and a lively outdoor environment in one attractive attraction.
- Kaufman Arts District (35-2 36th St): Kaufman Astoria Studios, located in Kaufman Arts District, was once home to Paramount Pictures (in the 1920s) and was used for about 100 silent films produced by the studio.
- Welling Court Mural Project (11-98 Welling Ct): It’s a community beautification project that started out in 2009. It resulted in some truly beautiful murals/street art pieces.
What Is Astoria Known For?
- Some of the best Greek food establishments in New York City.
- Film-making and film-related history.
- Amazing restaurants.
- Being the birthplace of Christopher Walken, Jack Kelly, and Melanie Martinez.
The NYC government published its Community Health Profile Report on Both Astoria and Long Island City, with a collective population of 199,969. Other sources put the population somewhere between 88,000 and 119,000. The median income indicates it as a financially modest neighborhood, and the bulk of the population (about 80% or more) rent their homes.
Interesting Facts About Astoria
- John Astor never set foot in Astoria – The village named after him, though he saw it from his residence in Hell Gate.
- Chester Carlson, the father of modern photocopy/xerox, made the first “dry” photocopy here in Astoria in 1938. In fact, the first words he photocopied were “10.-22.-38 ASTORIA.”