Sunday, August 9, 2009

Junction Boulevard -- Corona vs. Jackson Heights

I took an adult education course at Baruch College that covered the entire history of NYC in six weeks! Including two walking tours! Unlike any other adult ed course I have ever taken, this one actually had homework assignments. For our first assignment, we were to find a pre-1950 photo of a NYC location, find a current photo of the same location, and write a short paper about what had changed and what had stayed the same.

I wrote my paper about Junction Boulevard in Queens, a main street just a few blocks from my home. Here is my paper.
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Junction Boulevard in Queens is a major north-south thoroughfare going from Queens Boulevard at the southern end to LaGuardia Airport at the northern end (after merging with 94th Street). In its mid-section, between Roosevelt Avenue and Northern Boulevard, it serves as a dividing line between the communities of Jackson Heights (to the west) and Corona (to the east).

In 1896, a trolley line was opened from Ridgewood to Bowery Bay (now LaGuardia Airport) along Junction Boulevard. The older photo, on the left, was taken in 1925 of the southeast corner of Junction Boulevard and 34th Street. The building is identified as P.S. 15, which no longer exists. The newer photo, from 2009, shows the same location, which is now home to Junction Playground. Although not shown in the photo, the playground includes a play train, in a nod to the trolley past. The trolley line was replaced by a bus route in 1949.

Left: 1925
Right: 2009

Although Corona and Jackson Heights are adjoining communities, and were developed within a few decades of each other, they have taken differing paths since their inceptions.

Corona, developed in the late 1800s, was initially settled by an Italian population. During the 20th century, blacks and Hispanics started to move to the area. According to the NY Times, by 1960 the portion of Corona near Junction Boulevard was 83 percent black.

Jackson Heights was a planned development, with the first homes built around 1920. The early residents were Irish and Italian, but by the 1950s the area had a large Jewish population. By 1960 the portion of Jackson Heights near Junction Boulevard was 99 percent white.

In 1964, a few months prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the New York City Board of Education implemented a school integration plan known as the Princeton Plan or “pairing.” Under pairing, a community zone was established for two segregated schools in close physical proximity. All the students in the community zone attended the younger grades at one of the schools and the older grades at the other.

The Board of Education established four pairs of elementary schools, including P.S. 149 in Jackson Heights and P.S. 92 in Corona. The two schools were six blocks apart on 34th Avenue, one on either side of Junction Boulevard.

In general, the (black) Corona residents felt that the pairing would benefit their children. A vocal group of (white) Jackson Heights residents, on the other hand, organized to fight the plan. Families moved out of the area, students were enrolled in private schools, and boycotts were organized. Many students boycotted the pairing and 100 of them were still enrolled in a special private school set up to avoid integration, as late as December 1966.

Eventually, the uproar over school integration died down. But, Junction Boulevard still functions as a dividing line between ethnic groups. Maps showing the distribution of ethnic groups by census tract indicate the following, as of the 2000 Census:

 African Americans are less than 5% of the population in census tracts in Jackson Heights, but constitute 20% to 40% of the population in several of the Corona census tracts.
 Whites are less than 20% of the population in every Corona census tract, but are 35% to 55% of the population in several Jackson Heights tracts.
 Colombians comprise 20% to 30% of the Hispanic population in many of the Jackson Heights census tracts, but are never more than 10% of the Corona Hispanic population.
 Dominicans are less than 10% of the Hispanic population in nearly all of the Jackson Heights census tracts, but comprise 30% to 100% of the Hispanic population in Corona census tracts.



REFERENCES

Buder, B. Leonard, “School Pairings Called A Success,” New York Times, December 14, 1966.

Buder, Leonard, “Queens Parents Ignore Deadline,” New York Times, January 12, 1965.

New York Public Library, NYPL Digital Gallery, Image ID 727107F, Queens: Junction Boulevard - 34th Avenue (1925; 1935).

New York City Department of City Planning, Community District Profile for Queens Community District 3, http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/lucds/cdstart.shtml, July 13, 2009.

New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, “Junction Playground,” http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/q122/, July 10, 2009.

New York Times, “New Integration Program of Public Schools Will Be Put Into Effect Here Today,“ September 14, 1964.

Powledge, Fred, “’Mason-Dixon Line’ in Queens,” New York Times, May 10, 1964.

Queens Community Board 3, “The Map Room,” http://www.cb3qn.nyc.gov/?p=52048, July 22, 2009.
wikipedia, “Civil Rights Act of 1964,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_Rights_Act_of_1964, July 14, 2009.

Roberts, John A., “A Grand Tale of Two Trolley Lines,” Juniper Park Civic Association website, http://www.junipercivic.com/historyarticle.asp?nid=20, July 10, 2009.

Terte, Robert H., “Heated Debates Over Pairing of 2 Schools Divide Queens,” New York Times, March 19, 1964.

wikipedia, “Jackson Heights, Queens,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackson_Heights,_Queens, July 15, 2009.

wikipedia, “Corona, Queens,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corona,_Queens, July 15, 2009.

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