Little did the Quakers know when they demanded freedom of religion in the Flushing Remonstrance of 1657, that the neighborhood would one day become a case study in coexisting diversity. Today, Flushing has the largest Chinatown in New York City, in addition to scores of immigrants from all over the globe. The organizers of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs that were held in Flushing couldn’t have picked a better location in NYC for a celebration of the world’s nationalities.
More so than any other neighborhood in the city, Flushing is a microcosm of New York as a whole and the characteristics and concerns of the area mirror that of the larger city. Much like skyscraper Manhattan vs. the outer boroughs, Flushing’s downtown has a high-rise center with residential edges. Foreign investors, especially from Asia, are buying up property just like they are in Manhattan. Flushing has its own sprawling parks, including gigantic Flushing Meadows – Corona Park, where the lakes and walkways are given an off-kilter touch by space-age sculptural art.
Flushing is like an archaeological dig site with multiple levels of history exposed at once; colonial farmhouses, 1960s visions of the future, and recent ideas about urban development are all fighting for their place. Religious and ethnic diversity abounds and the combination of booming investment and immigration has led to a proliferation of both specialty boutiques and chain stores. The only missing element in Flushing is adequate subway access. The 7 train makes a scant two stops on the western side of the neighborhood, but the slack is picked up by the Long Island Rail Road and the metro bus system.
In the realm of real estate, Flushing has a healthy share of historical houses from the colonial era and beyond – as long as some landmarking regulations kick in to save what’s left. For new development, multi-use is the key word in Flushing, where developers are hailed/hated and don’t appear to be slowing down for any community group or anti-development blog. Co-ops and luxury condos with retail space on the ground floor seem to be the most common model, but residents are calling for inclusion of more affordable housing and community resources in new buildings. For these reasons, zoning issues are causing major tension in Flushing.
The out-of-control real estate development in Flushing has led to concerns about affordable housing, landmarking, and future use of industrial areas. There are demands for down-zoning to preserve residential neighborhoods, up-zoning to allow for necessary high-density housing, rezoning for commercial uses, you name it. In this wild market, average home prices are difficult to pin down, though single family homes often go for more than $800K. Renting a studio cost a median price of $1100/mo and a 1Br is $1200/mo.