NYC History: Newtown

February 20, 2019 New York City Comments (0) 10

I got curious about Newtown Road, which runs through my neighborhood in Astoria, Queens (home of no Amazon headquarters, yay!!). Newtown is an odd street, in that it cuts diagonally through almost all of Astoria, a neighborhood otherwise situated in a careful street-and-avenue grid. So I did some digging.

Turns out back in the 19th Century, before the boroughs were incorporated into New York City, Queens west of Flushing essentially consisted of two townships. Long Island City ran along the eastern shore of the East River, and included the neighborhoods of Sunnyside, Hunters Point, Ravenswood, and Astoria, as well as some smaller areas lesser known today: Dutch Kills, Blissville, etc. Everything east of Long Island City and west of Flushing (Forest Hills, Corona, Maspeth, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, etc) was included in Newtown Township, which gave its name to the creek that separates Brooklyn from Queens, and to the odd diagonal road that would carry one from Astoria to Newtown.

As to why it runs diagonally, basically that’s because it was one of the first major streets in the area. Most of the grid was laid down afterward, and while other thoroughfares like Queens and Astoria Boulevards were built up into highways, Newtown remained a simple street, just out of step with its neighbors.

In the course of my research I also discovered two organizations: The Old Astoria Neighborhood Association, which keeps much of the detailed history of the neighborhood, and Newtown Historical Society, which commemorates the township that used to be, and works to preserve the neighborhoods currently in place. I’ll likely poke around both more in the future.


Header image: Public domain, via New York Public Library

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