For years, ever since my family bought our first car in 2005, my family has driven down the FDR past the outer views of Manhattan’s East Side, onto the Queensboro Bridge and through Astoria and Sunnyside to get to the neighborhood of Woodside, Queens. The trip involves more time and takes up more gas (always an important consideration), but to us it is worth it.
Woodside is a hub of cultural diversity. Its multicultural environment is exciting. I was here on a Sunday walking around. Storefronts and signs boast the languages of countries from Latin America and Asia. It is especially famous for the Filipino-American community. Jollibee, a Filipino mega-food chain that has stayed with many Filipinos in America. It lies on the corner of 63rd Street and Roosevelt Avenue. Red Ribbon is also there, a Philippines-based bakery with some unique options of Ube or Mango cake. This region, which runs from 63rd Street to 71st is called Little Manila.
We don’t necessarily have to go to Queens to be with Filipinos (because of the church community we have in the Bronx) but we take the trip anyway.
The power of home. The distance that you’re willing to go to be close to what is the most familiar to you.
I’m surprised by the fact that although we visit there often, it still feels distant to me. It is a location to me. I guess it has inhibited a full view of it as a neighborhood. I don’t feel a particular connection. What was particularly weird for me was the fact that I had to walk around it and my dad didn’t just drop us off at the restaurant.
When I go to Woodside, I approach the neighborhood as an outsider. I do not know much about the community; I only know that to me it has been a place that I go to with my family often. I haven’t really seen Woodside outside of Roosevelt Avenue, so it is interesting to view/define Astoria only by this place. There are so many Asians in this area, a difference from what I’m used to seeing, surrounded by white people at school and mostly Hispanics in my home neighborhood. Perhaps I would feel more of a connection to it if I got to see it wholly and not just one avenue or a 6-block radius.
An axiom of history: all these restaurants opening up by these Filipino owners. It must really feel like they have seized the American Dream. It celebrates a history of immigration and how immigrant communities build up in new places. It has been a place for my family to find friends and familiar things.