‘Hipster’ influx pulls city gaze westward

Inspectors from the city Department of Buildings inspect the damage done by a car that crashed through a Howard Beach Blockbuster. Photo courtesy Nat Roe
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Hipsters who are moving into the neighborhoods of western Queens are pulling inspectors from the city Department of Buildings away from their usual hot spots in the eastern part of the borough, according to the department.

At a recent meeting hosted by Community Board 7, which encompasses the neighborhoods of Flushing, Whitestone, College Point, Bay Terrace, Queensboro Hill, Auburndale and Murray Hill, community liaison Anthony Iuliano said the board typically has one of the highest numbers of monthly complaints in the borough, which is not surprising.

Typically, the bulk of complaints about anything having to do with broken or decrepit buildings has been focused in eastern Queens, Iuliano said — that is, until the demographics in neighborhoods like Long Island City, Astoria and Jackson Heights began to change, he added.

“There is a trend in western Queens. Where there aren’t relatively many complaints that come through the 311 system, we’ve seen every community board start to spike,” he said at a recent meeting.

Iuliano wrestled with how exactly to describe the spike before attributing it to hipsters, whom he said were “more active in the community, observe things more in the community and call in complaints.”

The word “hipster” is often associated with gentrification movements that have transformed neighborhoods around the city, bringing service industry amenities, including restaurants and bars along with them, and edging out traditional inhabitants or taking over areas once used for manufacturing.

In this case, Iuliano decided on the term after clarifying that The New York Times had used it first.

Specifically, he was referring to the changing populations of western neighborhoods, especially Long Island City, which even Mayor Michael Bloomberg hopes will become a new business hub with the construction of new condos, office buildings and the addition of anchor businesses like JetBlue and Citi Group.

So far this year, community boards representing Long Island City, Astoria, Sunnyside, Woodside, Jackson Heights and parts of Elmhurst and Corona had a total of 449 complaints in January, 430 in February and 597 in March, according to a complaint database kept by DOB.

Community boards representing Flushing, Whitestone, Bayside, Glen Oaks and other eastern Queens neighborhoods filed a total of 556 complaints in January, 407 in February and 604 in March.

The gap between complaints has narrowed between March of this year and last, when the western boards logged 595 complaints compared to the east’s 677, although many months saw sporadic spikes in the numbers.

The DOB has less than five full-time inspectors for the entire borough of Queens, according to a lawmaker on the City Council Committee on Land use, although the department has at least 20 to 30 part-times inspectors. That means the most active boards, which along with CB 7 includes the greater Jamaica board of CB 12, will have to make due with less manpower.

“Now we’re going to have to share a little bit more, so we’ll have to see how that works out,” he said.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 7:26 pm, May 9, 2012
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