Photo by Steve Mosco
By Steve Mosco

A village where some believe diversity began in the borough finally received recognition on a historic level.

State Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) joined residents and the Parkway Village Historical Society last Thursday to commemorate the listing of Parkway Village in Kew Gardens Hills on the state and national Registers of Historic Places.

“Parkway Village was Queens before Queens was Queens,” said Lancman, referring to the village’s diversity when President Harry Truman established it as housing for United Nations employees in 1946.

The borough is now the nation’s most ethnically diverse county and home to immigrants from all over the world, a trend that accelerated sharply after the passage of the Immigrant Act of 1965.

The village, a 685-unit co-op located where Main Street meets Grand Central Parkway, was placed on the Register of Historic Places as part of a national program to coordinate and support efforts to identify, evaluate and protect America’s historic resources.

In order to meet the criteria for a listing on the register, a site usually has to be at least 50 years old, must look similar to the way it did in the past and must be determined to be historically significant. A listing on the register carries some benefits, including a 20 percent tax credit on rehabilitation expenditures for residential properties, as well as qualifying for both state and federal grants.

“We all know how much overdevelopment threatens the character of historic neighborhoods like Parkway Village,” said Lancman. “Listing Parkway Village on the state and national historic registries is both a tremendous honor for its residents and a sigh of relief for families in this area who want to see their neighborhoods and their quality of life preserved for future generations.”

Parkway’s collection of red-brick homes with white columns were once occupied by notables such as U.N. diplomat Ralph Bunche, civil rights activist Roy Wilkins and noted feminist Betty Freidan.

Current residents, like Parkway Village Historical Society co-Presidents Judith Guttman and Judy Shack, said it was gratifying to see the village commemorated after a long fight to preserve its historical significance.

“I was enticed by Parkway Village’s rich history, unique architecture and beautiful acreage when I moved here 29 years ago,” said Shack. “With our listing on the state and national registry, we can now assist in preserving our homes for future generations.”

“As a community struggling to survive and flourish in challenging economic times, it is gratifying for longtime Parkway residents like me to witness the official recognition of Parkway Village’s illustrious history,” said Guttman.

Another resident, known by locals as Little G, said the chances of finding another place like Parkway Village in the city are miniscule at best.

“I don’t know of any other place like this,” said Little G, who has lived in the village since 1983. “It’s a nice place to live — it’s a city, but without tall buildings.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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