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Whitestone remains middle-class bastion

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Most any slice of Whitestone south of the Cross Island Parkway tells the story of a community ensconced in middle-class comforts: Buicks and Mazdas, unadorned two-story homes with aluminum siding, emerald green grass wearing sharp crew-cuts much like a Marine.

Indeed, little seems to change in Whitestone, residents say. Many who live here boast of decades, if not a lifetime, spent in the same detached, ranch-style house. Some have razed their original homes, and you know when they have because the new ones are all brick. This is usually the younger generation, those in their 40s and 50s.

But just as the architectural landscape of Whitestone has remained relatively unchanged over the years, its demography has varied little.

Four out of every five people in Whitestone identified themselves as non-Hispanic whites in the 2000 Census. Although there have been increases in the number of Hispanic- and Asian-Americans living in this community — the latter group has more than doubled since 1990 — they have not kept pace with increases in neighboring communities like College Point and Flushing.

Most striking, however, is the number of blacks living in Whitestone: there are 55, according to census figures. In one census tract, where there are about 4,100 people, only six identified themselves as black, according to the figures. And residents in this tract, which stretches from 150th Street to 160th Street and jaggedly from 24th Road to 17th Avenue, said they could not identify one black family in the blocks bounding their homes.

“If you were an affluent black, would you move to Whitestone where there are 55 of you, or would you move to Laurelton, where there are vast areas of upper-class blacks?” said Dr. Andrew Beveridge, a professor of sociology at Queens College.

Numerically speaking, Queens is the most diverse county in the United States. But belying this diversity, Beveridge said, is a network of vast segregation, with some communities like Rosedale and Breezy Point, for instance, becoming more homogeneous over the last 10 years.

According to the 2000 census figures, there were more than 13,000 people living in Whitestone, down slightly more than 500 since 1990. Over the last 10 years, the number of whites decreased to 10,953, from 12,361, the figures show. By contrast, the populations of both Hispanics and Asians increased significantly, the former group rising to about 1,000, from 790, and the latter increasing to almost 1,300, from nearly 770. The number of blacks decreased to 55 from 58.

On the one hand, the demographic trends of Whitestone, Beveridge said, mirror those of the entire borough in which the rate of increase of the Hispanic and Asian population outpaced that of blacks. On the other, he said, blacks may not feel as comfortable moving to Whitestone as they would to southeast Queens.

“I actually think you could argue that there is a real pull factor for southeast Queens for upper-class blacks,” he said. Still, nearly all of the residents interviewed Monday evening said they believed their community was sufficiently diverse.

Eunice Malave, 66, who was born in Venezuela, moved to Whitestone with her husband, an architect, 15 years ago. Why? Because it is quiet, she said, and because it was the perfect environment in which to rear children. She and her husband do not plan on moving, and she said it does not matter much that Whitestone’s diversity pales in relative terms to that of communities like Flushing and College Point.

Dorothy Romano, 78, proudly proclaimed that traveling to Brooklyn is like taking a plane to Greece. She was, in a word, nonplused to learn that there are other places outside Queens like hers, with buzzcut lawns and detached homes. Romano has lived in Whitestone for 46 years in a house that is 46 years old.

“But naturally now new ones are being built,” she said, gesturing at a two-story brick house, chic and lean in design, obviously new. “We have to get used to it, but all it does is enhance the block and makes your home worth more. The neighbors are fantastic. I don’t know what else to say.”

Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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