Jackson Hts. visitors to get peek at Hawthorne garden

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Built in 1922, around the time when the neighborhood was just starting to be carved out from the farmland that once abounded in Queens, the Hawthorne Court apartment building was the subject of the first paid radio advertisement to hit the airwaves in the United States.

The stately building has joined the self-guided walking tour of Jackson Heights' garden apartments for the first time since the Jackson Heights Beautification group launched the all-weekend event 14 years ago.

This year's celebration of the Historic Jackson Heights Weekend kicks off Saturday, with activities starting at 10 a.m. at the Community Church at 81-10 35th Ave., and continues through Sunday.

"It's really an attempt to build a pride of place," said Jackson Heights Beautification Group Director Daniel Karatzaz. As a neighborhood with a heavy immigrant population, the event helps foster a sense of ownership and belonging among residents, he said.

On Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Community Church, there will be an exhibition of vintage photos and memorabilia from when Jackson Heights - the nation's first garden apartment, planned community - was in its infancy. At the same time, the church will feature a display of children's artwork inspired by the community, Karatzaz said.

"It really helps build an awareness and a sense of pride in the kids," Karatzaz said of the children's art contest. "It is obvious that it's a huge cross section of ethnicities (and the program) goes a long way to instilling an awareness of the neighborhood that might not exist otherwise."

Starting at 10:45 a.m., Karatzaz will host a slide lecture on the community's history.

The day's centerpiece - a self-guided walking tour of nine 1920s-era garden apartments, including Hawthorne Court - runs from noon to 4 p.m. and costs $10. Tickets can be purchased at the Community Church.

On Sunday, tour guides will take visitors on an escorted walking tour of the historic district starting at noon. The tour also starts at the Community Church on the southwest corner of 82nd Street and 35th Avenue. Tickets for the tour must be purchased in advance and cost $10.

A lifelong Jackson Heights resident - with the exception of a brief stint during college and graduate school - Karatzaz is more knowledgeable about the area than most.

What most impresses him about Jackson Heights is the mark left by the Queensboro Corp., which planned and built the area's emblematic apartment buildings with large central gardens.

"The physical legacy of the Queensboro Corporation has provided the sort of structure (and) framework that has allowed the community to continue to develop."

The housing stock is better-than-borough-average and services are convenient, he said.

All in all, Jackson Heights has attracted a diverse mix of young and old, the real estate agent said.

"It was a planned community," Karatzaz said. "It still a neighborhood that has a diversity of economic backgrounds. It's much more real than other parts of the city that are maybe too rich or too poor."

For more information, including ticket purchase, call 718-565-5344.

Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

Updated 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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