It’s said that New York City has some of the cleanest drinking water around, but there must be something in the taps of Forest Hills, Queens, that also nourishes talent. The neighborhood has a century-long history of celebrities from the area, such as The Ramones and Nora Lum (Awkwafina). Impressive, to be sure, but Forest Hills offers something else virtually every New Yorker seeks: affordability. According to the StreetEasy Data Dashboard, the median asking rent was $2,100 as of December 2021, compared to Manhattan’s $3,500. The median asking sale price is equally modest at $395,000 for the same period — a striking contrast to Manhattan’s hefty $1.5 million. There is plenty more to know about this desirable section of Queens.
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Where Is Forest Hills?
Forest Hills is a triangular neighborhood roughly bounded by the Rego Park and Middle Village neighborhoods to the west and Kew Gardens (another affordable Queens neighborhood) to the south. It is split through the middle by Queens Boulevard — with sprawling apartment complexes on the north side and the luxe mansions of Forest Hills Gardens to the south. The main thoroughfare, Austin Street, runs parallel to Queens Boulevard, and that’s where you’ll find the majority of stores, restaurants, and bars. The southern border of Metropolitan Avenue also has its share of offerings.
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What Are the Housing Options?
Housing options primarily consist of mid-rise co-ops with a few luxury high-rise condos and co-ops. There are rentals, too; a good number are sublets in co-op buildings. “You’ll find some of the most beautiful prewar co-ops in the city in Forest Hills — many with high ceilings, huge rooms, and grand lobbies,” says Alan Mann, an associate broker with Douglas Elliman. However, he notes that many look-alike postwar buildings — with smaller rooms and lower ceilings — are sprinkled in between. “They all look the same from the outside: six-story redbrick buildings, so you can’t judge the neighborhood stock by that. You need to take a look inside,” he advises. Find out more about different apartment types.
The apartment complexes transition to detached houses farther north, although newer townhouses and detached homes have sprung up on the southern and western edges.
As for the coveted Forest Hills Gardens, there are occasional sales of the large homes, but your best bet is probably the row of Tudor co-ops that run along the LIRR tracks. There’s also Forest Hills Inn Apartments, a gorgeous Tudor co-op located right at the historic LIRR Station Square, which was designed to be the neighborhood’s town center. According to Mann, the storied complex, which will celebrate its 110th anniversary this year, used to house both permanent residents and temporary guests, including U.S. Open athletes and celebrities performing at the Forest Hills Stadium. It was fully converted to co-ops in 1967.
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What Are the Commute Times to Midtown Manhattan From Forest Hills?
Like its neighbor to the north, Jackson Heights (another neighborhood with historic buildings), Forest Hills is a quick 30-minute commute into Manhattan via mass transit.
You can catch the express E or F or the local M and R lines. The Long Island Railroad offers a super fast 15-minute ride into Penn Station if you’re in a rush. You’ll barely finish your coffee, let alone the morning news, but that trip will cost you more than $2.75.
Are There Any Parks or Green Spaces in Forest Hills?
Aptly named, Forest Hills boasts the lion’s share of green spaces in Queens.
A huge favorite, literally, is Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The iconic park spans 897 acres (Central Park is 843 acres) and includes two lakes. Willow Lake, whose 47.6-acre nature preserve runs along Forest Hills’ northern border, is one of the last freshwater wetlands left in New York City. Meadow Lake hosts the famous annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat race and festival.
There’s also the 39-acre Queens Botanical Garden, which was created as an exhibit for the 1939 World’s Fair. A pair of blue atlas cedars dating back to that fair continues to grace the main entrance.
What to Eat
The last five years have seen a restaurant boom in Forest Hills. Most are located on the main arteries of Queens Boulevard or Austin Street, but there’s a de facto restaurant row on 70th Road just off Austin. A few classic spots have stood the test of time and a weekly farmers’ market. And on the far western end of Metropolitan Avenue, you’ll find what is probably the only Trader Joe’s in the five boroughs that doesn’t get ridiculously crowded.