Grade “A” Fancy: The real New York midtown

United States

Throughout December Grade “A” Fancy’s Karen McBurnie and Jon Hammer will be our guides, revealing aspects of New York that most visitors will never see. Their tour begins in a midtown you may not recognise.

New Yorkers live in the centre of the universe. No sense in arguing the point, they’re convinced. But where is the centre of New York City? You might say Times Square, but you would be wrong. We have stumbled upon – or more accurately trod upon – a monument purporting to be the centre of the city, just a mile from where we live in the borough of Queens, on a sliver of traffic island in the middle of a speedy thoroughfare. There it is, on Queens Boulevard at 58th Street, in letters of bronze, the geographical centre of NYC.

Scanning the surroundings for signs of civilisation, a more accurate legend might be “the middle of nowhere.” This crossroads features three boring chain stores and a cemetery. Looking west, over a rise in the road, you can just make out the top of the Empire State Building a good four miles distant.

Is this really the geographic centre? It depends some on how you measure and who you ask, but apparently not. The Department of City Planning puts it in Bushwick, Brooklyn, near the intersection of Stockholm Street and Wyckoff Avenue. Strangely; no one seems to know who installed this Queens Boulevard marker. No city agency has owned up to it, and from its condition we would guess no one is maintaining it. It’s a mystery.

It appears we’ve dragged you out to this curious wasteland on a wild goose chase. Never fear, we are steps away from the best pint of Guinness in Woodside and surely that will redeem the day nicely. A short walk up 58th Street to the main drag of Roosevelt Avenue, and here we are at Donovan’s, the mother ship of pubs in this very Irish neighborhood.

The old-timers love this place for lunch after church. Their menu is heavy on old fashioned meat-and-potatoes favorites, but the hamburgers and steak fries are the standout items. A cocktail or beer in the dark bar is a fine way to spend an afternoon, with the sun lighting up the colored glass windows and the clatter of the subway heard seeping through the door. But for the scourge of the flat-screen TVs, it could be 1966, the year Donovan’s opened. This may not be the centre of New York City, but it is the heart of our own Woodside, Queens.

You owe it to yourself to explore more of New York with Jon and Karen through their Grade "A" Fancy site.

Published 3 December 2012

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