Most diverse: Jackson Heights

The future of America lies among the garden apartments of Queens.

Photograph: Sophia Wallace

It’s fitting that Jackson Heights, one of the ultimate examples of urban diversity (arguably New York’s most valuable characteristic), is located in the geographical heart of NYC.

“It’s one of the most diverse places in the city, with more than 65 percent of the population made up of immigrants from all over the world,” says Jaime Weisberg, director of Queens Congregations United for Action, a faith-based community organization. “Walking down the streets, you see it in the clothing styles, languages spoken, restaurants and stores. Economically, this plays out in other ways, from the beautiful historic districts to the severe overcrowding conditions that many low-income residents experience.”

Couple - Jackson Heights

Photograph: Sophia Wallace

That wasn’t always the case. Built in the early 1900s by the Queensboro Corporation, the garden apartments that make up Jackson Heights were intended to be a self-contained upper- and middle-class urban alternative to suburbia. But when U.S. immigration laws changed in the 1960s, lots of new arrivals settled in the area. Now, of its roughly 175,000 residents, approximately 60 percent identify as Hispanic, 15 percent white, 10 percent black, and nearly 20 percent South and East Asian, according to a report by the Furman Center at NYU. Jackson Heights also has the city’s second-largest foreign-born population, behind neighboring Elmhurst.

It’s not just the broad ethnic mix that makes Jackson Heights stand above the rest. The nabe has long been home to a prominent gay community (as witnessed by the fabulous Queens Pride Parade, which sashays right up 37th Avenue). And the area’s affordability and status as a major subway hub put it within reach for a broad spectrum of both native New Yorkers and immigrants: people with deep pockets and those on a limited budget.

Street - Jackson Heights

Photograph: Sophia Wallace

“Jackson Heights is indicative of the future of the U.S., where whites are no longer the majority,” says Dalton Conley, sociology chair at NYU. “Also, people don’t realize this, but the area has the most diverse group of Hispanics, from all over Latin America.”

According to longtime resident Daniel Karatzas, author of Jackson Heights: A Garden in the City, the design of the neighborhood, with its European-modeled garden apartments and “city within a city” feel, makes it particularly appealing to new immigrants. “Nothing is perfect in our fair city, but thanks to the scale and the sense of place in Jackson Heights, newcomers have found it a pleasant place to call home.”

Number of languages spoken in Queens: 138


RUNNERS-UP

Penn Station with taxis - Midtown South
Midtown South

Photograph: Sophia Wallace

Fort Greene/Clinton Hill
“I am partial to my own neighborhood. We celebrate our diversity, which includes residents who have a generational attachment to the community and ‘newbies’—students from Pratt Institute and St. Joseph’s College, and transplants from Manhattan and Long Island and Park Slope, among other local areas.”—John Dew, president of Community Board 2

Midtown South
“I would nominate my own neighborhood, Midtown South, Penn Station South or whatever you want to call it. It is incredibly diverse, given the multifaceted functions of the neighborhood: welfare hotels, upscale condos, ladies garment workers’ houses, the fur industry, all the commuters from Jersey, etc.”—Dalton Conley, sociology chair at NYU

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