Both sides of the train station on 31st Street are lined with retail stores; there are also Internet cafes, laundromats and bars.
31st Street has several 24 hour grocery stores and markets for those that work late. Noticeably, there are lots of dog walkers most likely headed to Astoria Park a couple blocks away.
Ditmars Blvd leads westward towards the East River and Astoria Park, which has stunning views of Manhattan and Randall’s Island. There you will also find the classic civil engineering structures of the Hellsgate Bridge and the formerly named Triborough Bridge(now RFK Bridge). The street is lined with mostly 2 story homes with small front yards. Eastward on Ditmars is a mixture of ethnic restaurants from Greek to Japanese to Thai. The restaurants here open late so there is lots of energy after dark.
Westward towards Astoria Park, there are several specialty stores, from maternity and children wear, an African herbal store, hair stylists to a Greek football club for older Greek men to hang out. Local delis also dot the avenue.
Eastward, there is not much activity beyond a couple of businesses, church and residences.
Trying to get a local’s account of this area, I walk into a hardware store on 23rd Ave. Greeted with the background noises of the radio playing, I have a candid experience talking to the manager. Her name is Heather.
She said to me: “A lot of customers never knew[the hardware store] was here.” she cont’d “Then there is the other more than half that are regular customers.”
The owner has owned this store for 70 years and it was passed down to him from his father before. Heather begins cutting keys.
I am greeted by the owner Bill, “Have you ever seen a woman cutting keys?”
A funny anecdote by Heather, “One man came in and asked Bill if he thought the key would work? Bill said, ‘Well you can bring the door in and check!’”
In this area you can really feel the Greek influence, this is one of the few boroughs left that still have a very old time feeling. I enjoy the smells of spring in the air and walking around with a cup of tea in my hand. There is a lot of character here.
I see many people walking by; when the day is nice everyone is out.