Thursday, February 3, 2011

Addisleigh Park, Historic Black Neighborhood in Queens, Gains Landmark Status by Alice Speri -

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Welcome to the landmark district: a house at 178th Place and Linden Boulevard in Addisleigh Park, Queens.

The predominantly African-American neighborhood of Addisleigh Park, an enclave of brick and stucco house in southeast Queens and the former home of luminaries like Jackie Robinson, W.E.B. Du Bois and Ella Fitzgerald, is now a historic district, New York City’s 102nd.

The vote Tuesday by the Landmarks Preservation Commission protects a triangular swath containing 426 buildings, many of them Tudor and Colonial Revival homes, roughly bounded by Linden Boulevard, Dunkirk Street and 112th Avenue.

The area, part of the St. Albans neighborhood and developed between the 1910s and 1930s, was built as an exclusively white community, and restrictive covenants prohibited the sale of any of its properties to blacks.

In the 1940s, two lawsuits were filed against homeowners by their neighbors, who accused them of having sold their houses to African-Americans. In a 1947 case, a judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs but noted that several African-Americans already lived in the neighborhood, including the singer and actress Lena Horne and the jazz musician Count Basie.

In 1948, though, the United States Supreme Court held that racially restrictive covenantsviolated the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment, and more and more blacks moved to the neighborhood.

In 1952, the magazine Our World called Addisleigh Park home to the “richest and most gifted” African-Americans in New York.

The jazz great Fats Waller, one of the first African-Americans in Addisleigh Park, lived there until his death in 1943. Other notable residents have included the jazz musicians John Coltrane and Milt Hinton, the Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella and the boxer Joe Louis.

Addisleigh Park’s history “illuminates African-Americans’ struggle for and achievement of the basic civil right of home ownership,” read the proposal to protect the site as a historic district.

Today, the neighborhood, now about 90 percent African-American, with an average household income of around $80,000, remains a distinct and relatively upscale pocket of residential Southeast Queens. Its asymmetrical houses with steeply pitched gables and wooden porches are sited back from the street and separated by spacious, well-landscaped lawns.