I was born and raised in Queens. The first and only member of my paternal and maternal family to be born here. I don’t know how it happened, honestly. My only brother was born in Brooklyn, and so was everyone else in my family. But when it was time to bring me into the world, my parents moved to Queens. Welp. Guess I’mma Queens baby then, and definitely proud. You can tell a Queens baby apart from a Brooklyn baby or a person from any other place. We’re a pretty alternative group. A strange mix between urban and suburban. We’re street savvy and can get around a city, but we’re also naturalists. There are many things only a person who grew up in Queens would understand, but in this article I’ll share 15 of them.
Playgrounds are the first factor of a kid who grew up in Queens. Whether you were 2 or 20 you’d hang at the playground; either with family or with your friends (or with your own children). Playgrounds like Corona Golf Playground (FKA Kyro Playground), Louis Armstrong Playground, Lawrence Virgilio Playground, and Travers Park were memorable spots for me. But there are literally more than 60 playgrounds in the whole borough of Queens. If you’re a Queens native you know that playgrounds are a must do in life.
2. Fire Ant Trees
I didn’t just live in one area of Queens, I’ve lived in many and when we lived in Bayside, we always had to watch out for fire ants and the trees where they swarmed. If you played outside in the summer with your friends you never touched a fire ant tree. One touch and you’re skin would be burning up! If you remember how badly these hurt, you definitely grew up in Queens!
3. Must Play Sports
If you grew up in Queens, you probably played an array of sports. Basketball was number 1 for my group, then came baseball and football. We played sports at least 3-4 days out of the week. Some at the parks and playgrounds I mentioned earlier. One thing that every Queens kid knew was mandatory, was that you had to bring skills. Queens kids had moves with style and intimidating faces. We didn’t gamble or anything, but if you were from Queens, you played highly competitively.
4. The Mall Is THE Spot
The local mall was and is the best hang out spot. If you were from Queens you knew you didn’t have to actually be shopping. You could just go to walk around and enjoy the company of your friends or family. Or, you could go for the food at the food court. Queens Center Mall has THE best Panda Express Chinese noodles.
5. You Need Friends To Have Fun
Many people who grew up here were always a part of a group. At least 4 or 5 others who enjoyed doing the same fun and crazy stuff you did. It was never really ideal to be alone. You’d have one particular group of friends and hang with them on a daily basis. You understood the importance of friendship and what it meant to be down to go wherever, whenever, no matter what.
6. Just Ring The Bell
Having friends in Queens seemed realer than anywhere else in New York. Growing up here, we didn’t have cell phones. We had door bells. If you lived in Queens and wanted to see your buds, you just went over to their home and rang their bell. It didn’t matter if they were ready to come out or not either because you could just hang in the hallway while you waited. Ah, just showing up and ringing the bell is definitely a sign you grew up in Queens!
7. Don’t Skip School
As high schoolers you always knew the consequences of skipping school. If you got caught, you got caught by patty wagons (police vans). If you were a Queens native you knew there was nothing more shameful than this. So you either stayed in school or never got caught. 😉
8. Roof Tops And Good Times
In the middle of queens between the Elmhurst and Flushing areas are tons of apartment buildings. If you grew up in this or probably any other part of Queens you spent at least a day a week up on these roof tops, either with friends or family. You’d go up for special occasions like to see Fourth of July Fire Works, or just to goof around (safely). You understood the exhilarating feeling of being up there in the night. It was the only way a city kid could get close to the stars most often reserved for country life.
9. Flushing Meadows Is THE Park
Here’s where city kids from Queens maintain their inner naturalistic identities. Flushing Meadows Corona Park was THE park to go to. All kinds of events went on there and there were also great monuments to see, like the Unisphere, and tons of green environment everywhere. You were never afraid to roll in the grass and get dirty either.
10. Biking Biking Biking
If everyone in your group didn’t have a bicycle and go on long-distance rides from one part of Queens to another, you weren’t a true Queens native. This is a must for all who grew up here. The longest ride me and a group of my friends have ever done was from Flushing Meadows Park to Maspeth. You had to understand the importance of the freedom of being able to get around on your own with your crew.
11. How To Ride The MTA Like A Boss
Of course when you were a little past those green teenage years of simple pleasures, you rode the MTA. You rode buses and trains equally and one thing you understood only if you were a Queens original, was the importance of getting in an empty train car. Empty train cars meant fooling around on many levels. From pole dancing, to break dancing, to freestyle rapping. If you didn’t do this growing up in Queens, you missed out.
12. How To Spend A Pay Check
If you had a job when you were young and growing up in Queens you knew how to use your cash wisely. There was always time for fun and time for serious stuff like saving. Fun included pizza, Chinese food, Johnny Rockets, T.G.I. Fridays, Game Stop, and Barnes and Nobles. You also knew the importance of sharing with friends too. Everyone chipped in and everyone got.
13. How To Party
Well this one might come after you’ve grown up in Queens, but it’s still a part of the process. A Queens original knows a party ain’t a party if there’s no tequila or Mexican bars.
14. Don’t Answer The Cat Calls
I wouldn’t say Queens was unsafe, but you had to be aware. Every Girl in Queens knew to never answer the whistles of the working men in streets. Since growing up there meant always being outside and getting around, you had to watch out for those whistlers. They only want one thing…
15. Don’t Be A Flat Leaver
My final bit on what it meant to be a kid growing up Queens is a pretty important one. I’m sure it’s universal, but it’s definitely a must if you were from here. You never leave your friends behind or ditched them in a circumstance. Doing this was referred to as “Flatleaving” and was seriously shunned upon. If you had friends you had to be there for them through whatever and always lend a shoulder. Flatleaving is a big no no, especially for those who grew up in Queens.
I hope this triggers some cool reflections for you and where you grew up. There are tons of amazing memories you can create in life. It all begins with going out and having experiences.