Given its recent influx of new residents and shops—and its close proximity to ever-buzzy Bushwick—the quiet, residential Queens enclave of Ridgewood has unexpectedly found itself as one of the city's most watched neighborhoods over the past few years.
And as the writer and photographer behind Ridgewood Social and the founder of the Ridgewood Market, blogger Sarah Feldman has found herself at the center of the action since launching Ridgewood Social back in 2013. "It's a way for me to explore the neighborhood and meet people," she tells us. "I also try to help people find things to do without leaving Ridgewood."
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Even as she boosts new businesses, Feldman is wary of the "too much, too fast" kind of change that has swept through other gentrifying neighborhoods, and is protective of her area's small-town Queens character. For this installment of Confessions of a Neighborhood Blogger, we caught up with Feldman about the most beloved small businesses in the area, Ridgewood's ace Community Board, and why the area really, truly is not the "next Bushwick."
What would you tell someone moving in?
Hello neighbor! Welcome to Ridgewood. As a newcomer, we recommend you check out and support all the businesses that have been here for a long time. Also, we hope you appreciate all the hard work that your neighbors put into making this place beautiful. As much as we love the new businesses in the neighborhood, what makes this place timeless is the family-owned shops, historic row houses, and diverse residents.
Where are the best deals in the neighborhood in terms of real estate? What about in terms of dining/entertainment?
Many of these buildings are owned by Ridgewood natives and their homes have been passed down for generations. They take really good care of their buildings. There are many rent-stabilized six-unit buildings, which keep some renters safe from being taken advantage of. What also makes Ridgewood unique is that we have one of the largest historic districts of row houses (and other buildings) in the country. Many of them are curved with golden brick that glows in the sun.
And since many of the shops in the neighborhood are small businesses, when you shop, you are on a first-name basis. For example, Toni owns Rudy Pastries Shop. And the German beer hall, Gottscheer Hall is owned by over 500 local Gottscheer share holders! Their hall has been around since the 1920s. Also, I run an artisan market in their venue called the Ridgewood Market.
What's the most coveted location within the neighborhood to live?
For me, it would be near the church, St. Matthias. The buildings are very pretty and it is located near the restaurant Julia’s, the coffee shop Norma’s, Topos Bookstore, Morscher’s Pork Store, Joe’s Restaurant, and more. Also, it's near the Forest M Train stop and a 5-minute walk to Myrtle Avenue where a lot of shopping happens.
Is there a dream building in the neighborhood?
The Vander Ende-Onderdonk House on the border of Ridgewood and Bushwick is a Dutch house from the 1600s, and you can take a tour of their half-acre of land ever Saturday.
Any buildings that feel out of place with the feel of the neighborhood?
I would say the newer buildings feel out of place. There is this new trend to cover the older buildings in stucco and they apply grey/black paint to make them look hip and cool. It clashes with the golden color of the Ridgewood row houses.
Any real estate-related controversy brewing or currently happening in the neighborhood?
A lot of the lovely historic buildings are being gutted illegally from the inside to make way for fancier and overpriced apartments that no one currently living in the neighborhood could afford. It is heartbreaking. Also, many tenants are being illegally pushed out of their apartments.
How has the neighborhood changed in the past five years? Any projections on how it will change in the next five?
What frightens me is the possibility of the beloved small businesses disappearing and corporate store fronts taking over. Even worse would be the idea that many blocks would be shuttered with abandoned store fronts. Also, a lot of Ridgewood natives are being priced out of the neighborhood with the increasing rents. I’m worried for my friends and neighbors.
There are a few good things at least. A lot of small businesses have opened in the neighborhood, which has been very nice. The newcomers priced out of other neighborhoods have been very friendly and supportive of their new community, and attend community board meetings, as well. Another plus is that our Community Board and council members are very strong. They fight against people taking advantage of this neighborhood so I have hope we can keep this neighborhood as special as possible. Also, neighbors are trying to clean up parks like Rosemary's Playground, and are promoting more bike lanes, too.
What do you think your "sister" neighborhood might be?
Glendale is on the border of Ridgewood and parts of it look and feel very similar to our neighborhood. Also, it’s in our zip code!
Which neighborhood feels like the opposite of your neighborhood?
Maspeth borders us but has been around since the 17th century.
What is one of the biggest misconceptions about the neighborhood?
Everyone calls us “the next Bushwick”, but I do not see how that is possible. No, we do not have an artisanal coffee shop on every corner.
Many New York institutions are shuttering. What recent Ridgewood closures shocked you?
Art Cove closed at the end of 2015. They were around for over 40 years and sold art supplies on Myrtle Avenue. I walk by their closed shop every day and it breaks my heart.
What new places in the neighborhood should we check out?
A new brewery called “Bridge and Tunnel Brewery” just opened up. Also a new bar Sweet Jane’s opened as well. An ice cream parlor called Creme and Sugar just opened as well. They specialize in Peruvian ice cream.
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