After wintering in lower Manhattan, Adriaen Block, Dutch navigator, sailed up the East River and through Hell Gate making it likely that he and his crew were the first Europeans to see Queens. He named the passage through the river “Hell Gate” meaning “bright passage.”
April 3, 1775
A group of "Freeholders of Newtown" led by Col Jacob Blackwell
signed a public petition asking that Queens County send delegates to the Continental
Convention. As every other town in Queens was against this appeal, Queens County was
given observer status, but not a vote, at the conference.
April 20, 1790
President George Washington left his mansion at 39 Broadway in Manhattan to acquaint himself with the Long Island countryside. His first day’s trip took him through Brooklyn, Flatbush, New Utrecht, Gravesend and ended in Jamaica, where he stayed overnight at Warne’s Tavern on Jamaica Avenue. On the 21st, his journey went along Jamaica Avenue and Jericho Turnpike through Queens Village. Over the next three days he toured Coram, Setauket, Huntington Oyster Bay and Manhasset. Proceeding along today’s Northern Blvd, his party stopped over at Flushing then on to along Flushing Avenue to Bedford crossroads before returning to New York via the Brooklyn ferry.
April 7, 1791
Stephen Halsey, known as the "Father of Astoria"
is born. Mr. Halsey, in 1835, purchased a large tract of land on what was then
called Hallett's Cove. He managed to have a bill passed by the state legislature
incorporating it as the first village in Queens County. The name "Astoria"
is adopted after John Jacob Astor of New York, an old friend. Until his death
forty years later, Halsey took an active interest in developing the community.
April 25, 1832
The Brooklyn and Jamaica Rail Road Company incorporates and
starts building a ten-mile long route from Brooklyn along Atlantic Avenue to
Jamaica, Queens. Two years later, it becomes a part of the Long Island Rail
Road with the stated intention of providing rail and ferry service between New
York and Boston. After a competing direct rail line is built along the Connecticut
shore by 1850, the LIRR spirals into the first of its many bankruptcies.
April 25, 1844
Patrick Jerome “Battle-Axe” Gleason is born in Ireland. He arrived in America with his brothers, fought in the Civil War, and made a small fortune in California. He got involved in local politics and was elected mayor of Long Island City twice, from 1887-92, and 1896-97. Gleason’s personality was legendary. As mayor, he owned trolley lines under city contract, leased personal property to the school district, and sold water to the city from his wells. When the railroad put a fence to block traffic on the ferry, he personally chopped it down earning the nickname “Battle-Axe.” Gleason’s volatile temper got him arrested, and his relationship with the board of aldermen was tempestuous at best. The newspapers, which loathed him, refused to publish his photograph. Yet Gleason is still remembered fondly by the people of Hunters Point for his was a friend to the common man. PS 1, which was the largest high school on Long Island when built, was his legacy to the community’s children. When he died bankrupt and discredited but a few years out of office, hundreds lined the route to his internment. “Patrick Jerome Gleason was never boring,” wrote the late George Henke of Sunnyside. “Although labeled a brawler, braggart, buffoon and scoundrel, he was not worse than some of his slick opponents. He was an astute politician.”
New York State Legislature passes a bill allowing the incorporation
of one of the first commercial banks in Queens County. The bank opens in Flushing
under the name 'Queens County Savings Bank'.
The Flushing, College Point & New York Steam Navigation Company was incorporated. The company was formed to produce a transportation alternative to the Flushing Railroad, which also operated two steamboats. Oliver Charlick, the railroad president, arranged timetables to please himself, eliminated popular trains and raised fares, thus ignoring entirely the wishes of the riding public. Several wealthy men of Flushing organized the new steamboat line to entice riders away from the railroad and its steamboats. The company’s first boat was, not surprisingly, named the Flushing. It began service on June 1, 1860.
April 16, 1860
The steamboat "Flushing," built in Greenpoint Brooklyn, begins
her New York run charging a 10-cent fare. Chartered by the Federal Government during
the Civil War, the Flushing runs aground on the James River. Refloated, and brought
back to East River service, she is in use for only a few months before being sold to
a syndicate in Nova Scotia. After giving her a new name, they promptly send the
steamer to the South as a blockage runner for the Confederacy. Trapped in the
Savannah River, she is run aground and burned in December 1864.
April 13, 1882
Newtown Register complained that Corona was overrun with geese
and goats. The former was "a bold species that do not hesitate to attack ladies who
wear red shawls, and the latter thinks that the doorsteps and sidewalks were made of
their special benefit." The paper warned owners to do something about the public
nuisance, or "give the pound master an opportunity to turn an honest penny."
In Ridgewood, at the intersection of Myrtle and Wykoff Avenues, the Barnum & Bailey circus was staked out under the Big Top. It featured 1,200 people, 3,500 costumes, a ballet of 300, 350 instrumentalists, 500 arena stars, and a ‘monster’ zoo. Advertising gave instructions on how to reach the circus by trolleys. During that month, Dr. Booker T. Washington, as guest of a local A.M.E.Z. Church in Corona, preached at the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown in Elmhurst. The paper commented that his presence in a 'suburban' setting was considered most unusual.
April 2, 1917
Scott Joplin, 49, is buried in an unmarked pauper's grave in St.
Michael's cemetery, East Elmhurst. Considered one of the giants in American music,
he authored dozens of music compositions. Failing to copyright much of his
material, Joplin is still credited with publishing some 41 are piano "rags". He
suffered a nervous breakdown and spent the end of his life in a mental hospital.
His reputation had to wait to a revival in 1972. He posthumorously won a Pulitzer
Prize in 1976.
April 24, 1923
Elmhurst was in a state of excitement when someone lit a flaming cross on a hill overlooking the community. The Knights of Columbus claimed the cross-burning was the work of the Ku Klux Klan. The wooden cross was about ten feet tall. A crowd watching the blaze expected a hooded mob on horseback to arrive, but none came. Police believed that some boys had set up the cross, but the Knights were adamant that this was a demonstration for their benefit. A similar incident had occurred recently in Richmond Hill during a meeting of the Knights. For a few years in the 1920s, the Klan was a visible presence on Long Island and elsewhere in the nation.
The New York State Assembly had passed and the Senate was near passage of a law, which extended licensing for automobile drivers statewide. Before only drivers in first class cities were required to take a licensing test before operating their cars. The law contained something additional even for already licensed drivers in Queens. A license could be revoked or suspended by a magistrate or other official without a court trial. Some of the offenses that would lead to loss of a license were driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, physical or mental disability and conviction of a felony.
April 29, 1939
The Bronx-Whitestone Bridge opened to traffic. Spanning the East River between Ferry Point Park in the Bronx and Whitestone in Queens, the bridge was the first to link Long Island directly with the mainland. The primary reason for its construction was to provide access to the 1939-40 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows. But as has happened with other New York City bridge spans, traffic increased over time to such a level that the Throgs Bridge was built in 1961 to relieve congestion on this bridge.
April 1, 1940
The new International Marine Terminal at the North Beach Airport
is dedicated. As thousands watch, the giant Yankee Clipper taxies across Bowery
Bay into Riker's Island channel. The tremendous four motored airliner, carrying
nine passengers and 5,260 pounds of cargo, lifts from the water, circles once,
and points east across Queens. It is scheduled to arrive at Lisbon, Portugal,
in 26 hours.
Construction began on a new airport on the site of the Idlewild
Golf Course. The City of New York contracted for the placing of a hydraulic
fill over the marshy tidelands of Jamaica Bay. The airport, renamed Kennedy
International in 1963, is today a portal of entry into United States for millions
of people from around the world.
The papers are abuzz with Gloria DiCicco's Nevada divorce from
Pasquale DiCicco, the Astoria boy who made good in Hollywood. She cites 'extreme
cruelty.' Pat, an actor's agent, married the heiress, whose fortune was estimated
at $ 4.5 million, on December 28, 1941. DiCicco, the "Astoria Broccoli King's"
son, is planning to become a motion picture producer. Mrs. DiCicco assumes her
maiden name, Gloria Vanderbilt.
April 5, 1954
The U. S. Public Health Service assured the nation that the new Salk polio vaccine, which was to be tested on 1,000,000 school children nationwide, was “safer than safe.” School children in first through third grades in Corona and Flushing were scheduled to participate in the test. These sections of Queens were selected because they met the test criterions of having a population of more than 50,000 and having a high polio incidence in the last five years.
On opening day of the baseball season, Manager Casey Stengel of the
hapless Mets reports, "The attendance got trimmed again." (this was Stengelese
meaning that the Mets are playing terribly.) "We were a fraud. All those people
came out to watch us play. We had them believing we had a better team this year,
but we didn't look it. The starting pitcher was lousy and the infielders were
worse." After six balks by his pitchers in the game, Casey walked out the mound
and gave a demonstration to his pitchers on how to throw a baseball.
April 17, 1964
Shea Stadium opens in Flushing Meadows, Queens as the New
York Mets play the Pittsburgh Pirates before 48,736 fans. The Mets lost, 4 -
3. The stadium, originally to be called Flushing Meadow Park, is later named
for attorney William A. Shea, who spearheaded the drive to bring National League
baseball back to New York.
From April 22 to October 18, 1964 and from April 21 to October 17, 1965, the
New York World's Fair at Flushing Meadow in Queens, New York, had a two year
run. Under the banner "Peace Through Understanding", the fair displayed
man's inventions, discoveries, arts, skills and aspirations in an expanding
universe. It had more than 150 pavilions, spreading over 646 acres of Flushing
April 19, 1965
Mayor Wagner signs Landmarks Preservation Law. The Landmarks
Law serves the following purposes: safeguarding the city's historic, aesthetic,
and cultural heritage; helping to stabilize and improve property values in
historic districts; encouraging civic pride in the beauty and accomplishments of
the past; protecting and enhancing the city's attractions for tourists, thereby
benefiting business and industry; strengthening the city's economy; and promoting
the use of landmarks for the education, pleasure, and welfare of the people of
the city. Queens, falling behind the other four boroughs during a generation's
worth of landmark designation, recently has taken this issue by storm.
Neighborhoods across the borough are now demanding this distinction for their
communities. To date, only a few blocks in Hunters Point, Jackson Heights,
Ridgewood, and Douglaston have this honor.
April 1, 1966
Motorists driving on the Grand Central Parkway near the site of the former World’s Fair and Meadow and Willow lakes, reported seeing a large luminescent blue-green object, which looked “like a glowing dirigible that came into view and then descended into the lake,” at about 7:40 PM. A number of observers said that the object appeared to correspond to the descriptions of UFO’s reported in Michigan the previous week, which Air Force experts had attributed to swamp gas discharged from lake bottoms in springtime. This explanation did not satisfy everyone in Queens. Some thought that “maybe the Martians wanted to visit the World’s Fair, and didn’t know it was over.”
April 1, 1980
The Transit Workers Union contract expired and an 11-day strike began at 2:01 AM. All subway and bus lines in the city ground to a halt. It was estimated that the city lost $2 million a day in taxes and another $1 million a day in overtime expenses for city employees. Companies in the private sector lost approximately $100 million per day, The TWU accepted a new contract on April 11. The TWU did not strike again until December 20-22, 2005. Also during the month, Long Island Railroad workers staged a 31-hour strike, which also began on April 1.
April 26, 1984
Former St. Albans resident Count Basie died in Hollywood, Florida. William Basie, born in Red Bank, New Jersey, in 1904, originally wanted to play the drums. In the 1920's, Basie moved to Harlem where he met Thomas "Fats" Waller who had a great influence in his style. Waller, who played the pipe organ at the Lincoln Theatre on 125th Street, got to know Basie who was eventually asked to sit along side him at the console. About 1935, the Count Basie Band began to form. At a broadcast of one of their shows, the announcer dubbed him, Count Basie, to compete with other bandleaders such as Duke Ellington. Count Basie's record contract called for no royalties, a deal typical of the record industry's exploitation of jazz musicians. He never got any royalties for such hits as One O'clock Jump, Swingin' the Blues or Jumpin' at the Woodside. The band's lightness and precision set the tone for modern jazz accompanying style. Basie himself perfected a piano style called ‘comping,’ a syncopated and precise style of playing cords. The band also served to launch many careers.