Queens and Manhattan are separated into distinct political
entities. New Amsterdam (specifically lower Manhattan island) is organized into
an autonomous unit. The rest of New Netherland colony (including the towns that
became organized into Queens County three decades later) would be absorbed into
the British empire in less than a dozen years.
February 6, 1655
Gov. Nicolls confirmed a patent to Daniel Denton, William
Hallett, Robert Coe, Anthony Waters and others on 'a certain tract of land purchased
for and on behalf of the Town of Jamaica.' Founded less than ten years before,
this action secured the rights to the fledgling settlement's official status
under English rule. Jamaica Township, along with Newtown and Flushing Townships,
comprises modern Queens.
February 10, 1704
The "Out Plantations" were incorporated into the Town of
Newtown. The earliest land grants, starting from the first settlement at Maspeth
in 1643, were a crazy patchwork of conflicting titles for small farms and large
estates. These claims ran up both the Dutch Kills and the East River, and
extended over to Bowery Bay. Under British rule, in an effort to standardize the
colony's government, all property claims were resurveyed and recorded. A new
system of counties and townships are set up. All lands north of Newtown Creek and
west of Flushing Meadows became part of Newtown Township. The 'old town', Maspeth,
disappeared after 60 years.
February 15, 1797
Heinrich Englehard Steinweg is born. The master cabinet
maker crafted some 400 pianos in Germany before leading his family to America.
By 1853, he formed Steinway & Sons. Known as the "Instrument of the Immortals,"
Steinway pianos are the standard piano for the world. By their 150th
Anniversary in 2003, the firm built over 550,000 pianos (each one carefully
numbered and recorded in master ledgers at the plant). Today, more than 99% of
all concert and recording artists use a Steinway piano. Heinrich died, aged 73,
on February 7, 1870.
February 13, 1844
The New York State Board of Regents chartered the Astoria Female Seminary. The 1828 building was older than the community of Astoria. In 1839, residents of Hallets Cove had renamed their village as a tribute to John Jacob Astor who donated money for the school. Rev. John Walker Brown, pastor of St. George’s church ran the institute for many years. In its short term it was one of the finest such schools for young ladies; one of the women who taught there later went to China as a missionary and went on to write one of the first Chinese-English dictionaries. Although the seminary collapsed at Brown’s death, it reopened briefly in 1858. The building eventually served as the parsonage of St. George’s Church for over 150 years. The community’s namesake was demolished to build senior housing in 2005.
The "Astoria Hook & Ladder Company No 1"
is organized. Although four companies are ultimately created in the Village,
fire fighting remains hazardous and primitive at best. With no fire hydrants,
the Astoria Village relies on cisterns built at intersections. Equipment from
Astoria and later companies at Steinway and Long Island City can be seen today
at the New York City Fire Department Museum in Manhattan.
February 21, 1861
The first postmaster is appointed in Long Island City.
Postal service was founded by Benjamin Franklin in the early years of the
republic, and post offices were soon set up in stores in Jamaica, the Alley
in Flushing and Newtown. Mail was delivered by circuit riders on horseback
who traveled out to Long Island, then back, on a regular basis. The recipient
used to pay for the postage until stamps were introduced in the mid-1800s. Today
post office stations exist for Far Rockaway, Floral Park, Flushing, Jamaica, and
Long Island City.
February 18, 1869
Sheet music publisher and Woodside developer Benjamin Hitchcock distributed 972 lots to shareholders of the new Village of Woodside. After convincing the heirs of the Kelley estate to develop their property, he came up with a novel scheme to encourage investors. All lots were priced at $300 (with monthly installments at $10). After he received 25% of the amount, a lottery determined the actual distribution of property, with
the best locations with buildings going first, and the less desirable at the end.
The Centerville Race Track, southeast of the intersection
of Woodhaven and Rockaway Blvds. is sold to the New York and Hempstead Railroad
for $40,000. The railroad is not interested in racing horses, but wants the
property for a right-of-way. Between the 1830s and 1850s, ads for spring and
fall meets at the track list all the famous horses from that era. Centerville
was an important element of the nation's horse racing industry whose hub was
on the Hempstead Plains during the Nineteenth Century.
February 28, 1883
The first Chinese immigrant moved into Newtown, an event
considered noteworthy enough for the time to be reported in the press. Today,
Newtown Village is known as Elmhurst. Its census tract is home to undoubtedly the
most diverse population in the world. It is conceivable that every nation on
earth has a citizen walking its streets.
February 15, 1916
At one minute past midnight, the guard on the train at
Jackson Avenue slammed the door and announced loudly: "Hunterpoint Avenue next!"
The Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) train ran from Jackson Avenue in
Long Island City to Lexington Avenue and 42nd St in Manhattan. (These tracks,
today known as the #7 Line, was then called the 'Queensboro Subway'.)
February 1, 1917
The Astoria "el" rapid transit line from Queensboro Plaza
to Ditmars Boulevard opened. The three track elevated line runs from the former
Bridge Plaza along Northern Blvd. for only a quarter mile to 31st Street, where
the train runs along the top of the ridge to beyond the Grand Central Parkway.
February 4, 1918
The United States was in the thick of Word War I. It was a
year and a day after the U.S. broke off diplomatic ties with Germany. The
American government began the process of taking photographs and fingerprints of
resident aliens. They could register at the Elmhurst Post Office.
A heavy snow brings on 1,200 shovelers assisted by an
array of motor and horse-drawn plows, sweepers and trucks. Earning 55¢ an hour,
they dumped snow down sewers, into the river, and onto empty lots. As volunteers
were easier to recruit in older communities, snow is first cleared in Long Island
City. Although the #7 Line still ran even when the trolleys stopped, a train
that left Grand Central at 11 PM staggered into Flushing by 8 AM the following
The Benevolent & Protective Order of the Elks launches
their clubhouse on Queens Blvd in Elmhurst. Nearly 3,000 men make their way
past the massive bronze elk that guards the portals, some members traveling
from distant cities to participate in the colorful and impressive ceremonies
formally opening the building. That evening, the club initiates over 100 new
Borough Presidents Maurice Connolly of Queens and Julius Miller of Manhattan sent a letter to the Board of Estimate, proposing an East River tunnel to relieve congestion on the Queensboro Bridge. The original plan was to have portals at thirty-eighth street in Manhattan, Borden Avenue in Queens, and beyond to Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The project cost was projected to be $40,000,000 with an option to extend it to Tenth Avenue on the West Side if Manhattan for an additional $16,000,000. (As with many New York City transportation projects, this idea, in a different form, was not implemented until years later, when the Queens-Midtown Tunnel opened in 1940.)
February 28, 1948
Actress and singer Bernadette Peters was born as in Ozone Park to her parents Peter and Marguerite Lazzara. She has two siblings, Joseph and Donna. Bernadette's mother was the
one who started her on the road to show business, securing a place for Bernadette on the show "Juvenile Jury" when
she was just three and a half years. Her mother suggested she changed her professional name from Lazzara to Peters
at age nine to broaden her appeal. The name 'Peters' came from her father's first name. Acknowledged as one of the
Great White Way's natural wonders, Bernadette Peters is a performer of unparalleled versatility on stage, film
and television. A quote: “you've gotta be original, because if you're like someone else, what do they need you for?”
February 13, 1949
In of the largest parades in Queens' history, 52,000
marchers in Jamaica protested the imprisonment of Cardinal Josef Mindszenty by
the Communist government of Hungary. The Star-Journal reported that Protestants
and Jews joined Catholics from all the 88 parishes in Queens in a display of
borough-wide unity. Placards read "We Protest Kangaroo Trials", "Communists Veto
God", and "It CAN happen here".
Congressman James Delaney of Astoria wants to make the State
of Long Island. As member of the House Rules Committee investigating admitting
Hawaii and Alaska as states, he claims Long Island makes a much better case
for statehood. He continues, 'Alaska, with 90,000, has 1/4 the members of my
district.' The proposed state, with 26 members in Congress and a population
of 9 million, would be about the size of California or Illinois. Jamaica is
suggested as the capital.
February 10, 1960
The new, top of the line American Airlines Terminal at
Idlewild Airport introduced "jetways". This innovation, quickly copied by the
other airlines, enabled passengers to pass from the terminal to the plane without
setting foot on the tarmac or dealing with inclement weather.
Flushing Meadow is to close for construction of World's
Fair. The price tag is about a billion dollars, with exhibitors putting up
structures costing an additional $550 million. On the 16th, the Queens Botanic
Gardens close. Skating was allowed in the NYC Building through April.
February 7, 1964
The British rock and roll band "The Beatles" landed at JFK
Airport aboard Pan Am Clipper flight 101. The press corps snapped hundreds of
photographs as the Fab Four walked down the stairs and on to American ground-to
the delight of hundreds of fans. Less than three months after the assassination
of President John Kennedy, The Beatles took New York by storm as they performed
on the Ed Sullivan Show two nights later. It was American rock and roll with a
British twist and a sound that became their own.
February 15, 1965
The Star-Journal reported the fire-bombing the previous day at the Queens home of civil rights leader Malcolm X, with the headline: “Dawn, Home Shattered-Police Guard the Fire-Scarred Home of Malcolm X-Cops Probe Bombing.” “Police today are still searching for leads in the fire-bombing of Malcolm X’s East Elmhurst home early yesterday morning. Their basic questions are: Who tossed the Molotov cocktail at the house on 23-11 97th Street? And why? Malcolm, who aroused his wife and four daughters at 2.30 in the morning to escape the flames, flew to Detroit that evening. Before leaving, Malcolm said of the bombing: ‘It doesn’t frighten me. It doesn’t quieten me down in any way or shut me up.’ A week later he would be assassinated.
February 1, 1968
New Yorkers are digging out of a weekend blizzard and
the city was under a snow emergency with "More of Same on Way."
The cold and snow extends all the way to Florida where orange crops, as well
as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, and beans are destroyed.
February 16, 1986
Harry Van Arsdale, Jr. died in Queens. A popular labor
leader, Van Arsdale became a member of the International Brotherhood of
Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 3 in 1925. It is said that he was the most
powerful labor leader in the city by the late 1950s. The former Jewel Avenue was
renamed "Harry Van Arsdale, Jr. Avenue" in Forest Hills and Kew Gardens Hills.
Queens born Tommy Rettig died of natural causes, at 55. In 1954, Rettig became the first boy cast in the role of Lassie’s master on the hit TV show Lassie. Following his four-year stint on this show, his acting career stalled for casting directors had few roles for an aging child star that stood 5’ 4.” He led a checkered life of arrests and convictions for growing marijuana and importing cocaine, bankruptcy, and divorce. He held a string of jobs including photographer, tool salesman and health club manager. In the last years of his life, he managed to turn himself around and became a successful software developer.
Two incidents notched airport security to "a high priority"
at JFK Airport. First, international tensions reach a favor pitch when Saddam
Hussein blocks a U.N. team's access to potential weapon sites in the face of
American retaliation. More ominously, two men who are arrested Las Vegas had
both anthrax and maps of the city's subway system. Congressman Charles Schumer
of Queens accuses New York as "woefully unprepared if targeted by a biological
or chemical attack." Mayor Giuliani sharply disagrees, pointing to New
York being better prepared than most of the country.