By Yvette Brown
East Elmhurst is often the scene that travelers see when in passing to and from LaGuardia Airport. The neighborhood is now a hub for vacationers and commuters, but East Elmhurst has some interesting history behind its visual appeal.
During the late 1800s, East Elmhurst was mainly a rural area with views of the East River, Bowery and Flushing Bays. The shoreline of Astoria, and what is today considered East Elmhurst, ended up being the place where the North Beach Bowery Bay Gala Amusement Park. The park opened in 1886 and was created by William Steinway, of the piano manufacturing company, and George Ehert, a brewmaster.
People would come by steamboat ferry from Manhattan and the Bronx and by trolley from other parts of Queens and Brooklyn to enjoy themselves at the bathing beaches, ride on carousels, ferris wheels and scenic railways. Developers began to build waterfront hotels to accommodate those who would travel to the park.
Eventually, the resort began to wane in 1919 and the North Beach was torn down. In 1929, part of the site was then privately owned by Glenn H. Curtiss Airport until Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia took hold of it and on Dec. 2, 1939, LaGuardia Airport officially opened to commercial traffic.
East Elmhurst is also home to many renowned jazz talents including Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Brown, as well as Ray Bryant and Junior Mance.
Another important moment in history in East Elmhurst was the night of Feb. 14, 1965, when bottles of gasoline were thrown through the living room windows of former Nation of Islam Minister Malcolm X and his family on 97th Street. While no one was hurt during the attack, Malcolm X was shot and killed in Manhattan a week later.
The ethnic composition of the neighborhood began changing in the 1990s as Hispanic and Asian families began moving in. The 2000 census showed that the community was one of the fastest changing communities in the city.