BY TRONE DOWD
Fresh Meadows, originally known as Black Stump during colonial times, became what it is today in a post World War II America. It was in 1949 that the New York Life Insurance Company, decided to build a for-its-time modern take on housing complexes. This apartment complex built in the neighborhood was called none other than Fresh Meadows.
The 140 building complex was built as a way to house veterans coming back from the war. At the time, it was one of the largest complexes in the entire city, consisting of two and three story garden apartments, a 20 story high rise and two 13-story buildings. The complex is also home to the Fresh Meadows Shopping Center. While it quickly became predominantly white at the time, over the years and into the modern era, other ethnicities began to move in including African-American, Latino, Indian and residents of Asian descent. The 150 acre plot of land was also home to the Fresh Meadows Country club which opened in 1923 and even hosted the U.S. Open in 1932.
For those who live outside of the large complex, Fresh Meadows is known for being a fairly quiet neighborhood, a trait it has held for over a century. In fact, one of the more well known staples of the neighborhood since 1895 was the Klein Farm located at 194-15 73rd Avenue. The Klein family lived in a 2-acre wide brick house on the property, and their farm spanned some 200 acres. The family would often harvest their freshly grown produce and sell them to residents from all over the borough.
Over the years however, the property became smaller. The Kleins would sell parcels of their large property to developers and and builders. It wasn’t until 2003 that the farm, then the last surviving commercial farm in New York City, was shut down for good.
Although the Klein Farm is no longer around today, it is survived in a sense through the Western part of Cunningham Park. This well kept, refreshingly green part of the neighborhood is a great representation of what Fresh Meadows is known for: Tranquility, simplicity and being homey for these neighborhoods residents and frequent visitors.
Of all the rich history the neighborhood has, one of the standout events is none other than the Blizzard of 1969. Fresh Meadows was home to one of the worst city snow storm aftermaths recorded to date.
The storm was originally expected to be a light powder, but quickly escalated. On Feb. 9, New York City received a record 20 inches of snow overnight, killing dozens of people, 21 of which where from Queens, and virtually bringing the borough to its knees. Queens itself was seemingly isolated from the rest of the city, as agencies and residents worked to dig out the streets.
For Mayor John Lindsay, the storm became a stain on his legacy. Fresh Meadows, received some of the worst the storm had to offer. When touring the city the day after the storm, Lindsay’s limousine could barely make it around the borough.
He moved to a four wheel drive truck and still had issues getting around. When getting to Fresh Meadows, it is said that the Mayor was met with boos. It is cited in Vincent J. Cannato’s book, “The Ungovernable City: John Lindsay and His Struggle to Save New York,” one woman yelled to the Mayor, “Get out you bum!”
The blizzard of 1969 proved that a political legacy can be affected heavily by the way an elected official reacts to natural occurrences like blizzards. Residents and city workers alike turned their back on the Mayor, and Fresh Meadows was one of the standout neighborhoods to show their disapproval.