BY JON CRONIN
Kew Gardens’ peaceful and historical streets were spurred on in the 1870s by the development of the not-for-profit, nonsectarian Maple Grove Cemetery which covers 65 acres of the town and then the establishment of the Long Island Rail Road on what was then Union Turnpike and now called Queens Boulevard.
The LIRR added a ground-level station later that cut through the Richmond Hill Golf Club. The heirs of the Richmond Hill developer Albon P. Man agreed to it and then Kew Gardens was born. The town’s namesake is the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, England.
The addition of the subway station on Queens Boulevard made the town popular for developers and an influx of German Jewish immigrants came to the area during World War II.
With the creation of commerce, beautiful colonial homes, and several routes of public transportation through the local townships, then in 1940 came Borough Hall and the County Courts on Queens Boulevard.
Many tour Kew Gardens on gentle walks through Forest Park and to look at many of the stately Neo-Tudor homes. Silent film star Charlie Chaplin lived in an Arts and Crafts style house on 82nd Drive. He currently buried in Machpelah Cemetery in nearby Glendale with his wife and parents.
Some astounding architecture can be found on near the east side of the park on Forest Park Road, Park Lane, Curzon Road, Mayfair Road and Grosvenor Road.
Some famous residents have been Broadway legend Will Rogers, composer George Gershwin, actress Dorothy Parker and songwriter and singer Burt Bacharach.
Comedian Rodney Dangerfield, then known as Jacob Cohen, lived with his family in a three room apartment above a bar in Kew Gardens. They were so poor they still needed to take in borders.
The town is still haunted by the murder of Catherine (Kitty) Genovese in 1964. Media outlets reported at the time of her death that 38 people witnessed her murder by the hands of a mugger by her apartment door at 82-70 Austin Street.
Genovese was 28 years-old and no one was reported to have called police or tried to help. The story got nationwide attention and some say gave New York the reputation as an uncaring community. The murder lead the NYPD to overhauling their telephone reporting and to Kew Gardens creating neighborhood watch programs.