BY LYNN EDMONDS
Little Neck is a tree-lined, suburban neighborhood in Northeastern Queen that borders right up against the Nassau county line. Its housing stock consists of colonials, high ranches, Tudors, capes and arts and craft style homes. Its an upper-middle class neighborhood, inhabited mostly by Italian, German, Irish, Jewish, African American, Korean and Chinese families.
Like neighboring Douglaston, Little Neck was inhabited by Matinecoc Indians when the English settlers came in the 1600s and displaced or killed most of them.
A decisive battle at the intersection of the current Marathon Parkway and Northern Boulevard, called the Battle of Madnam’s Neck, marked the moment when English gained the competitive advantage. Thomas Hicks was the influential Englishman who led the battle efforts.
In October, that portion of Marathon Parkway was co-named Matinecock Way in honor of the tribal nation that had originally settled that land. Current tribal leaders attended the ceremony.
The English settlers used the area for growing, and orchards and farms there supplied food to people in the nearby city.
With a small inlet from Little Neck Bay snaking into the neighborhood, Little Neck was once the perfect place to fish for Oysters. Called Udall’s Cove, the tidal salt marsh attracted oystermen from in the 18th and 19th century. Many of oystermen were free Blacks. According to one source, 16 out of 27 registered oysterman in New York City in 1810 were African Americans. One of them, Thomas Downing, went on to create his own oyster empire.
The clams in the area were called “Little Necks” and were known for being small and hard. They were used in top restaurants not just in Manhattan but in Paris, London, Geneva and Rome. Fisherman also caught Blue Fish and Sea Bass.
The trade in oysters and clams was so successful that the train was extended to stop right by the edge of the Cove, at Little Neck Parkway and 39th Road.
The station is still there, but the oyster industry had to stop in 1909 when the government condemned the shellfish as toxic because of pollutants in the water.
The Long Island Rail Road has a stop in Little Neck on the Port Washington Branch. It is the last stop that is within the boundaries of New York City. From the Little Neck stop, located at 39th Road and Glenwood Street, it is about a 25 minute ride into Manhattan.
In a combined effort with Douglaston, the neighborhood is known for having the biggest Memorial Day parades in the country.