BY TRONE DOWD
Through the rough decades that seemed to define Rosedale at one point in time, the neighborhood stood the test of time and become a model of how a community should function.
Mostly a suburban area, Rosedale is made up primarily of single family housing and middle class New Yorkers. Though there are a number of major commuter arteries that run through the neighborhood, including Francis Lewis Boulevard, Sunrise Highway, Brookville Boulevard and the Laurelton Pkwy, Rosedale keeps its suburban feel intact.
Unlike many other parts of the borough, Rosedale as a neighborhood has history stretching even past the Revolutionary War. In 1647, brothers Christopher and Thomas Foster settled in current day Rosedale, calling the town Foster Meadow.
It wasn’t until the 1800’s that the development of a commuter friendly rail began to attract people from around the city.
Within the following 20 years, the town became known as Rosedale, many say after the roses that often grew there at the time.
Like many other parts of Queens at the turn of the 20th century, many fled to Rosedale to get away from the overpopulated streets of Manhattan and to a lesser extent Brooklyn. The new population that found itself in the newly established Rosedale was mostly Irish and German, with Jewish and Italian families following shortly after the conclusion of World War II.
Unfortunately, like many other Southeast Queens neighborhoods at the time, the peace turned to chaos when black families began to move into the neighborhood during the 1970’s. Unhappy with their new middle class African-American neighbors, the predominantly white residents immediately started trouble with them. Racial tensions grew as the old clashed with the new. In time, violence and racial issues became the defining trait of the neighborhood.
While there were attempts to quell the heated tensions, like the joint initiative to create a civilian security patrol volunteer group headed by the 113th Precinct and the Rosedale Civic Association, families frustrated by working middle-class black Americans moving into the neighborhood eventually moved out. This left behind what is mostly found in Rosedale today; a predominantly black middle class with small white population. Many blacks who live there today are of Caribbean descent, including Haitian, Hispanic and Jamaican.
Since those times, Rosedale has become something entirely different. It is a neighborhood defined by it’s friendly and cooperative and close knit nature. With the exception of the airplanes that often fly overhead, the streets are quiet and tranquil and its aesthetic is picturesque. A single stroll through Brookville Park is a testament to just how unique Rosedale, and it’s sister neighborhood Springfield Gardens, are.
Brookville Park is, as state Sen. James Sanders Jr. calls it, “a jewel of Rosedale,” one that many residents have come to take pride in. Featuring a man made lake, basketball courts, tennis courts, barbecue pits and a number of other facilities open to the public, Rosedale’s Brookville is one of the better parks in the entire city. It features a number of different programs offered to locals young and old, including tennis lessons, a staple of the park. Started by local Derek Dilworth, JFK Airport’s first African American air traffic control supervisor, often volunteered his time to give youths free tennis lessons at the park. In 2001, Dilworth had the tennis courts that he used named after him in his honor two years after his death.