By Yvette Brown
Woodside is a residential, commercial and industrial community for the borough, but it was once a quieter and aristocratic neighborhood.
John Kelly along with a few others had settled in Woodside and built mansions. His son, John Andrew Kelly, wrote a series of articles describing the neighborhood titled, “Letters from Woodside.” Not too soon after Kelly built the mansions, Benjamin W. Hitchcock, a developer, saw a different look for Woodside, he saw its potential. In 1867, Hitchcock sold lots, laid out the streets and created a village including a rural one with swamps and woods that stretched for miles. For a while the neighborhood was rural with open lots and even a “wild animal farm” in 1915 and well into 1917.
By the 1920s, Woodside had multiple developments that brought in a lot of Irish families, who had originally been living in Manhattan. Complexes like the Cosmopolitan apartments, which include 16 five-story houses built in 1923 on 49th Street and the Big Six Towers on Queens Boulevard and 60th Street.
In later years, Italians, Germans, Asians and Hispanics settled in Woodside as well, but the majority was the Irish. Founded in 1988, the Emerald Isle Immigration Center at 59-26 Woodside Ave. welcomes recent Irish immigrants and any others from other countries. They aided with job placement, accommodations, citizenship inquiries, computer training and other services. They help about 7,000 arrivals every year.
Then there are the mom and pop shops on Roosevelt Avenue, which is one of the neighborhood’s main commercial thoroughfares. The shops are owned and operated by Irish, Hispanic, Indian, Korean and Chinese immigrants.
Other important community organizations in Woodside include Woodside on the Move and Ready, Willing and Able. Woodside on the Move is a non-profit social services agency for residents and businesses. Ready, Willing and Able is a program that helps homeless people by offering them jobs in exchange for meals, social services and shelter.