Addressing Queens: You Say Flushing, I Say Woodside By Diana Sanders
For those living in Queens, addressing and receiving mail can be a bit frustrating. Astoria is often referred to as Long Island City, Forest Hills as Flushing and so on. These errors often cause misunderstandings and frustrations among residents who once had an official neighborhood to call home.
Queens, in fact, is the only borough in all of New York City that receives mail addressed to a particular neighborhood, rather than simply to the borough. For example, mail sent to residences in Staten Island will feature a street address followed by “Staten Island, NY” and a ZIP Code. Queens neighborhoods, however, have kept their own distinct names..
While some residents who live in this ethnically diverse borough may not give any thought to the matter, others are awash in confusion for both sending and receiving mail. What logical explanation can there be as to why Queens is the only borough in New York City to have individual neighborhoods as part of its postal addresses?
When Queens joined with the other boroughs to form New York City in 1898, the county already had an established history with distinct cities and towns, each with their own identity. The Postal Service allowed them to continue that tradition. Also, Queens, along with Brooklyn, is in actuality part of Long Island, where addresses are also categorized by the town names. Brooklyn however, does not follow this order.
The United States Postal Service divides Queens into four major towns, Long Island City, Flushing, Jamaica and Far Rockaway, and operates its services according to ZIP Codes. ZIP Codes today are as common as telephone area codes. Each ZIP Code in Queens, as well as the rest of the United States, delineates a preferred community name as well as one that is acceptable. This means that mail addressed to Jackson Heights will still be delivered even if the preferred name according to the ZIP Code is Flushing. Does this mean that the city name of an address has no real significance and mail can actually be sent to a specific municipality and still be delivered if the ZIP Code is correct? Probably not.
Although mail is regulated through the use of ZIP Codes, the city name still serves a major purpose. Telephone information lines such as 411, and even OnStar for subscribers are there for convenience. However, searching for a venue in the county of Queens can still be a guessing game as to which town name the location is set under, and whether in fact the telephone operator can provide the information. Since the locations at these information lines are registered according to their preferred community names, operators decline acceptable community names, in many cases because these telephone services are not local, but national and operators unfamiliar with a location have difficulty in making the distinction.
While the many different locations throughout Queens County may cause frustration among residents, the United States Postal Service is trying to maximize its accuracy in delivering mail. Numerical ZIP Codes as a result have increased the accuracy of mail distribution. However without any clear boundaries between towns, people are still experiencing aggravation and uncertainty as to where it is they are located.
All of this is less important than the pride many feel and the ties they have to their particular neighborhood. For example, Dutch Kills and Ravenswood are both part of Astoria, but offer their own unique charms. Residents of Queens have held strongly to their distinct names for their towns for generations. To these residents, Queens County is not simply one big borough that is a part of New York City. Rather, it has diverse sections of history and culture that make up the many ethnic areas that cannot be contained by boundaries, nor changed by ZIP Codes.