2006-08-02 / Book Review

Queens Guide Is 'Not For Tourists' - It's For Everyone

Not For Tourists Guide to Queens, Not For Tourists, Inc., 150 pp., $9.95

Queens Guide Is 'Not For Tourists' - It's For Everyone

Whatever sage first said "Good things come in small packages" definitely had the Not For Tourists Guide to Queens in mind. The 10th in the series published by Not For Tourists Guidebooks puts detailed maps and listings for 12 neighborhoods around the borough together in 150 information-packed pages-all in a sturdily bound 4by-5.75-inch package that slips easily into pocket or purse-and for a bargain price of $9.95.

The mission of the Not For Tourists Guide series is to lighten the load of residents, newcomers, commuters, business travelers and visitors by providing a guide bursting with colorful maps and useful facts about whatever city is the subject of a particular guide. The series was born when Jane Pirone, the series' publisher, got tired of "carrying around half a dozen books and four separate maps, just to be able to get around New York City" and decided to publish her own, starting with the Not For Tourists Guide to New York City (i.e., Manhattan) in 2000. Guides to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Atlanta, as well as Queens and Brooklyn, followed in quick succession. Each guide is based on neighborhood maps marked with icons that locate banks, post offices, pharmacies, bars, cafes, restaurants, gyms, theaters, pet stores, public transportation, gas stations, parking and more. The guides also include listings for bars, restaurants, theaters, shopping and museums, and pages of commentary about parks, beaches, sports complexes and transit options.

The Not For Tourists Guide to Queens covers the neighborhoods of Astoria, Long Island City/Hunter's Point, Sunnyside, JacksonHeights/Elmhurst, Elmhurst/ Corona, Forest Hills, Jamaica, College Point, Flushing, East Flushing, Bayside and Whitestone. Each neighborhood section includes a list of what Pirone and Rob Tallia, the founders, and Jennifer Keeney Sendrow, NFT Queens city editor, consider and call Essentials: Bagels, Banks, Gas Stations, Hospitals, Landmarks, Libraries, Pharmacies, Police, Post Offices, Schools and Supermarkets; and Sundries/Entertainment: Coffee, Copy Shops, Gyms, Hardware Stores, Liquor Stores, Nightlife, Pet Shops, Restaurants, Shopping and Video Rental. The last item may be omitted in neighborhoods holding no such emporia. The Guide provides a unique map of every street in the borough, combining a clear, colorcoded layout with witty, user-friendly listings and commentary from editors who live, work and play in the borough. The section on neighborhoods leads the Guide, followed by "Parks & Places", "Sports", "Transit", "General Information", "Arts & Entertainment", a street index, and a fold-out subway and bus map.

Queens is home to citizens of all six inhabited continents, and the Guide stresses the borough's unique international ambiance, especially in its cuisines. "Head to Flushing for Asian, try Indian in Jackson Heights, Astoria does Greek best, eat authentic Caribbean food in Jamaica, and experience all things Irish in the Rockaways. If that's not diverse enough, try Latin in Corona, Jewish in Kew Gardens and Korean in Eastern Flushing." The Guide also stresses the borough's shopping bargains and its many and varied cultural attractions.

Parks & Places devotes a two-page spread to both Alley Pond and Flushing Meadows-Corona Parks and gives detailed information about six of the borough's institutions of higher learning. We wonder, however, why a guidebook supposedly devoted exclusively to Queens includes a section on Long Island and omits any mention of Astoria Park, save for listing the Astoria Park Pool among the borough's aquatic facilities in the sports section.

The section on sports also discusses Queens' two main attractions, Shea Stadium ("Much more family-friendly than that corporate money-pit in the Bronx") and the United States National Tennis Association's National Tennis Center, which it points out is available for public use 10 months out of the year, except when the U.S. Open is in session, and notes that while tickets to the Open's center court matches are nearly impossible to come by, nearly any match is worth seeing and tickets can be had relatively easily. The transportation section, as could be expected, covers the two airports, the Long Island Rail Road and, in the section on driving, major highways. It also discusses public transportation, bridges and tunnels, parking and car services and notes that Queens is underserved by mass transportation. The section on driving includes a list of basic rules that alone is more than worth the price of the book, even for those whose last means of self-driven, wheeled transportation was a tricycle. (First rule, for example: "Never assume that the guy in front of you is in possession of a valid driver's license.")

The bar, restaurant, shopping theater and museum listings are organized by neighborhood, as are the section on landmarks and under Arts & Entertainment, bookstores, nightlife, restaurants and shopping. All provide addresses and telephone numbers as well.

We acknowledge that one guidebook cannot possibly include all of what we know to be familiar landmarks and favorite bars, restaurants and leisure time venues, so we will forgive Pirone and Tallia and their legion of neighborhood editors for leaving them out and hope they'll be included in future editions. As noted, we find the omission of Astoria Park surprising. Other than that, the only drawback we find is the awkward way the "Astronomically Detailed Bus & Subway Map" unfolds while attached to the book. Aside from these minor cavils, we find the guide a most welcome addition to the numerous guides, atlases and compendiums of information about the borough already on bookstore and library shelves. Anyone from tourist to newcomer to lifelong Queens resident would be well advised to keep a copy of the Not For Tourists Guide to Queens in pocket or purse when venturing forth, whatever the reason.

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