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Local News December 14, 2012  RSS feed

News From The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association

A Surprisingly Tough Question
by Alexander Blenkinsopp
Do you know where Woodhaven is?

You might think the question is an easy one, but it’s remarkable how many New Yorkers couldn’t answer it. Woodhaven is misidentified and mixed up with other neighborhoods all the time.

First, many confuse Woodhaven with Woodside. Tell someone—even a fellow Queens resident—that you’re from Woodhaven, and it wouldn’t be surprising to get a response along the lines of, “Oh, next to Jackson Heights?” or “You’re close to the 7 train, right?” No.

No offense to a Woodside, but Woodhaven is a different neighborhood, located in another part of the borough. Our immediate neighbors are Glendale to the north, Ozone Park to the south, Richmond Hill to the east, and the Brooklyn border with Cypress Hills to the west. Our subway lines are the J and Z.

Then there are those who don’t know where Woodhaven begins and ends.

For example, back in February 2009 and again in July 2010, former Congressman Anthony Weiner issued reports about high rates of vacant storefronts on Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven. The problem? The majority of these supposed Woodhaven vacancies were actually in Richmond Hill. Weiner’s office eventually issued a correction, but this was a mistake that could have been avoided simply by speaking to the people who live in these two neighborhoods.

Weiner is not alone. News reporters have sloppily misidentified Woodhaven as the location of various crimes, accidents, and other misfortunes.

Both WABC and the Daily News reported last month about a car crash in Woodhaven that critically injured a one-year-old. One catch: the accident actually occurred in Richmond Hill. We wish the child well, but we also wish those reporters had done basic fact-checking.

Also last month, CBS New York reported that a robbery and assault occurred in Woodhaven when it in fact happened in Ozone Park. It wasn’t the first time CBS New York had made an error like this. In August, they incorrectly stated that a sexual assault occurred in Woodhaven when it actually took place in Elmhurst.

In May, several media outlets, including the Daily News and the Times Ledger, reported that a sexual assault occurred in Woodhaven. We at the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) distributed posters to help catch the rapist, but we also tried to set the record straight: the attack occurred in Richmond Hill, not Woodhaven.

When it comes to crimes, it’s especially important for news media to identify neighborhoods correctly. People pay more attention when they hear a crime has occurred in their neighborhood. As a result, it can be a real problem when residents who should be extra cautious—or who might have tips that could solve crimes—are misinformed by news reports.

So let’s be clear. Woodhaven is separated from Brooklyn on the west by Dexter Court and Eldert Lane. Its eastern border is the inactive Rockaway Branch railroad track next to 98th Street. Between those east and west borders, Woodhaven includes most of Forest Park, which serves as the neighborhood’s northernmost area. And Woodhaven’s southern border is Atlantic Avenue.

All of us in southern Queens are part of the same broader community; the way we pulled together after Hurricane Sandy attests to that. We’re not trying to divide this community by highlighting the borders between neighborhoods. Instead, we just want people to know Woodhaven is a cohesive, unified neighborhood—one that shouldn’t be split by gerrymanders, inaccurate reports by politicians, or incorrect news articles. And we want residents from other neighborhoods to feel similar pride in their communities, too.

We at the WRBA try to make Woodhaven a great place to live and visit, so we should at least make sure you know where we are.

Editor’s note: Blenkinsopp is a member of Community Board 9 and director of communications for the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association. For more information on the WRBA, visit www.woodhavennyc.org.