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Come to Queens for some real New York flavor

Come to Queens for some real New York flavor

New York is arguably one of the most popular cities in the world. Just try to count how many songs and libations are named after Manhattan.

However, New York City is technically made up of four other boroughs that are equally amazing as Manhattan: Queens, Brooklyn, The Bronx and Staten Island.

Last month, hundreds of thousands of people around the world celebrated pride day, a global event celebrating the 1969 Stonewall riots of New York that ignited the state-side gay rights movement.

A little known fact is that the gay revolution had already kicked off a week before, not in Manhattan but in Queens.

Over the course of two days starting on 18 June, 1969, a group of vigilantes cut down a grove of 30 trees in a park in Queens known to be a gay cruising area.

According to research by Katie Uva, PhD candidate in history at the CUNY Graduate Center, the act of vandalism at the park on 78th Avenue and Grand Central Parkway created tension between the gay community, the local straight community, police and public officials.

The local government was accused of condoning harassment against the gay community, especially after one of the vigilantes Myles Tashman freely admitted to The New York Times that he and his group had taken to patrolling the park with flashlights to drive gays out.

‘Admittedly, it was against the law,’ said Tashman, ‘But we had police consent.’

The following week the Stonewall riots escalated to national attention and became known as the turning point for gay rights in America.

The gay rights movement has exploded onto the global arena since 1969, but New York City will always remain a special source of pride for gays and lesbians in America and beyond.

Here are a few of GSN’s favorite spots in the outer borroughs of New York City, starting with Queens. Be sure to check out Queens Pride, which takes place at the beginning of June prior to Manhattan’s Pride.

King of Falafel and Shawarma – a few subway stops outside Manhattan on the N train, you can pay a visit to the king of Queens. The King of Falafel and Shawarma is winner of the 2010 Vendy Cup, an annual awards event that celebrates street food, and located on the corner of 30th St and Broadway in Astoria. Freddy Zeidaies, the king himself, is a community fixture that appears to know the entire neighborhood by name and generously offers complimentary falafel as you wait in line for your plate. No where else can you get authentic food for such a great price (the whopping chicken plate is only $6 (€4), just beware of the spicy sauce, because the king does mean spicy.

Omonia Cafe – a few blocks away from the King of Falafel and Shawarma is an amazing Greek cafe where they made the cake for the movie ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’. Omonia cafe offers a huge range of Greek and other pastries for take-away, as well as a spacious open-air sit-in dining area. Don’t leave without ordering a cannoli and a frappe.

MoMA PS1 – a 1970s school building that’s been converted into an art show space has become one of the most popular art destinations in the US. Located in Long Island City, the oldest and largest nonprofit contemporary art institutions is affiliated with the Museum of Modern Art and boasts some of the country’s most popular modern art collections. PS1 is also home to the Young Architects Program, an exhibition that kicks off every summer with an outdoor party on premises.

Jackson Heights – Queens is the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world, where over 100 different nations are represented and over 138 languages are spoken. Jackson Heights is the gay South American mecca of New York, where about seven Latino gay and lesbian bars are all within walking distance of each other. Take the E, F, M or R train to Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Avenue or the 7 train to 74th Street/Broadway and bring your dancing shoes.

Socrates Scultpure Park – a former abandoned riverside landfill, Socrates Sculpture Park is now an outdoor art space and public park. Across the river from Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the park hosts numerous workshops for adults and kids and (weather permitting) an outdoor cinema throughout the summer.

Queens Pride – the first Queens Pride was held in 1993 in commemoration of Julio Rivera, a young gay man who was murdered in a Queens schoolyard. Since then, the event has risen to national prominence, known for its Latin flair, food vendors and outdoor performances. Queens Pride is now the second-largest pride celebration in the New York metropolitan area, hosting numerous gay-rights groups and a parade that goes through the heart of Queens in Jackson Heights.