Briarwood is a middle class neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens. It is located northwest of Jamaica and roughly bounded by Queens Boulevard, Parsons Boulevard, Union Turnpike, and Hillside Avenue. The neighborhood is part of Queens Community Board 8. It is served by the IND Queens Boulevard Line of the New York City Subway at the Briarwood – Van Wyck Boulevard station (E F trains). It lies in the northern half of the 11435 zip code.
Briarwood is today a very diverse community, with lead fractions of the population being African-Americans (36.6%) and European-Americans (30.2%). It has many Bukharian Jewish, Greek, Hispanic, African American, Albanian, and South American residents. It now has a distinguishable and fast-growing Asian American (14.4%) community as well. This is a marked change from the post-war period (1950s-80s) when the neighborhood was almost exclusively white, with a large and active Jewish community. Economic activity is mostly confined to small restaurants, delis, markets, and other small businesses.
The neighborhood is named for the Briarwood Land Company, headed by Herbert O’Brien, which built housing there beginning in 1905. However, the company quickly went bankrupt and the area was largely empty until the 1920s. The New York Life Insurance Company and the United Nations constructed housing in the 1940s; United States diplomat Ralph Bunche and feminist writer Betty Friedan have lived there.
The neighborhood is known to be very inexpensive and provide affordable housing to middle-class families.
The lack of major landmarks in the neighborhood coupled with its small size have caused Briarwood to remain relatively unknown. The local ZIP Code 11435 is actually designated as Jamaica. Parkway Village, a garden apartment complex initially built for United Nations employees is also in Briarwood and, in years past, lent the area a very international flavor with families from all over the world living there and attending the local public schools.
Briarwood is home to the Catholic Archbishop Molloy High School. Some of the school’s more famous alumni are Andrew Cuomo, current New York State Governor and former New York State Attorney General, and actor David Caruso, who is currently featured on the series CSI: Miami. The school is named in honor of Archbishop Thomas Molloy. It has about 1,550 students.
Also located in Briarwood is Robert A. Van Wyck M.S. 217Q, a middle school of 1,300 students in grades 6-8. The school was established in 1955 and was named after the first mayor of the Greater City of New York, Robert A. Van Wyck, a Tammany Hall lawyer.
In the Briarwood – Van Wyck Boulevard subway station, there are many paintings done by the students of Archbishop Molloy High School, M.S. 217Q, and P.S.117Q during the mid-1980s. They are titled, “Beautifying Briarwood”.