Woodhaven is a middle-class neighborhood located in the New York City borough of Queens. Woodhaven is bordered on the north by a public park, Forest Park, and Park Lane South. Woodhaven also borders Richmond Hill to the east, and Ozone Park to the south at Atlantic Avenue. Its western border is the borough of Brooklyn. Woodhaven, once known as Woodville, has one of the greatest tree populations in the borough, and thus it has retained its suburban look. Schools, transportation, and park recreation are convenient.
The ethnically diverse neighborhood is part of Queens Community Board 9. Woodhaven’s Zip Code is 11421. Woodhaven is served by New York City Department of Education School District #27 (From Woodhaven to 271 Street).
European settlement in Woodhaven began in the mid-18th century as a small town that revolved around farming, with the Ditmar, Lott, Wyckoff, Suydam and Snediker families. British troops successfully flanked General George Washington’s Continental Army by a silent night-march from Gravesend, Brooklyn through the lightly defended “Jamaica Pass” actually located in Brooklyn, to win the Battle of Long Island, Queens — the largest battle of the American Revolutionary War, and the first battle after the Declaration of Independence.
Later, Woodhaven became the site of two racetracks: the Union Course (1821) and the Centerville (1825). Union Course was a nationally famous racetrack situated in the area now bounded by 78th Street, 82nd Street, Jamaica Avenue and Atlantic Avenue. The Union Course was the site of the first skinned — or dirt — racing surface, a curious novelty at the time. These courses were originally without grandstands. The custom of conducting a single, four-mile (6 km) race consisting of as many heats as were necessary to determine a winner, gave way to programs consisting of several races. Match races between horses from the South against those from the North drew crowds as high as 70,000. Several hotels (including the Snedeker Hotel and the Forschback Inn) were built in the area to accommodate the racing crowds.
A Connecticut Yankee, John R. Pitkin, developed the eastern area as a workers’ village and named it Woodville (1835). In 1853, he launched a newspaper. That same year, the residents petitioned for a local post office. To avoid confusion with a Woodville located upstate, the residents agreed to change the name to Woodhaven. The original boundaries extended as far south as Liberty Avenue.
Two Frenchmen named Charles Lalance and Florian Grosjean launched the village as a manufacturing community in 1863, by opening a tin factory and improving the process of tin stamping. As late as 1900, the surrounding area, however, was still primarily farmland, and from Atlantic Avenue one could see as far south as Jamaica Bay, site of present-day John F. Kennedy International Airport. Since 1894, Woodhaven’s local newspaper has been the Leader-Observer.