If you stopped a Jackson Heights resident on the street and asked them which “Jackson” Jackson Heights is named for, if they had any guess at all they would probably say 7th President Andrew Jackson, “Old Hickory,” the War of 1812 hero general, whose Presidency is now under scrutiny because of his support for slavery and treatment of Native Americans. As a matter of fact the late Parks Commissioner Henry Stern named a park at the west end of Jackson Avenue “Old Hickory Playground.”
The owners of the large apartment building at 35-20 Leverich Street also bought into the Andrew Jackson theory, lending his name to it. However, Andrew Jackson has nothing to do with Jackson Heights.
Jackson Heights is a large neighborhood as they go in Queens, running from the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway east to the Grand Central Parkway, which also forms its northern border, to Roosevelt Avenue and its #7 train on the south. The main drag bisecting it is Northern Boulevard, which, west of Queens Plaza at the Sunnyside Yards, is called Jackson Avenue southwest to Vernon Boulevard.
The story of Jackson Avenue begins in 1857, when John C. Jackson formed the Hunter’s Point, Newtown and Flushing Turnpike Company to lay out a new road connecting the 34th Street Ferry across Trains Meadow (now Jackson Heights) to Flushing Bay. The turnpike was complete by 1859, and toll gates, fences and mile markers were placed at intervals: the only road in Queens so marked. Ocean Parkway, constructed in Brooklyn by Olmsted and Vaux during the same period, also featured milestones. From the start, it was called Jackson Avenue.
When NYC annexed the western part of Queens County in 1898, it took over the Jackson road and eliminated the tolls, and by 1920, the road east of Queens Plaza was renamed Northern Boulevard. Under a variety of names, and as NY 25A, it now extends out to Orient Point on the North Fork of Long Island.
In a borough largely ignored by NYC’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, the magnificent garden apartments of Jackson Heights are a happy exception. Today’s Jackson Heights is a neighborhood of handsome six-story co-operative apartments, most of which surround a central garden. They appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, beginning in 1914 when the entire area was not much more than a swampy meadow. The Queensboro Corporation and developer Edward MacDougall built now-landmarked housing along today’s 82nd Street, and named it for Jackson Avenue, whose name was changed to Northern Boulevard east of Queens Plaza in about 1920.
Meanwhile, Leverich Street was named for William Leverich, who emigrated to Newtown in 1663 from England. He built his homestead in 1670 and it stood until 1909. The Leverich family burying grounds are still in place, accessible from an alley on 35th Avenue. No tombstones remain.