STRANGE PERSISTENCE: VAN ALST

by Kevin Walsh

I’LL say it right off the bat this time: long ago, 21st Street, a main artery running from Ditmars through Long Island City to Hunters Point, was called Van Alst Avenue. It hasn’t, though, since the 1920s, when most named streets in Queens, with some exceptions, were assigned street numbering. Van Alst sounds like a Dutch name, and likely comes from colonial-era settlers who immigrated from Holland and owned property in the area. When surveyors working in the 1800s laid out streets in western Queens, the Van Alsts were rewarded for selling their property with a main drag named for the family.

In the title card is the apartment building at #27-24 21st Street, between Astoria Square at 27th Avenue and 28th Avenue, known as the Van Alst.

photo: Jeremiah Cox

When the IND Crosstown Line was constructed between 1933 and 1937, connecting Queens Plaza and the IND Culver Line, a station was placed at 21st Street, and it was subnamed Van Alst so that oldtimers in the area who still called 21st Street Van Alst Avenue would not get confused. However, the station has been through a number of sign replacements since, and newer signs still call it Van Alst, probably for tradition’s sake alone at this point.

Van Alst Court, just north of 45th Avenue and its landmarked district, was named Van Alst Court when it was built. There’s also a playground on 30th Avenue called Van Alst Playground at 30th Avenue near 21st Street.

A few years ago, FNY took an in-depth look at 21st-Van Alst Avenue.

Are you a Van Alst? What do you think? Comments are now open.

As always, “comment…as you see fit.” I earn a small payment when you click on any ad on the site.

8/4/22

4 comments

Sergey Kadinsky August 5, 2022 - 8:04 am

The ancestors of the Van Alst family are from the city of Aalst, in the Dutch-speaking Flanders half of Belgium.

Reply
thereralguyfaux August 5, 2022 - 9:30 pm

Since the 63rd Street tunnel opened in 1989 with a stop at 21st Street-Queensbridge, it DOES make some sort of sense to have the “Van Alst” nomenclature remain to differentiate the two . For the first 50-odd years the G-train stop was there, maybe not so much.

Reply
Kenneth Buettner August 8, 2022 - 11:33 am

There are also sub-names on the Number 7 at 33rd Street (Rawson Street), 40th Street (Lowery Street) and 46th Street (Bliss Street). A few years ago, the MTA renovated those stations and removed the sub-names. A major public outcry caused the MTA to restore the names. There were once sub-names on the Astoria line (N & W), but they were not as fortunate and are lost.

Reply
Hart Sastrowardoyo August 8, 2022 - 5:30 pm

I read the inscription on top of the doorway as “Vanal St.”

Reply

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