The Queens neighborhood of Douglaston—a onetime vacation community for wealthy residents of Manhattan and Brooklyn—has long been an official part of New York City, but it still feels like a land apart. Its quiet, tree-lined streets and stately, detached homes seem far more suburban than urban. It contains sections of a 650-acre park, with wetlands, hiking trails and an environmental center. The landmark area of Douglas Manor sits on a peninsula jutting into the picturesque Little Neck Bay, which is popular for swimming and sailing.
“When we go into Manhattan, we say we’re going into the city,” says Mike Gannon, a trustee and researcher with the Douglaston and Little Neck Historical Society. “It’s always been kind of the country, not really the city, even though we are part of the city.”
Because Douglaston is within the city, property taxes are lower than in nearby Nassau County. The nearby Throgs Neck and Whitestone bridges offers some drivers a relatively easy commute.
There is no subway service in the neighborhood and getting around without a car is difficult, but Douglaston has its own Long Island Rail Road stop on the Port Washington line. The line’s trains, which don’t pass through the railroad’s hub of Jamaica—cutting down on transfers and delays—travel between Douglaston and Penn Station in less than 30 minutes.
The median listing price in Douglaston is $259,000, according to StreetEasy.com, with prices ranging from less than $200,000 for one- or two-bedroom co-ops in prewar buildings to well over $1 million for historic homes in sought-after sections. Brokers say single-family houses tend to start around $800,000 and soar into the millions, including some of the costliest homes in Queens.
Douglaston’s name derives from the prominent Douglas family, which sold land to the Rickert-Finlay Realty Co. about 100 years ago to create the Douglas Manor Association, a planned garden community. The association today owns and operates the neighborhood’s entire waterfront, with a dock, pier, beach and a waterfront park.
In 1997, the Colonials, Tudors, Mediterranean Revival and Arts and Crafts-style houses, which, among others, comprise Douglas Manor, became part of the Douglaston Historic District.
Many of the manor’s 600 homes were designed by prominent architects such as Gustav Stickley and Josephine Wright Chapman. New homes can’t be built or existing homes altered without approval from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Within Douglas Manor is the Douglaston Club, a private yacht, tennis and pool club based in a 19th-century building once owned by the Douglas family.
“We preserved it. We saved our trees, we saved our houses,” says Rod O’Connell, the owner of Bryce Rea Associates, a real-estate firm. “People stay for generations. My family is there since 1945, and we’re hardly the oldest family in the area, so there are a lot of roots here for all of us,” he said.
Many residents also have long memories: Earlier this year, local preservationists and elected officials succeeded in convincing the city to restore the original names of six streets in the now-landmark Douglaston Hill section which were switched to numbers decades earlier, in keeping with the Queens numbered system.
“The local people never really gave up the street names,” Mr. Gannon says. The restored names include Pine and Poplar streets and Orient Avenue.
Parks: Parts of the 650-acre Alley Pond Park fall within Douglaston. Its features include wetlands, ball fields, playgrounds, tennis courts, hiking trails and the Alley Pond Adventure Course. The Douglas Manor Association’s waterfront includes a park and dock that are restricted to members. Nearby is the public Douglaston Park Golf Course.
Schools: Douglaston is part of District 26 and local public schools include P.S. 98 the Douglaston School, with about 270 students. It received a B rating from the city for the 2011-12 school year, as did J.H.S. 67, the Louis Pasteur School.
According to state data, 65% of eighth-graders in District 26 met or exceeded proficiency standards in English Language Arts in 2010-11, compared with 70% the year before, and 86% did so in math, compared with 81% the previous year.
Local private schools include the Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy, a three-year-old Roman Catholic school with students in prekindergarten through eighth grade.
Dining: Restaurants in Douglaston include Il Toscano Ristorante, on 235th Street, an upscale Italian restaurant, and Strawberry’s Sports Grill, a two-year-old barbecue and comfort-food pub created by the former Mets and Yankees star Darryl Strawberry.
Shopping: Some shops are along 235th Street, and a Fairway opened last year on 61st Avenue.
Entertainment: Movieworld, a theater on 61st Avenue, shows first-run movies, as well as Indian movies every two weeks.
A version of this article appeared October 6, 2012, on page A18 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Douglaston Works at Being So Near, So Far.