18 SEPTEMBER 17, 2020 RIDGEWOOD TIMES WWW.QNS.COM
OUR NEIGHBORHOOD: THE WAY IT WAS
The big rock that helped shaped the Brooklyn/Queens border
BY THE OLD TIMER
Many of The Old Timer’s readers have often
asked about the borderline between
Brooklyn and Queens, which nowadays
has evolved into a question about the border between
Ridgewood and Bushwick.
If you look on a map of New York City, Brooklyn
and Queens have two natural borders: the Newtown
Creek to the north and Jamaica Bay to the
south. The landlocked portion of the boundary has
shift ed time and again — street by street, block by
block — through the generations.
Nowhere has this borderline changed more oft en
than in Ridgewood, oft en for political purposes,
and the changes themselves triggered some testy
battles between the two counties.
One can fi nd a reminder of such a battle in the
form of a boulder dating back to the Ice Age in the
rear yard of the Onderdonk House in Ridgewood.
Arbitration Rock, as it is called, helped settle decades
of border disputes during the colonial period
between the towns of Bushwick and Newtown
(Ridgewood’s birth name) and, subsequently, Kings
and Queens counties.
All parties involved in the border dispute formed
the boundary in January 1769 based on the rock’s
location about 300 feet northwest of the Onderdonk
House, where warehouses north of Flushing Avenue
now stand. For decades thereaft er, the border
based on Arbitration Rock defi ned many property
disputes among nearby owners, but the boulder’s
topographical importance was diminished in 1898
aft er Brooklyn and Queens became part of New
In 1925, the Brooklyn-Queens border changed
again because the line, as it was in the middle of
city blocks in the still-developing area, now ran
through entire buildings, complicating real estate
tax assessments and the formation of electoral
The revised border, starting from the Newtown
Creek and going south, crossed Metropolitan Avenue
and ran down Onderdonk Avenue, then along
the Long Island Rail Road’s Bushwick branch and
southeast on Seneca Avenue to Flushing Avenue.
Continuing in a south to southwesterly fashion,
the border then ran through the middle of Flushing
Avenue to Cypress Avenue; Cypress Avenue to
Menahan Street; Menahan Street to St. Nicholas
Avenue; St. Nicholas Avenue to Gates Avenue; Gates
Avenue to Wyckoff Avenue; Wyckoff Avenue to
Eldert Street; Eldert Street to Irving Avenue; and Irving
Avenue to Most Holy Trinity Cemetery and the
Cemetery of the Evergreens. The border was woven
between the many cemeteries near Highland Park
before reaching Cypress Hills and Woodhaven.
Because of this change, approximately 2,543
people who formerly resided in Queens were
shift ed into Brooklyn, and 135 people who formerly
resided in Brooklyn were shift ed into Queens.
It was a relatively painless transformation, and
Arbitration Rock would become an aft erthought
for many decades. It was actually buried in 1930
below Onderdonk Avenue as part of the road’s
Toward the end of the 20th century, historians’
interest in the rock’s locations were piqued, and
aft er a seven-year hunt, the boulder was located
and unearthed from Onderdonk Avenue.
Ironically, that triggered another battle regarding
where the big rock would be placed. Then-Borough
President Claire Shulman initially wanted Arbitration
Rock placed near Kew Gardens, the seat of
Queens’ government; historians and Brooklynites,
however, wanted the rock at the Onderdonk House,
closer to its original location.
Aft er much — for lack of a better term, arbitration
— the parties agreed to place Arbitration Rock
on the Onderdonk House grounds in 2001. It stands
there today as a reminder to future generations of
its importance in our neighborhood’s history and
Reprinted from the Aug. 27, 2015 issue of the Ridgewood
* * *
If you have any remembrances or old photographs
of “Our Neighborhood: The Way It Was” that you
would like to share with our readers, please write to
the Old Timer, c/o Ridgewood Times, 38-15 Bell Blvd.,
Bayside, NY 11361, or send an email to editorial@
ridgewoodtimes.com. Any print photographs mailed
to us will be carefully returned to you upon request.