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The Zigzagging Border Between Brooklyn and Queens Where Many Homes Have Two Addresses


David Pabana was standing on a sidewalk one day this fall when a baseball some children had been playing with rolled into the fence behind him. He threw the ball back to the children. It was at once the most routine act of neighborliness and one of the strangest journeys a baseball can make in New York City. When the ball left Mr. Pabana’s hand, it was in Queens. When it landed, the ball was in Brooklyn.


Mr. Pabana stood on one side of a narrow residential street called Eldert Lane. The children were assembled on the other. In between was an unheralded stretch of the invisible, zigzagging, occasionally awkward and often-disputed 21-mile border demarcating New York City’s two largest boroughs.

The boundary was once a straight line that cut through the city grid, splitting blocks and properties — some people cooked their dinner in Queens but ate it in Brooklyn. In the mid-1920s and the early ’30s, the State Legislature redrew the border at least twice so that it would, for the most part, sit in the center of streets. It flows east off the East River down the center of Newtown Creek and hits land for the first time on an industrial stretch of Metropolitan Avenue. Then it traces a jagged path through umpteen neighborhoods, cutting through creeks and train stations, warehouses and parks, across the football field at the Franklin K. Lane schools and between the headstones at Evergreens Cemetery, causing daily confusion and complications for the thousands of New Yorkers who live and work by its side.

Life on the border has a who’s-on-first feel. Even longtime residents and letter carriers believe that Queens is over there when it is really over here; people insist they live in Brooklyn while they actually live in Queens; on Drew Street, many houses have both a three-digit Brooklyn address and a four-digit hyphenated Queens address.

At 1001 Irving Avenue, a warehouse once occupied by a luggage manufacturer, the first nine letters on the awning — “L-U-G-G-A-G-E E-X” — are in Brooklyn, the last nine — “P-R-E-S-S C-O-R-P.” — in Queens.

Mr. Pabana, 36, a carpenter who lives on Eldert Lane near 87th Road in Woodhaven, once had a Queens car service accuse him of living in Brooklyn (and try to charge him extra). Edwin Velazquez, 63, a retired school bus driver who lives near the line down St. Nicholas Avenue, said that about a year ago, a Queens police officer refused to stop a fight because it was across the street in Brooklyn. “I said, ‘You’re kidding me,’ ” Mr. Velazquez recalled. “He says, ‘You got to call 911.’ ”

Read More: NY Times
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