Most of the original neighborhood is a National Register Historic District and a New York State Historic Register District. About half has been designated as a New York City Historic District by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. It comprises large garden apartment buildings (the term was invented for buildings in Jackson Heights) and many groupings of private homes. It was a planned development laid out by Edward A. MacDougall's Queensboro Corporation beginning about 1916, and following the arrival of the No. 7 elevated line between Manhattan and Flushing. The community was initially planned as a place for middle- to upper-middle income workers from Manhattan to raise their families. The Jackson Heights New York State and National Register Districts range from 93rd Street through 69th Street between Northern Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue. Some property fronting on Northern Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue, as well as some "cut-outs", are not inside the Register Districts. A former golf course located between 76th and 78th Streets and 34th and 37th Avenues was built upon during the 1940s. The New York City Historic District of Jackson Heights was designated October 19, 1993. It encompasses an area between 76th and 88th Streets and Roosevelt Avenue and Northern Boulevard. Unlike the State and National Districts, the local designation comes with aesthetic protections.
Jackson Heights is believed to be the first garden city community built in the United States, as part of the international garden city movement at the turn of the 20th century. There are many private parks (historically called "gardens" by the residents) within walking distance of each other. They are tucked in the mid-blocks, mostly hidden from view by the buildings surrounding them. Unless given an invitation, entry is restricted to those who own a co-op around its perimeter. The basis for the private ownership of the parks of Jackson Heights is derived from its founding principle as a privately owned neighborhood built largely under the oversight of one person. The historic section of Jackson Heights is the more affluent part of the neighborhood.
The MTA spent over $100 million on renovations to the facility that were completed in 2005. It includes one of the first green buildings in the MTA system, the Victor A. Moore Bus Terminal, which is partially powered by solar panels built into the roof. These are located along the length of the sheds above the Flushing line platforms.
Interstate 278 (the Brooklyn Queens Expressway) and the Grand Central Parkway are major roads in the area. LaGuardia International Airport, in East Elmhurst, just north of Jackson Heights, is nearby.
Indian restaurant on 74th Street
Most housing units in Jackson Heights are apartments in multi-unit buildings, many of which are five or six stories. Many of these buildings are co-ops, some are rentals, and a few are condominiums. There are also a number of one- to three-family houses, most of which are attached row houses.
The main retail thoroughfare is located on 37th Avenue from 72nd Street to Junction Boulevard, with more retail on 82nd, 73rd and 74th Streets on the blocks between 37th and Roosevelt Avenues. Stores and restaurants on and near 74th street tend to cater to the large South Asian population in the neighborhood, with sari and jewelry stores, Indian and Bengali music and movie retailers and many restaurants. 37th Avenue contains a wide mix of retailers, including many grocery stores, and 82nd street contains many national chain stores located in Tudor-style buildings in the Jackson Heights Historic District. South American retailers and eateries, predominantly from Colombia and Peru dominate Northern Boulevard from 80th Street east to the border of neighboring Corona at Junction Boulevard. Roosevelt Avenue is also lined with various mainly Hispanic retail stores. The majority of 35th and 34th Avenues and most side streets between 37th Avenue and Northern Boulevard are residential.
Jackson Heights is among the most diverse neighborhoods in New York City and the nation. Jackson Heights is home to large numbers of South Americans, particularly Argentinians, Colombians, South Asians, and East Asians. The community is home to various houses of worship from a wide array of religions. Saint Joan of Arc Catholic Church is located between 82nd and 83rd Street on 35th Avenue. The Jackson Heights Jewish Center is located on the corner of 77th Street and 37th Avenue. The Community United Methodist Church is on 82nd Street. St Mark's Episcopal Church is on 34th Avenue between 81st and 82nd Streets.
Colombian broadcaster RCN TV has its US-American headquarters in the neighborhood, reflecting the sizable Colombian population in the area.
There is a year-round greenmarket every Sunday morning at Travers Park, as well as various family-oriented spring and summer concerts.
The Jackson Heights Garden City Society is a historical society, whose founders include local historians, the Queens Borough Historian and local activists. They created and oversee the Jackson Heights Garden City Trail and publish a walking guidebook to Jackson Heights. They also collect artifacts of the community. Periodically, the Society testifies before the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission on issues of concern to the community.
The word game Scrabble was co-invented by former architect Alfred Mosher Butts, who lived in Jackson Heights. There is a street sign at 35th Avenue and 81st Street that is stylized using letters, with their values in Scrabble as a subscript; it was originally erected in 1995 but disappeared in 2008, and a new sign was subsequently put up in 2011.
Jackson Heights has followed the general crime patterns of New York City. After crime spikes in the 1970s into the 1990s, crime has declined significantly. According to New York City Police DepartmentCompStat statistics, measured crime has declined more than 74% in the last 21 years (1993 to 2014). As of December 2014[update], the murder rate is down over 70% and grand larceny auto is down 93% from 1990. In 2013, there were 3 murders, 34 rapes, 325 felony assaults, 332 robberies, 275 burglaries, 612 grand larcenies, and 141 grand larcenies auto.
Private schools in the neighborhood include Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School, a school which turned co-ed by the end of the 2012 school year, though technically located in East Elmhurst. Garden School, an independent school within Jackson Heights, enrolls students from grades PK-12.
Con Edison sponsored several summer tennis camps at P.S. 69's school yard from 1982-1992. In 1998, P.S. 69 built an annex to compensate for the booming population of children in Jackson Heights and the public access to the school yard was removed.
On November 30, 2011, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other city officials opened the 200th “Schoolyard to Playground” at P.S. 69 as a part of the PlaNYC initiative to ensure all New Yorkers live within a 10 minute walk of a park or playground. The newly opened playground at P.S. 69 is the latest schoolyard to be renovated and opened to the public during non-school hours through the program, which is turning schoolyards into playgrounds in neighborhoods across the city.
Much of the Alfred Hitchcock film The Wrong Man takes place within a few blocks of the intersection of Broadway and 74th Street. The former Victor Moore Arcade and the connecting subway station, were prominently featured in the movie. The arcade was demolished and rebuilt from 1998 to 2005 and became known as the Victor A. Moore Bus Terminal. It was named after Jackson Heights resident Victor Moore, a Broadway and film actor from the era of silent film to the 1950s.
^Jacobson, Mark. "The Icon: Doll Face", New York (magazine), September 23, 2002. Accessed May 28, 2009. "Then came the sad pictures: Johnny and Jerry, RIP, and Billy Murcia too, their first drummer, a Colombian from Jackson Heights, dead in a London bathtub."
^Abadjian, Nick. "Inventors of Queens", Queens Tribune, May 22, 2003. Accessed December 17, 2007. "Carlson, a Jackson Heights resident, worked as a lab researcher for a year and got laid off."
^Street, Jim. "Where've you gone, Dave Fleming?", Seattle Mariners, June 10, 2003. Accessed May 28, 2009. "The ace of the '92 staff was Dave Fleming, a quiet southpaw born in the Jackson Heights section of Queens, N.Y., who *John leguizamowent from College World Series star at the University of Georgia to the Major Leagues in a blink of an eye."
^Jennings, Dana. "New York Action Hero", The New York Times, November 23, 2003. Accessed may 28, 2009. "Mr. Quesada also falls squarely in comics' up-by-your-bootstraps, Ellis Island lineage. He grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens (Spider-Man's home borough), the comics-seduced child of Cuban immigrants."
^Staff. "Hollywood Freeway", Los Angeles Daily News, July 17, 1990. Accessed May 28, 2009. "When you grow up in the projects in Jackson Heights, in the New York borough of Queens, you don't think about having a golf and tennis tournament named after you. You only think about getting out and surviving. Kevin Dobson got out."