Compared to its eastern Queens neighbors, Hollis Hills flies under the radar. Looking for hip-hop? You want Hollis, an incubator of rap music. Political pedigree? Go to Governor Cuomo’s Holliswood or President Trump’s Jamaica Estates. Big-box stores? Douglaston and Fresh Meadows have those.
Hollis Hills claims no such distinctions. The placid community of about 1,500 single-family houses, built around the time of World War II, is best known for P.S. 188, one of New York City’s top-rated public elementary schools.
It was P.S. 188, also called the Kingsbury School, that attracted Vicky Zhang and Nelson Chen, who had been renting in Bayside. The couple focused their search in areas of Queens served by highly ranked public schools before zeroing in on Hollis Hills, which Mr. Chen, 47, an information technology consultant, said reminded him of the “idyllic leafy neighborhood on Long Island where I grew up.”
In June, the couple closed on a brick-and-frame, three-bedroom colonial, a short walk from the school. They paid $957,500 and began a renovation that includes opening up the first floor.
Mr. Chen said his family appreciates the quiet surroundings and the diversity of their neighbors: Christian and Jewish; Asian, Ecuadorean and Eastern European, among others. Most important, their son, a first-grader, was accepted into P.S. 188’s gifted and talented program.
“There’s a lot of homework, and he’s not too happy about that,” Mr. Chen said. “But that’s good. We wanted to give him a rigorous beginning.”
He and Ms. Zhang, who is in her 30s and works in insurance, are typical of Hollis Hills newcomers, many of them Asian or Bukharian Jewish families moving from Forest Hills, Kew Gardens and other Queens neighborhoods closer to Manhattan. Zion Halili, the president of the Hollis Hills Civic Association and a 30-year resident, said P.S. 188 and quick highway access are among the attractions for home buyers, as is, for the Bukharian community, the presence of an Orthodox shul, Chabad of Eastern Queens.
“You’re in the city, close to everything, but it’s a beautiful suburban area — where are you going to find so much green?” said Mr. Halili, whose organization tends to the aesthetics by planting flowers in public spaces.
After coming up short in five Hollis Hills bidding wars, Carin Bail and David Rosenfeld were determined to land a house in the neighborhood where Ms. Bail grew up and her parents still reside. In 2014, while living with their toddler son in a one-bedroom Bayside co-op, the couple bid over the asking price for a two-bedroom, side-hall colonial listed at $549,000.
“I wanted to live in Hollis Hills so freaking badly and decided, ‘I’m getting this house,’” said Ms. Bail, 41, a literacy specialist with the city schools.
They paid $570,000. Now, with two children, Ms. Bail and Mr. Rosenfeld, 47, an occupational therapist, plan to build a third bedroom over the attached garage.
With Hollis Hills near “every single highway” — which is good for her husband, who drives to work in the Bronx — Ms. Bail cites location as an advantage. Indeed, residents tend to use their cars. The closest everyday shopping — supermarket, pharmacy, dry cleaner — is a neighborhood away, on 73rd Avenue in Oakland Gardens.
“It would be cool if Hollis Hills had more conveniences, like a busy Astoria,” Ms. Bail said. “But sometimes it’s nice not having all that stuff.”
What You’ll Find
Wedged between Cunningham and Alley Pond parks, in an elevated portion of Queens shaped by retreating glaciers, Hollis Hills is bounded by the Clearview Expressway to the west, Grand Central Parkway to the south and Springfield Boulevard to the east. Woods provide a buffer against the highways, and a forested path that was part of the old Long Island Motor Parkway forms the community’s northern border.
Union Turnpike, the main drag, creates a postal division. Homes to the south — the majority of those in the neighborhood — are in Queens Village’s 11427 ZIP code. Those on the north side are in Oakland Gardens’s 11364.
The housing stock includes primarily colonial, ranch and Cape Cod-style houses on 40- to 50-foot lots. But in recent years, scores of homes have been expanded or replaced by new construction.
“Every single house I sell in Hollis Hills, the buyer does something to — knock it down completely, gut it, extend it,” said Irene Gringuz, a saleswoman with Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty and a Hollis Hills resident. “The old-timers grumble, but I tell them, ‘All this construction around you, that’s the reason your home has such a high value.’”
What You’ll Pay
While smaller houses needing renovation are sometimes listed in the high $800,000s, prices generally start in the $900,000s, said Julia Shildkret, owner of the Julia Shildkret Real Estate Group, in Fresh Meadows. But “we haven’t yet seen a selling price of $2 million,” she added, a level eclipsed in Holliswood and Jamaica Estates, where properties are larger.
On Nov. 1, the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island showed 12 houses on the market in the Hollis Hills portions of the 11427 and 11364 ZIP codes. They ranged from a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom Tudor on 214th Street listed at $900,000, with annual property taxes of $8,454, to a five-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bathroom colonial on 85th Avenue listed at $1.69 million, with property taxes of $11,038. Four houses were ranches on Stewart Road, listed from $949,000 to $1.298 million.
Through the first nine months of 2018, the median sales price was $940,000, up from $878,000 a year earlier, according to the listing service.
Except for a library branch, six houses of worship and two small commercial clusters along Union Turnpike — one anchored by a Greek restaurant, the other by an Italian restaurant — Hollis Hills has few amenities. Mr. Halili, of the Civic Association, said he hopes to raise money to build a playground, as many newcomers are families with small children.
Even without a playground or ball field, residents have opportunities to gather. Block parties, wine socials and Christmas tree and menorah lightings are among the events sponsored by the Civic Association.
“Hollis Hills is small and tucked away, and doesn’t really have a big profile,” said Donny Deutsch, the media personality, who returns to his old neighborhood on the High Holy Days to worship at the Hollis Hills Bayside Jewish Center, where he attended Hebrew school. “Sometimes I tell people I grew up in Bayside, because so many have never heard of Hollis Hills.”
The only public school in Hollis Hills, P.S. 188, enrolls 734 students in prekindergarten through fifth grade and is known for its writing program. The school’s art program gained notice last spring when a third-grader was named the New York State finalist in the Google 4 Doodle competition. On state tests this year, 84 percent of students met or exceeded standards in reading and 91 percent in math, versus 48 and 49 percent citywide.
Many students go on to M.S. 172 on 257th Street in Floral Park, which has close to 1,000 students in sixth through eighth grade. On state tests, 70 percent met or exceeded standards in reading and 57 percent in math, versus 44 and 36 percent citywide.
The nearest public high school is Martin Van Buren, on Hillside Avenue in Queens Village, but most Hollis Hills students attend other public or private high schools throughout the city.
The QM6 and QM36 express buses to Midtown Manhattan pick up passengers on Union Turnpike. Alternatively, commuters can take the Q46 bus to the Union Turnpike-Kew Gardens subway station and grab an E or F train. Another option is driving to the Bayside station of the Long Island Rail Road for a train to Pennsylvania Station. The ride takes about a half-hour; the fare is $10.25 during peak hours, or $226 monthly.
Decades before the Long Island Expressway existed, there was the Long Island Motor Parkway, 45 bucolic miles of concrete between Queens and Ronkonkoma. Developed in 1908 by the industrialist Cornelius Vanderbilt’s great-grandson, the private toll road was the nation’s first thoroughfare built specifically for automobiles, and was used for 30 years. Prominent remnants in Hollis Hills include the walking and biking path maintained by the city parks department, and bridges over Hollis Hills Terrace and Springfield Boulevard.