Valley Stream is known for being a big village with a small town feel. With a population of nearly 38,000, Valley Stream is one of the largest villages in the state of New York. The incorporated village is located inside the southwest part of the town of Hempstead, along the border of Queens
The Long Island community offers an abundance of annual activities, with the summer months especially festive. The village sponsors a well-attended summer day-camp program, and the annual Fourth of July fireworks show at Firemen's Memorial Field draws about 30,000 people.
Valley Stream's 160 acres of parkland include picturesque Hendrickson Park, with amenities such as a mile track around a lake, three pools, tennis and basketball courts; there's also a 9/11 memorial and an off-the leash dog park.
Plenty of shops, eateries and a wealth of services can be found along major thoroughfares, including Rockaway Avenue, the area's original business district. Green Acres Mall, one of the Island's first malls, opened in 1956.
Cape-styled homes dominate the area's neighborhoods, but Colonials, ranches and Tudors also can be found on tightly packed, neat lots, as well as two-family homes, numerous condos and housing for seniors.
Communities bordering Valley Stream are Elmont (Home of Belmont Park Racetrack), Lynbrook, Malverne, Franklin Square, Hewlett, Woodmere and the Queens neighborhood, Rosedale.
In 1640, the Rockaway Indians sold the area that is now known as Valley Stream to the Dutch West India Company. The heavily wooded area remained undeveloped for over 200 years.
The 1840 census lists about 20 families, mainly large farm owners residing in the area. During this time the northwest section was called “Fosters Meadow,” The business section of town on Rockaway Avenue was known as “Rum Junction,” because of its bustling nightlife scene, the northeast section that was home to a fertilizer plant was called “Skunks Misery.” The area known as “Hungry Harbor,” which has retained its’ name, was home to a squatter’s community.
A Growth Spurt
In the mid 1800s, Hempstead Turnpike was the only route that connected Valley Stream to New York City. Then in 1853, a planked, one lane road named Merrick Road made its way through Valley Stream connecting the Village to Merrick in the east, and Jamaica to the west. With this new thoroughfare, Valley Stream residents as well as the town’s industry, began its move southward.
In 1869, the South Side Railroad made its first stop in Valley Stream. Between the new railroad and emergence of Merrick Road, Valley Stream began to expand into a substantial community. Around this time tourists from Brooklyn and Queens flocked to the area to vacation in the newly opened Hendrickson Park or play golf in a freshly opened course. Many of these tourists who came for a visit would eventually move to the area and call Valley Stream home.
Sensing an opportunity to lure white collar commuters to the area, and make a bundle in the process, real estate developer William R. Gibson purchased 500 acres of land on Roosevelt Avenue in 1922. He would go on to build homes on Avondale, Berkeley, Cambridge, Derby, Elmwood, Cochran Place and Dartmouth Street. Valley Stream’s population exploded during this time.
As a result of this growth spurt Valley Stream was incorporated as a village in 1925. Four years later Gibson petitioned the Long Island Rail Road for a stop in Valley Stream. LIRR agreed but only if Gibson would build the station himself. He did and on May 29, 1929, the Gibson station officially opened. The Gibson Station currently retains the name of its founder.
Valley Stream Today
Valley Stream is the 30th largest community in New York and its’ home and condo prices are among the most expensive in the state and the country.
The area is home to a mixture of white and blue collar workers and is a diverse, vibrant community. Tourists continue to flock to the area to take in the towns’ stunning botanical gardens, numerous art galleries, plethora of restaurants and upscale boutiques and the extremely popular Green Acres Mall.
Former residents of Valley Stream include SNL funnyman Fred Armisen, actor/director Edward Burns, actor Steve Buscemi, former NFL pro bowler and Detroit Lion Stephen Boyd and the reggae singer Shaggy.
Christy Smith-Sloman is a staff writer at The Cooperator and other publications.