I visited Trump's childhood neighborhood on the outskirts of NYC, and it didn't take long to see why he's called it an 'oasis'

  • President Donald Trump grew up in Queens, New York City.
  • His family lived in a five-bedroom Tudor-style house and later in a 23-room home in Jamaica Estates, a secluded, upper-middle-class community in Queens.
  • The Tudor-style home where Trump lived until he was four years old has been for sale at auction on and off over the past two years since it last sold at auction for $2.14 million in March 2017.
  • Last year, I took a tour to see what Trump's childhood neighborhood was like, and it was immediately clear why he's called the area an "oasis."
  • It was peaceful and secluded, filled with stately homes and quiet leafy streets. 
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President Donald Trump grew up on the outskirts of Queens in New York City.

Jamaica Estates, where he lived until age 13, is an affluent community, filled with stately homes and wide, tree-lined streets. 

"Different parts of Queens were rough; this was an oasis," Trump told the New York Times in 2015. He said Jamaica Estates "was safe — it was very family oriented."

The five-bedroom Tudor-style house where Trump lived until he was four years old was put up for auction after it failed to sell for its $2.9 million asking price earlier this year.

I walked around the neighborhood on a spring day in 2019 and visited the two houses where the Trump family lived. Here's what it was like.

President Donald Trump spent his childhood until age 13 in Jamaica Estates, a wealthy community in Queens on the outskirts of New York City, which is at least a 45-minute drive from Midtown Manhattan.

Source: The New York Times

The neighborhood was partially built by the president's father, Fred Trump.

Source: The New York Times

On a spring day in 2019, I decided to visit the neighborhood to see what it was like.

The train ride from my office in lower Manhattan took about an hour and 10 minutes. I got off at the Hillside Av/179 St. stop in Jamaica, Queens, at the end of the F train line.

Hillside Avenue is one of the main shopping corridors of Jamaica and marks the southern border of Jamaica Estates.

Source: Times Ledger

I got there around the time kids were getting out of school, so the avenue was lively and bustling.

I saw an empanada restaurant, sneaker shops, 99 cent stores, a Dunkin Donuts, pharmacies, a Chinese restaurant, fried chicken joints, nail salons, and a 7-Eleven.

I walked down Hillside Avenue toward the entrance to Jamaica Estates, which is marked by a stately-looking gatehouse.

The neighborhood began as a gated community.

I walked down Midland Parkway, a wide boulevard perpendicular to busy Hillside Avenue, and one thing immediately stuck out: It was noticeably quieter on the boulevard.

Elly Wong, a resident of the neighborhood for 19 years and board member of the Jamaica Estates Association, told me that more and more big apartment buildings are starting to replace single family homes.

But the apartments near Hillside Avenue gave way to plenty of single-family homes as I walked down Midland Parkway.

The houses seemed to get progressively larger the deeper I walked into the neighborhood.

Many of them had gated front yards.

After about five minutes of walking, I came to Wareham Place, the street where President Trump lived until he was about four years old.

Source: Washington Post

The first home I saw was this Tudor-style house with a Range Rover in the driveway.

The tree-lined street was very quiet, and I didn't see anyone walking around.

Trump told the New York Times in 1997 that Jamaica Estates was "very serene and very beautiful and it had a great feeling of safety and security."

Source: The New York Times

There was a mix of vehicles on the street, but I saw more than a few Range Rovers, BMWs, and Mercedes.

Wong told me the neighborhood is known for its Tudor-style homes.

About halfway down the block, I came across the Trump family home built by Fred C. Trump, the first house where Donald Trump lived.

Source: CNN Money

The Trump family lived there until Donald Trump was about four years old.

Source: CNN Money

The two-story Tudor-style home, which has six bedrooms, was last sold in March 2017 for $2.14 million.

In the past couple of years, it's been up for auction on-and-off with Paramount Realty USA, but it hasn't yet sold.

The house looked more modest and ordinary than I'd expected — except for the silver sports car that was parked out front.

As I kept walking, I was again struck by how quiet the street was, with the only sounds being wind chimes or the occasional car driving by. I didn't feel like I was in New York City at all.

Wong said she finds the neighborhood to be very safe.

"There is a large sense of community and the residents really care about the neighborhood," she said.  "All the lawns are very well cared for, as are the homes."

She said the community has its own civic association and its own patrol.

"Different parts of Queens were rough; this was an oasis," Trump told the New York Times in 2015. He said Jamaica Estates "was safe — it was very family oriented."

Source: The New York Times

Just a few minutes' walk away from the first Trump house is a stately-looking house on Midland Parkway.

Source: Washington Post

The Trump family moved there in 1950, when Donald Trump was four.

Source: Washington Post

It was much larger than the other house, with a brick exterior and white columns flanking the entrance. The front yard was perfectly landscaped.

Trump lived in the 23-room family home until he went to a military boarding school at age 13.

Source: Washington Post, Washington Post

Trump used to spend time at the nearby Cunningham Park, where he reportedly played Little League, so I decided to check that out too.

It was a pleasant 25-minute walk from the Trump family house.

I passed some seriously impressive houses …

… some of which could more aptly be called mansions.

I arrived at Cunningham Park and found it to be just as quiet as the leafy streets.

Unlike Central Park or Prospect Park or other usually busy city parks, there were only a few people walking their dogs, riding bikes, and relaxing on park benches.

A baseball field similar to one where Trump might've played in the 1950s stood empty.

From one corner of the park, I caught a bus to the Kew-Forest School, a private school in Forest Hills, Queens, that Trump attended through seventh grade.

Source: Washington Post

It's in a residential neighborhood, surrounded by apartment buildings and homes on three sides …

… and the Jackie Robinson Parkway on the other.

The school didn't look particularly extraordinary to me, but a quick perusal of the website revealed that tuition for the 2019-20 school year ranged from $19,950 for half-day preschoolers up to $41,340 for grades 9-12.

Source: The Kew-Forest School

After my tour of Jamaica Estates, I could definitely see why Trump once called it an "oasis."

It's quiet and secluded, filled with beautiful homes and peaceful, leafy streets, and it feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan.

But although it may still be an oasis, the neighborhood has changed since Trump lived there.

Jason Horowitz of the New York Times described the Jamaica Estates of the 1950s as "an exclusive and nearly all-white place, resistant to outsiders and largely impenetrable to minorities."

But today, the neighborhood tells a different story.

"It's a very diverse community, with a strong Jewish presence (there is a Jewish community center on Union Turnpike), Greek, Chinese, and Bangladeshi … We have it all," Wong told me.

In Queens Community District 8, which encompasses Jamaica Estates as well as Jamaica, Jamaica Hills, Briarwood, Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest, Holliswood, Kew Gardens Hills, Pomonok, and Utopia, nearly half the population — 47.2% — is foreign-born.

Source: NYC Planning

So while I probably won't going back to Jamaica Estates anytime soon — it's quite a trek — I can certainly see why it would be a calm and beautiful place to live.

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