Flushing was originally inhabited by Matinecock Indians. The Dutch first settled in the region 1628 and established New Netherland. In 1664 the Duke of York took over the Dutch colony and renamed New Netherland to New York.
Under Dutch rule, New Netherland Director-General Peter Stuyvesant prohibited the harboring of Quakers and other religious minorities. In 1657, 30 Flushing residents penned the Flushing Remonstrance, requesting freedom of worship for all religions. After its rejection, John Bowne held Quaker meetings in his home and was deported for this. Eventually he persuaded the Dutch West India Company to allow Quakers and others to worship freely. The Flushing Remonstrance inspired the Founding Fathers to draft the First Amendment to the Constitution. Thus, Flushing is considered to be the birthplace of religious freedom in America.
Flushing was also the site of the first commercial tree nurseries in North America. The naming of streets in Flushing celebrates this fact (Ash Avenue, Beech, Cherry …Poplar, Quince, Rose). Flushing also supplied trees to Central Park in Manhattan. The prominence of Flushing as a horticultural center is also reflected in the beautiful grounds of the Queens Botanical Gardens.
During the 19th century, Flushing’s proximity to Manhattan was critical in its transformation into a fashionable residential area. Local farmland continued to be subdivided and developed transforming Flushing into a densely populated neighborhood of New York City. Flushing was leading in the abolitionist movement. In 1865, abolitionist Frederick Douglass spoke at the Flushing Town Hall on the role of African Americans in antebellum America. The emergence of a drive by the large African American community to educate people of all backgrounds prompted the founding of Flushing High School in 1875, is New York City’s oldest public school.
In the early 20th century, more bridges were constructed over the Flushing River, the 7 train subway line and the Long Island Railroad was added to connect Manhattan with Flushing. These helped increase Flushing’s resident population and transform Flushing into a commute hub. Later in the 20th century, a surge of Asian immigrants came to Flushing due to the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965, repealing racial and national barriers. Another wave of immigration occurred in the 1980s, mainly from Asia and Central America.
Since the 1990s, Flushing has become a global village, hosting regional cuisines from every corner of Asia and Latin America, with the most sought-after spots in the City for foodies in-the-know. Shoppers come from around the region for unique products and services difficult to find anywhere else. It is a one-of-a-kind destination where one can experience diverse cultures, cuisines, and shops all in one neighborhood.