Queens County is located in the heart of New York City and is hardly referred to as a county at all. It originated as a county and, until just over 100 years ago, functioned just like any other county in the state of New York. Since then, however, it has become a borough of New York City and is operated under a charter that cedes many of its local powers to the mayor of New York. Queens County remains a vital part of the New York City puzzle and is a key destination for working class individuals in the city.
Most people, when thinking about the boroughs that surround Manhattan, immediately think of Brooklyn as being the borough closest to the center of the city. That's actually not true, though. In terms of subway rides, it's actually much more convenient to live in many parts of Queens than it is to live in nearby Brooklyn. For what it's worth, Queens also offers far more affordable housing options than Brooklyn.
The county represents the second largest of the five New York boroughs, with a population of just over 2.2 million residents. It also is the largest of the five boroughs by land area, narrowly beating Brooklyn for this title. Together, it represents one of the largest and most influential boroughs outside of Manhattan.
For those who would prefer not to own a car, Queens is a great choice in most locations. Its easternmost neighborhoods are distinctly underserved by the Metropolitan Transit Authority's subway lines, but areas closer to the city have access to 24-hour subway services that can largely allow residents to live without a car all year long. Both those areas and the ones with limited access to the subway are served by a plethora of bus routes that provide for easy access to Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the neighboring counties of Long Island.
Notably, Queens is home to two of the three largest airports serving New York City. LaGuardia Airport is located in the borough, as is John F. Kennedy International Airport. The MTA provides train service to both airports under the name of AirTrain, which uses the Long Island Rail Road to provide express service to the terminals used for domestic and international flights. Parts of the Long Island Rail Road do serve the broader Queens County community, and make for a good stopgap in some areas where the subway does not reach.
Though it is not the sportiest of New York locations, Queens still contains one legendary sports landmark: Citi Field. Though it's far newer than the long-storied Shea Stadium, Citi Field is still home to one of the most storied teams in baseball and the chief rival of New York's Yankees baseball team, the New York Mets. It has, at various times, also been home to the New York Jets and New York Giants of the National Football League.
The U.S. Open is played each year in Queens, at a location just south of Citi Field. Though not as well publicized as baseball, the event is a huge international draw for tennis fans from all countries and represents a significant part of the local sports culture in the borough.
Queens is one of the few boroughs that doesn't maintain a well-known prestigious university within its bounds. Even so, the borough is home to several campuses of the City University of New York, as well as St. John's University and Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology. LaGuardia Community College and Queensborough Community College serve local residents who are pursuing two-year degrees in a wide number of fields and professions.
Elementary and secondary schools in the county are maintained by the New York City Department of Education, and are part of the largest public education system in the United States. A number of charter schools also operate in the borough, as do private schools affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church and the Jewish community. Both private and public schools in the borough receive relatively high marks, with charter schools receiving even better reviews from parents in most cases.
The reputation of Queens is one of middle-class comfort, and that's largely deserved. The borough is home to a large number of blue-collar workers, including many of New York's police officers and firefighters. Its cost of living is quite a bit lower than Manhattan and, in parts of the borough, is even lower than the cost of living found in Brooklyn. That makes it a top destination for new arrivals to the city and those who don't make six-figure incomes needed to maintain homes elsewhere in New York.
Because of its excellent community college system, affordable standard of living, and close proximity to Manhattan, Queens County remains a large and thriving borough within the greater New York City area. Undoubtedly, Queens County--distinct and progressive--continues to remain one of the most outstanding areas in New York State.