Mapmaker Profile: Ann Lien

Mapmaker Profile - Ann Lien

Ann Lien is a 12-year—and hopefully, lifelong—resident of Jackson Heights. She fixes modifiers that dangle during the day as a copy editor at Hearst Design Group, and freelances as a writer for media like Los Angeles Magazine, Time Out New York and Discovery Channel. In between, she follows her passion educating the public about human trafficking with her organization, Freedom Week.

Here are vignettes that capture Jackson Heights for Ann.

37th Ave & 76th St 

I’ve dubbed the lamppost outside Foodtown “Pigeon Row” because the birds are often all lined up on there. One day, I saw an old man tossing out the crumbs that seem to be permanently on the sidewalk outside the supermarket. A crowd of pigeons were enjoying their afternoon snack. A group of small children passed by and stamped their feet at the birds, making them fly in the direction of the man. The old man, furious at his birds being disturbed, stamped his feet at the children, scattering them in the opposite direction. As the children ran away, one called out in mock fear, “Save me! Save me from the scary old man!” All the kids laughed. The man fumed and shuffled away in the other direction, his birds all gone.

37th Avenue

This is the main artery of Jackson Heights, with its restaurants, mom & pop shops and the post office, as well as the adorable kids’ Halloween parade. It was November 3, 2008, and I was walking home that night along 37th Ave. There was an energy and buzz in the air. I passed several clumps of people along the way, and I could hear the word “Obama” over and over again, though I understood nothing else of the conversations. And then it hit me: There were at least a half dozen different languages I’d encountered on my walk home, and all of them concerned the election. It gave me great pride as an immigrant to not only live in a neighborhood that was so diverse, but one that was engaged in current events, even if perhaps some of the residents couldn’t yet vote. That moment in time captures the vibrant diversity of Jackson Heights for me.


This delicious dessert—shaved ice stacked with fruit, syrup and condensed milk—is a Colombian favorite, and you can find it up and down Northern Boulevard. My favorite place is the one solely dedicated to the cholado, called El Palacio on Northern Blvd. and 83rd St. There’s also a place with a cholado window between 80th and 81st Sts., which makes it convenient during parade-watching.

75th St and Roosevelt Ave.

The southeast corner across from the Chase Bank and subway station used to be the “Cursed Corner” because no business could survive there. I watched at least two other restaurants try to make a go of it on that corner, including a fancy Mexican place with nice lighting and tablecloths. But they all failed rapidly, and the corner stayed dark. Then La Abundancia opened up and this was exactly what that corner needed: hearty food at affordable prices; the option to take away food or sit down briefly; family-friendly; and late hours. Bam! The curse was broken. I am so glad to see that corner finally be as bright and lively as the rest of the neighborhood. When my friend Maria, who’s originally from Colombia, went in for a quick bite while waiting for me, she couldn’t stop raving about the bread, which she hadn’t found since she left her country. “It’s just like home! Just like my mama makes!” she kept saying happily.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *