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Author of Fresh Meadows photo history book returns home

By Madina Toure

When 60-year-old Debra Davidson left Fresh Meadows in 1976 to attend graduate school in Manhattan, she never thought she would return to her hometown.

But after adopting her now 16-year-old son when she was 44 years old and marrying her second husband in 2012, Davidson — who co-authored a photo history book on the area titled “Fresh Meadows” published in 2011 — realized she needed more space, which led her back to Fresh Meadows.

In August 2013, Davidson and her family moved into a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in a 20-story high-rise building, also known as the 6700 building.

Moving back to Fresh Meadows went in sync with the book she published, she said.

“I had really immersed (myself)in research about the community for a couple of years,” Davidson said. “I really looked at Fresh Meadows in perhaps a different vein than prior to that and it was certainly on my mind. It was kind of an interesting epilogue to the book that I wound up moving back here. That was never my intention.”

Noting that she feels some nostalgia for her youthful years spent in Fresh Meadows, the area continues to have high quality education, but the neighborhood’s character changed, she said.

The area has more of an Asian population compared to before, when it was mostly Caucasian and Jewish.

“The composition of demographics has pretty much reflected the changes in Queens overall over these years,” Davidson said. “Queens is the most diverse county in the country and Fresh Meadows pretty much reflects that.”

She also said the retail establishments have almost completely changed: the Kohl’s store used to be a Bloomingdale’s and there is now a notable lack of supermarkets in the neighborhood.

In 1962, Davidson, then 8, along with her mother, father and sister, moved to what is now known as Fresh Meadows since her father bought a kosher deli on Fresh Meadow Lane. They lived on 180th Street, right outside the Fresh Meadows Housing Development, built by New York Life for returning World War II veterans.

Davidson attended PS 173 in Fresh Meadows and the George J. Ryan Middle School. She received her bachelor’s degree in economics at Queens College in 1975 and earned her MBA in marketing at Columbia University’s Business School in 1978.

Davidson and attorney Fred Cantor compiled a photo history book titled “Fresh Meadows,” published by Arcadia Publishing in 2011, which covers the start of the Fresh Meadows Housing Development in the 1940s to the 1970s.

Fresh Meadows was developed in 1946 after the New York Life Insurance Co. bought the Fresh Meadows Country Club to build housing.

Cantor and Davidson first met unofficially vis-à-vis the “Fresh Meadows Rules” Facebook group. Cantor and his family left the area when he was a child.

“We made a very good pair because he had the experience of being here from his infancy through right before adolescence,” she said. “I had the other experience of coming here as an 8-year-old and going through school here.”

Although she lived in Forest Hills for about two years and New Jersey for five years, she spent her whole adult life in Manhattan, though she did go back and visit Fresh Meadows regularly.

With Manhattan requiring a long commute to the office for her husband, who works in Farmingdale, and their need for more space, Fresh Meadows ended up offering the best solution. Her son attends the Summit School in Fresh Meadows.

Fresh Meadows may have changed over the years, but it is still a “lovely neighborhood” and a “really good place to live and bring up children,” Davidson said.

“I occasionally still run into an elderly parent that is the parent of somebody I grew up with, which really fills my heart,” she said.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour‌e@cng‌local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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