Since 2009, Nancy A. Ruhling has been telling stories about the everyday residents, workers and businesses of the neighborhood through her Astoria Characters column.
“The whole idea was for me to get to know the community and to establish some kind of relationship with people I was seeing all the time,” Ruhling said. “To provide a venue for people who had interesting lives who would not be able to get into a newspaper in any other way.”
Ruhling, who covered Long Island City and Astoria for a daily newspaper in the 90s, moved to the community in 2005. When popular news website Huffington Post began its New York edition in 2009, she called them up and started writing a regular blog about the people in her diverse neighborhood.
“What I’ve ended up doing is giving a really good snapshot of what Astoria is in the 21st century,” she said. “I feel this is much more just scattered stories, it brings together the whole community.”
From the more than 350 people Ruhling has interviewed, every single person has reflected on his or her life positively.
“What they do is show that no matter who you are, what you do or where you come from, we all face the same issues,” she said. “Somehow, we get through them.”
Though Astoria has changed a lot through the years, Ruhling has found that the core group of Astorians have stayed put.
“Astoria is unique in that you have families that have been here for almost a century,” she said. “There are a lot of family businesses here that have carried on for almost 100 years. I don’t see that in other communities.”