Brooklyn VS Queens: The Battle of the Boroughs at Arbitration Rock Is Back at the Onderdonk House

Anna van der Heijden

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It’s a centuries-old question: which borough is the best? On August 17, the Battle of the Boroughs will settle this matter between Brooklyn and Queens. At Arbitration Rock, which marks the border of Bushwick and Ridgewood, people can pledge their muscles, brains and appetite to represent their borough. 

“This event is to celebrate that we have two communities living side-by-side, Brooklyn and Queens, that have a long history of being at odds. We want to bring people together to celebrate the positive things that we love and admire about our two boroughs, but to also have some lighthearted fun,” said Emily Waelder, a volunteer at the Greater Ridgewood Historical Society, which organizes the event. 

Don’t worry, this won’t be a scary battle. The day will include a pie-eating competition (yum), trivia and games. The big final test is a tug-of-war competition with representatives of two boroughs on opposite ends of the rope. For every won game, your borough will get points. The team with the most points will win a cup that—if the organizers get their way and make this an annual thing—will be up for grabs again next year. 

Onderdonk house, courtesy of the Greater Ridgewood Historical Society.

If you’re not in the mood for competition (or you’re from one of the other boroughs and don’t know who to fight for) you can dance or relax and have a beer from KCBC, a cider from Cider Lab, or food from the grill. There will be face painting, arts and crafts, and a baby crawl competition (yes, this should be entertaining to watch) for the kids. All of this takes place in the large, grassy garden of the Vander Ende-Onderdonk House

The Vander Ende-Onderdonk House is the oldest Dutch Colonial stone house in New York City. It was built in 1660 and reconstructed in 1709. Today, it serves as a museum and houses a permanent archeological exhibition, changing historical arts and culture exhibitions, and an archival library. It’s all run by volunteers, who, like Waelder, love to have tangible access to history. 

“Another big draw for me is being able to be in the backyard and feel like you’re not in the city,” said Waelder.

In the middle of that garden lies Arbitration Rock. About 250 years ago, land surveyors placed the rock to mark the border between Newtown (now Ridgewood), Queens and Bushwick, Brooklyn. The rock has has always represented divide, but with this event, they want to use it to bring people together and celebrate the diversity of the neighborhoods. 

Diversity has been in the city’s DNA since its earliest days. But, as Waelder pointed out, we don’t always include everyones’ perspectives when we talk about our history. 

“It’s interesting with history, especially as Americans, what we choose to revere—sometimes at the expense of people of color. When you’re thinking about history and celebrating it, it’s always important to have different voices to come into the mix. It’s like, how do we honor this one thing, but not celebrate that other thing,” she said. 

So, when you’re tugging on one end of the rope, look your opponent in the eye and tug a bit harder celebrate each other. 

The event takes place from noon until 6 p.m. and tickets cost $5 for adults. Everyone younger than 18 gets in for free.

Cover photo by Therese Maher, from previous festival. 

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