Arbitration Day revives centuries-old interborough dispute

Arbitration Rock was placed along the disputed Queens County-Kings County border in 1769 to mark the contested boundary.  Eagle  photos by David Brand.

Arbitration Rock was placed along the disputed Queens County-Kings County border in 1769 to mark the contested boundary. Eagle photos by David Brand.

By David Brand

Long before the “United States” was even a country or modern “New York City” a single colossal metropolis, a fundamental dispute raged between residents of Queens County and Kings County. Where, exactly, did one county end and the other begin? 

To settle the century-old dispute, surveyors officially marked the boundary, placing a large stone, known Arbitration Rock, at the border of Newtown, the name of a former colonial-era town in central Queens, and Brooklyn in 1769. 

More than 250 years later, that boulder inspired a renewal of the rivalry, this time featuring fewer farmers arguing over exactly how far their livestock could roam and more kids testing how low they could go beneath a limbo bar. 

The Greater Ridgewood Historical Society hosted the first annual Battle of the Boroughs at the historic Vander Ende-Onderdonk House Saturday, Aug 17, a day commemorated as Arbitration Day. The event pitted Queens residents against Brooklyn residents in a true test of wills. Babies crawled to the finish line in the diaper dash, kids and adults raced around in the egg spoon relay and people of all ages busted a move in the dance off.

Greater Ridgewood Historical Society President Steve Monte said the Battle of the Boroughs event was the first in annual borough vs. borough series.

Greater Ridgewood Historical Society President Steve Monte said the Battle of the Boroughs event was the first in annual borough vs. borough series.

In the end, Brooklyn won the contest, but the future is bright for Queens: The World’s Borough crushed Brooklyn in the junior division tug-of-war.

Truth be told, the landmark boulder no longer marks the exact boundary between Queens and Brooklyn. It was excavated and moved 300 feet to the yard behind the historic Onderdonk House after city workers laid the pavement for Onderdonk Avenue in the 1930s. 

Arbitration Rock now enjoys pride of place inside a landscaped corral. Onderdonk House visitors can see the rock, and tour the 359-year-old house for a suggested donation of $5.

The Greater Ridgewood Historical Society will host a few more events this year including a Harvest Fest on Oct. 13, a Christmas market with colonial Christmas music on Dec. 1 and a St. Nicholas Day celebration on Dec. 8.

For more information, visit onderdonkhouse.org.