Thursday, January 26, 2012

Court Square Old School Graffiti

The MTA is in the process of renovating the Court Square 7 train station in Long Island City.  During the renovation,  from now until sometime in April, the 7 trains are rolling through the station without stopping.

Not a lot has been changed so far at the station -- a few walls and signs have been removed.

But, now that the signs are gone, you can see some old-school graffiti.  Apparently the corrugated wind breaks of the station had been covered in graffiti, which was in turn covered over with the signs and then painted.  So, there are about 8 to 10 spots, each perhaps 4 feet high by 5 feet wide, where the graffiti is now showing through.

UPDATE as of February 11:  Previously, I did not have any photos of the graffiti, but I managed to get two rather blurry ones while my train passed through the station.  I would also be interested in seeing any that others may have taken.  See my photos below.  (The green dot is a reflection from the window of the train.)

The graffiti must pre-date the last renovation of the station, but I haven't been able to find anything that tells me when that was.

So, I'm afraid that I don't have a lot of information, but the graffiti is pretty cool.  Check it out and let me know what you think!


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

East Elmhurst and the NY Times

I've already made a couple of posts on East Elmhurst, an interesting neighborhood just north of where I live in Jackson Heights.  Apparently I'm not the only one who likes this neighborhood.

A recent article in the NY Times (published January 7, 2011) talks about how the residents of the East Elmhurst census tract have stayed in their homes the longest of any of the NYC census tracts.  The median move-in date for East Elmhurst residents is 1974.  (The average for all of NYC is 1995.)

The article, written by Joseph Berger, goes on to interview several East Elmhurst residents.  Several of the points that he makes in the article echo my own observations.

Anyone interested in this area should definitely check out the article.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

90th Street in East Elmhurst

Josip Brletic recently commented on my East Elmhurst 11369 post asking about the stone columns that are on either side of 90th Street, just north of 30th Avenue toward Astoria Boulevard. He asked if there is any historical significance to these columns. I had not noticed these columns before, but took a ride over there on my bike to check them out. I don’t yet know the entire story, but this block has really piqued my interest. Josip, thanks for your question!!

THE COLUMNS

The top picture, of the east column, was taken by my wife on our recent visit.  The bottom picture is from  Google street view, and shows the west column.






















In the Google photo, the column has a planter on top, but (as you can see from the top photo) when I visited (July 2010) there were no planters and the columns are pretty plain. The columns have also seem to have been painted over, probably to cover graffiti. There are no such markers at the north (Astoria Boulevard) end of the block, but that end has been redeveloped, so if markers were originally there they could have easily been removed by now.

These columns (and the block) had been noted before (scroll down towards the bottom, past his discussion of the Fair Theatre) by Kevin Walsh of Forgotten New York, always a great source of information about any area in the city.

INTERESTING ARCHITECTURE

The second interesting thing about this block is that all of the houses on the block are clearly of the same design, and all were definitely built at the same time as part of the same development. A few of the houses have been remodeled, but it’s easy to see their common origins. Here are some photos of a few of the houses.





























Below is a screen shot from the NYC OASIS website and you can easily see that the lot size of these stand-alone single-family houses differs from those in the surrounding blocks, which are all row houses. OASIS also tells us that all of the houses on this block were built in 1934.


Astoria Boulevard was improved and widened to handle truck traffic from the Triborough Bridge.  Robert Moses took over construction of the Triborough in 1934. Further research would be needed to identify any definitive connection (if there is any) between this block on 90th Street and the nearby work on Astoria Boulevard.

THE QUEENSMARK DESIGNATION

Another interesting thing about this block is that it was recognized by the Queens Historical Society’s Queensmark program. This program was designed to honor and recognize structures and sites that have an outstanding cultural, historical, or architectural significance. The program started in 1996, and has continued on and off since then, honoring sites around the borough. In 1999, the un-remodeled houses on this block were honored and plaques noting the honor were mounted on the front of the homes. I was unable to find any information about the specifics of the award using internet searches, but an email to the Queens Historical Society yielded the following information:

"We were told by one of the residents that these structures were built as summer homes in the 1920s. While we cannot verify this information, members of the Queensmark Committee thought they were attractive. They were Queensmarked as part of our Corona and East Elmhurst celebration that was held at the Queens Hall of Science about ten years ago. The residents were very supportive. The homes were Queensmarked because of their appearance (i.e., architectural significance) rather than their history which unfortunately we know little about.
"We use a similar process as the Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) in choosing Queensmark (a program that is run by the Queens Historical Society) by choosing sites of historical, cultural, or architectural significance. While a Queensmark acknowledges the merit of a structure, it unfortunately does not protect it from demolition. The Queensmark program was created to help raise awareness of important structures and to hopefully catch the attention of the LPC and eventually have it considered for NYC Landmark status.
A 1999 article in the New York Times about the Queensmark winners of that year gave the following brief mention to the block and its homes:

"25-25 THROUGH 25-61 AND 25-28 THROUGH 25-60 90TH STREET -- This row of Tudor style homes with tile roofs was built in the 1920s to cater to a middle class looking for a uniform, almost suburban ambiance.
Note the Queensmark references to the 1920s, versus the data from the city that indicates 1934. Again, further research might be needed to get a more accurate date for the construction of the homes.  Below is a photo of one of the Queensmark plaques, which are mounted on the facades of many of the homes on this block.




ONE ROOM SCHOOLHOUSE PARK

Finally, another interesting tidbit about this block is that the northern end (at Astoria Boulevard) was the location of the last one room schoolhouse in Queens, and is the current location of One Room Schoolhouse Park, and is also mentioned in Forgotten New York. Interestingly, and perhaps not coincidentally, the schoolhouse was torn down in 1934, the same year that the houses were built and that Moses took over the Triborough -- a busy time in the neighborhood!

The schoolhouse opened in 1879 and served the Frogtown community, which was located by the swamp on the other side of Astoria Boulevard. The swamp was no doubt the remains of the Jackson Mill Pond. The map below shows an overlay of the “old” grid from 1909 and a current street layout. You can see the boundaries of Jackson Mill Pond and how it relates to the current street grid. The New York Public Library has a nifty site that has overlaid old and new maps, where you can play with relative transparency of each. The link to this particular map is here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thoughts on Jane Jacobs and Some NYC Neighborhoods of Today

Here is another assignment from my Geography of NYC class.  As laid out in Jane Jacobs' iconic book, "The Death and Life of Great American Cities",  the essence of a successful city is its ability “to sustain city safety, public contact and cross-use” (p. 144).  [Note: page numbers are from the Vintage Books paperback edition, 1992.]

Jacobs uses the term diversity to refer to a “most intricate and close-grained diversity of uses that give each other constant mutual support, both economically and socially” (p. 14).  For Jacobs, diversity is synonymous with vitality or street life and she believes that the mixing of different types of people is a key ingredient for a city.  In Jacobs’ day (1961), the West Village met all four of her conditions for successful diversity.  Jacobs believed these conditions to be both necessary and sufficient to achieve diversity in a city.

Nearly 50 years later, how well do Jacobs’ conditions hold up?  Examining four neighborhoods (West Village, East Harlem, Forest Hills, and Williamsburg) and three of Jacobs’ conditions for diversity as a case study, it seems to me that only one of those neighborhoods (Williamsburg) fully qualifies as being diverse according to Jacobs’ definition.  Each of the other neighborhoods fails to meet at least one condition.  The three conditions that I chose to examine are:

Condition 1   Multiple Primary Functions -- The district, and indeed as many of its internal parts as possible, must serve more than one primary function; preferably more than two.  These must insure the presence of people who go outdoors on different schedules and are in the place for different purposes, but who are able to use many facilities in common.  Jacobs believes that people come to an area for three reasons:  they live there, they work there, or they visit to get a change from their own neighborhoods.  Jacobs says that a mix of all three is the ideal situation, but at least two of them are needed.

Condition 2   Short Blocks -- Most blocks must be short; that is, streets and opportunities to turn corners must be frequent.  Jacobs believes that it is important that people can easily follow different routes through the area, rather than all being funneled onto the same streets.

Condition 3   Aged Buildings -- The district must mingle buildings that vary in age and condition, including a good proportion of old ones.  Jacobs likes a variety of building ages and conditions because it allows an economic variety of people and businesses to establish themselves in the neighborhood.

The fourth condition, which I don't discuss herein, is Concentration -- The district must have a suffiently dense concentration of people, for whatever purpose they may be there.  This includes people there because of residence.
 
Below, I discuss each neighborhood in turn, and how it meets or fails to meet each of Jacobs’ conditions.
 
West Village

The West Village has a vibrant street life, but by-and-large is comprised of well-to-do residents and visitors to the area.  The economic mix that Jacobs likes is no longer present.
 
Today’s West Village has two of the three primary uses, enough to meet Jacobs’ primary use condition.  It is primarily a residential area with small shops lining the commercial streets.  The area no longer has any significant working population other than the shop employees.  It does, however, have a very large number of visitors.  Gay people are drawn by the fame of Stonewall and Christopher Street, while the High Line and the Meat Packing district draw crowds from all over the city and beyond.  The Cage, restaurants, shopping, nightclubs, and several theaters also draw visitors at all times of day and night, keeping the area continually bustling.
 
The West Village meet Jacobs’ short blocks condition, with blocks smaller than those in the typical Manhattan grid and many off-grid streets that help lead pedestrians on differing routes.  The High Line provides a notable exception to the rest of the West Village.  A former border vacuum, the High Line is now a tourist destination, drawing visitors through the West Village.  Once the visitors arrive at the High Line, however, they are physically removed from the street.
 
The West Village’s historic district designation is at least partly responsible for its place as a tourist attraction, simply because the older architecture gives the West Village a different feel from other areas of the city.  The West Village offers a combination of history and visual appeal that is unique in New York, thus drawing abundant visitors at all times of the day.
 
The designation also prevents the West Village from meeting the aged buildings condition.  The buildings in the West Village are now less diverse than was the case in Jacobs’ time, the only new buildings being on the periphery where the historic district restrictions don’t apply.  Also, this designation has resulted in the area becoming a well-to-do enclave, which keeps essentially all of the buildings in good repair (again, with only a few exceptions in the periphery around the High Line).  The end result is that the West Village now lacks economic and social diversity, and thus does not meet Jacobs’ definition of diversity.
 
East Harlem

East Harlem doesn’t meet Jacobs’ diversity definition for several reasons.  Although it has pockets of vibrant street life, other areas are near deserted.  Economically, it is a lower-class area, so is lacking economic diversity.
 
East Harlem does meet Jacobs’ primary use condition, with a mix of residential areas and public facilities (hospitals and museums) that both offer employment and draw visitors.  A few of the stores on 125th Street and the Harlem Metro North station also help draw traffic to the area.  The new Costco on 116th Street, although perhaps a primary function, will probably attract more cars than foot traffic to the area; it is, however, a potential source of jobs for the residents.
 
East Harlem has a good mix of aged buildings.  There are buildings of all ages and conditions.  There is some new development along 125th Street and 3rd Avenue, along with older tenements, newer apartment houses, a mix of commercial store sites, and even casitas.  New development will be able to continue in the future because the city is holding on to vacant parcels scattered throughout East Harlem as it awaits the right development opportunity.
 
East Harlem fails, however, to meet Jacobs’ short blocks condition.  Much of East Harlem is on the standard Manhattan grid.  Additionally, it is the home to a number of super blocks, due in large part to its public housing, subsidized housing, and public institutions such as hospitals.  Additionally, the elevated Metro North tracks running through East Harlem provide a physical barrier between the lower class areas and the middle class areas.  Finally, although they are long-gone, the 2nd and 3rd Avenue elevated trains provided another physical barrier, the effects of which have yet to be eradicated.  I believe that the combination of these results in the spotty nature of the area’s diversity.
 
Forest Hills

Forest Hills is really two completely separate areas.  Forest Hills Gardens is essentially a suburb, and is devoid of social or economic diversity and of any street life.  Although Forest Hills has the street life, it is a very well-to-do area without social or economic diversity.
 
As might be expected, Forest Hills Gardens does not meet any of Jacobs’ conditions.  There is only one primary function, residences.  The blocks are long (although they are not gridded).  Additionally, the Long Island Railroad tracks provide a border vacuum that isolates the area.  Finally, there is no building variety in Forest Hills Gardens, as it was constructed at a single point in time under strict building codes.
 
Forest Hills, on the other hand, has multiple primary functions.  Just down Queens Boulevard from Forest Hills are courthouses and associated offices, offering employment and a reason for visitors to be in the area.  Additionally, there is at least one Cord Meyer office building nearby.  Although there is no manufacturing or industry to speak of, the array of restaurants and shops does provide an additional draw for visitors, as does Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church.
 
In Forest Hills the blocks are smaller than the Manhattan grid, which helps support the ample foot traffic and street life.
 
Where Forest Hills is lacking is in the aged buildings condition.  Cord Meyer, which continues to develop in the area, has been building a new tower each decade.  Although these new towers help meet Jacobs’ goal for buildings of different ages, the fact that they are all towers does not meet her goal of having a variety of building types and heights.
 
Williamsburg

Williamsburg alone has the combination of street life and the social and economic diversity desired by Jacobs.  Not surprisingly, Williamsburg is the only one of the neighborhoods that meets all of Jacobs’ conditions.
 
Williamsburg contains all three primary functions:  there are many residents, there are small manufacturing and industrial-type jobs in the area, and there are reasons for visitors to come at all hours (Boricua College, nightclubs such as the Knitting Factory, and a variety of temples and churches).
 
The blocks in Williamsburg, while not as small as those in the West Village, are smaller than the standard Manhattan grid.  Williamsburg is also broken up at different points by bends in some of the major streets and by the meeting points of two different grid patterns.  There is a major border vacuum created by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Williamsburg Bridge approaches and bus plaza, which serves to keep the Hasidic part of Williamsburg physically separated from the Hispanic and hipster area.  Although there is little mixing, both areas have a vibrant street life and economic diversity.
 
Williamsburg also has a good mix of different building ages.  Additionally, the buildings are in varying states of repair.  New buildings have been added recently, and might threaten to overwhelm the neighborhood if the momentum hadn’t been slowed by the recent economic downturn.  Williamsburg is the only one of the four neighborhoods with economic diversity in its residents, and this is clearly facilitated by the building diversity.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

East Elmhurst -- 11369

For a class assignment, I was asked to study one particular zip code.  I chose the zip code just north of where I live in Jackson Heights.  That zip code is 11369, which coincides with East Elmhurst.  I knew nothing about it, except that it is close to where I live.  But the more I looked into it, the more interesting I found it.

A map of the area is shown below.  Generally, the boundaries are as follows:


  • to the south, Northern Boulevard
  • to the west, 85th Street and 87th Street
  • to the north and east, the Grand Central Parkway and Ditmars Boulevard


11369 is largely residential, and has been greatly impacted by facilities that surround it or are located nearby, although they may not be a part of 11369 proper.  For the purpose of this project, however, I am only including the north side of Northern Boulevard.

Geographical Overview of 11369

The highest point in 11369 is an elevation of 100 feet, at the north end of the block bordered by Northern Boulevard, 32nd Avenue, 106th Street, and 107th Street.  This is part of a ridge that overlooks the Grand Central Parkway.  The low point is the shoreline at the foot of the ridge, following the Grand Central Parkway along the eastern edge of 11369.  Excluding the Grand Central Parkway, the lowest area of 11369 is its northwestern section, former location of the Jackson Mill Pond.  As expected, the nicest houses are along the ridge, and the low area in the northwest is where some of the more industrial areas are located.

Jackson’s Mill (previously known as Kip’s Mill and Fish’s Mill) ground corn and wheat from the mid 1600s until the late 1800s.  A dam blocked Jackson Creek near today’s intersection of 94th Street and the Grand Central Parkway, creating the Jackson Mill Pond.  The pond curved around from there to the west and then south, where Ditmars Boulevard and the Grand Central Parkway are now located.  The pond was fed by Jackson Creek, which ran through 11369 and widened into the pond near what is now Astoria Boulevard between 88th and 89th Streets.  The odd-shaped block bordered by Astoria Boulevard, 23rd Avenue, 88th Street, and 89th Street is a remnant of the pond.

Landfill has been used extensively in the features that surround 11369, including portions of the Grand Central Parkway and LaGuardia Airport.  Additionally, both Jackson Creek and Jackson Mill Pond have been filled in.  The only part of 11369 that is in a flood plain is the Grand Central Parkway.

Although ferries served the area after North Beach was built (more information on North Beach is provided later), the earliest access to the area was via two colonial era roads.  Trains Meadow Road nicked 11369 on the western edge, but the first road through 11369 was Bowery Bay Road, which ran to Jackson’s Mill.  Remnants of Bowery Bay Road remain in today’s Jackson Mill Road and Junction Boulevard.  Bits of Jackson Mill Road run at angles to the grid along Junction Boulevard, causing many odd-shaped blocks.

Here are some other deviations from the Queens street grid:

  • Astoria Boulevard, which cuts diagonally through 11369 – Astoria Boulevard is the modern-day version of the Astoria and Flushing Turnpike, built in the 1830s.  For the most part, the Queens grid was added after the 7 train was built through to Flushing in the 1910s.  The combination of Astoria Boulevard and the grid causes many odd-shaped blocks.  Many of the odd bits of leftover land been made into parks and Greenstreets areas.  The entire effect is similar to that of 7th Avenue cutting through Greenwich Village.  Interestingly, many of the buildings facing Astoria Boulevard are aligned with the grid rather than with Astoria Boulevard, even though the roots of Astoria Boulevard pre-date the grid.  I believe this is due to subsequent widening of Astoria Boulevard to handle truck traffic in association with the construction of the Triboro Bridge.
  • Grand Central Parkway and Ditmars Boulevard, which curve around 11369 – These routes parallel each other and cause all adjoining blocks to be shaped oddly.  Although Ditmars Boulevard was in the area as early as 1915, it was originally part of the street grid until meeting the eastern shoreline, where it curved to the southeast roughly along today’s route.
  • Residential development in the eastern section of 11369 – The first residential development in 11369 (other than Jackson’s Mill and some early farms) dates to the early 1900s and is in the eastern corner of 11369, north of Astoria Boulevard.  This development preceded the Queens grid.
  • A few other odd bends and turns in streets -- Junction Boulevard/94th Street has a few bends in it at the southern and northern ends of 11369, following the old Bowery Bay Road.  There is also an bend in 30th Avenue, between 90th Street and 97th Street, where it parallels Astoria Boulevard.

Development and History of 11369

Development in 11369 was in spurts.  As mentioned above, Jackson’s Mill dates from colonial times, and is associated with Bowery Bay Road.

Jackson Avenue, the route of which is approximated by today’s Northern Boulevard, was built as a toll road between Long Island City and Flushing in the 1850s.  Northern Boulevard now serves as the primary shopping district for 11369, with a much more extensive selection of shops than is found on Astoria Boulevard, Junction Boulevard, or 31st Avenue.

The next major development period was initiated by the popularity of the North Beach resort, built by William Steinway and George Ehret (a brewer) in about 1890.  Although not in 11369 (North Beach was situated where LaGuardia airport now sits), North Beach was crucial to 11369’s development.  Built as family entertainment for Steinway’s German workforce, North Beach included rides, beaches, a pier, and a beer hall selling Ehret’s products.  Several ferry lines served North Beach, with service to and from Flushing, Manhattan, Astoria, and the Bronx.  Additionally, trolley service brought passengers from Brooklyn along today’s Junction Boulevard; small remnants of trolley tracks remain.  North Beach remained very popular with European immigrants until about 1910, but had lost its popularity by the time prohibition started in 1920.

By the time of North Beach’s demise, the elevated 7 train from Manhattan to Flushing (also not in 11369) was bringing development to the area to the south, which then spread north into 11369.

In the late 1930s, a cluster of Robert Moses projects initiated another period of growth.  As a result of the 1939 World’s Fair, road improvements were made to speed access to the fair grounds in Flushing Meadows and businesses developed accordingly (like the Fair Theatre and the Fair Food Market Italian-American Grocery along Astoria Boulevard).  Additionally, the construction of the Grand Central Parkway and LaGuardia (originally North Beach) Airport has led to a set of related businesses in the northern section of 11369, such as hotels, rental car facilities, gas stations, and even an aviation-oriented college.

In the 1950s, housing was needed for returning servicemen and others.  This resulted in a series of large apartment buildings, including the Northridge complex between 90th Street and 92nd Street on Northern Boulevard.

There is no large scale manufacturing in 11369, although there are some smaller-scale industrial-type facilities:

  • Auto repair and supply facilities on Northern Boulevard east of Junction Boulevard -- Northern Boulevard was a center for auto-related businesses by the 1920s (most famously, as depicted in “The Great Gatsby”).  Many such businesses are still found there today (including DiBlasi Ford, at the intersection of Northern Boulevard and Astoria Boulevard for over 75 years).
  • Iron works establishments on the side streets north of Northern Boulevard, in the area around 102nd Street and 103rd Street.
  • MTA’s LaGuardia bus depot just outside the northwest corner of 11369, between 85th Street and 87th Street -- this was the former depot for Triboro Coach.
  • Several large car rental facilities in the area north of Astoria Boulevard on the few blocks on either side of Junction Boulevard -- these serve LaGuardia Airport.
  • Vaughn College -- a training ground in all technologies related to aviation from airport management to aviation maintenance to different types of engineering.

Demographics of 11369

Aside from colonial-era residents, the first significant influx in 11369 were working-class and upper-class Germans and other Europeans, drawn by the nearby North Beach resort.

Starting in the 1940s the eastern section of 11369 became a mecca for middle class blacks with good jobs, like police officers and schoolteachers.  Blacks were drawn there because it was more suburban than Harlem and it was one of the few neighborhoods in the New York City area where they could buy homes.  Many well-off and famous blacks lived here during the 1940s and 1950s, including Ella Fitzgerald, Willie Mays, and Harry Belafonte.  (Corona, to the south, was also home to numerous black entertainers.)  Another well-known black resident of 11369 was Malcolm X, whose house on 97th Street was firebombed a week before his assassination in Harlem.

The Northridge apartment complex, opened in the 1950s, had many Jewish residents, but did not admit blacks.  Later, when the civil rights movement opened up other areas to blacks, 11369 ceased to be the draw that it was previously.  Instead, the area has attracted other marginalized groups, including Latinos and other new immigrants.  The storefronts on one block on Northern Boulevard, between 105th Street and 106th Street, epitomize both today’s population and the history of the area:

  1. An Islamic Mosque
  2. A vacant storefront
  3. A Kennedy Fried Chicken serving halal meat
  4. A Mexican taqueria
  5. A storefront Baptist Church dating from 1944
  6. A deli
  7. A tire repair facility

Around 11369, one can find establishments catering to South Americans, Central Americans, English- and French-speaking former Caribbean residents, Arabic-speakers, Koreans, and Chinese.  Often, the businesses reflect a mix of cultures, such as the Spanish pharmacia with a sign in Arabic, the bakery that advertises “Middle Eastern and Spanish Pastries”, the Korean auto repair shop playing Spanish music on its loudspeakers, or the pizza parlor that also sells Mexican tamales, tacos, and Jamaican beef patties.

In 2000, the population of 11369 was 29 percent white, 34 percent black, 7 percent Asian, and 28 percent other.  Approximately 50 percent of the population was Hispanic or Latino, with the largest groups being Dominican and Colombian.  Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Ecuadorians are other significantly-sized groups.  Approximately 49 percent of the 11369 residents were foreign-born, and 8 percent had lived in a different country just 5 years previously.  Median household income for the zip code in 1999 was just under $40,000, similar to or lower than nearby zip codes.

The most prominent civic association in 11369 is Elmcor, a provider of recreational and social services for youth and seniors.  NORC (Naturally Occurring Retirement Community), a city-funded program providing social services to seniors, is active in the Northridge apartment complex.  Other civic groups include VFW halls, the Kiwanis, and area churches.

Streets and Parks in 11369

With a few exceptions, the street names in 11369 follow the Queens pattern of east-west running numbered streets and north-south running numbered avenues.  Deviations from the grid were discussed above.

Virtually all of the streets in the area have undergone name changes.  For example, the streets now known as 86th Street to 96th Street were formerly known as 29th Avenue to 39th Avenue.  The avenues that are now numbered from 32nd Avenue to 23rd Avenue used to have names:  Burnside, Patterson, Grand, Schurz, Sigel, and Mansfield.  The off-grid streets in the eastern section of 11369 are named rather than numbered, although the avenues in that section use the same number-names as their gridded couterparts.

The only super blocks in 11369 are the two blocks bordered by Astoria Boulevard, 23rd Avenue, 88th Street, 91st Street, and 90th Place.  These two blocks, divided north-south by 89th Street, are a remnant of Jackson Creek and Jackson Mill Pond and nearby early development.

There are a number of parks and greenstreets spaces in or near the area:

  • Planeview Park -- Although just outside 11369, Planeview Park is one of the most interesting parks because of its unique site.  It is a triangle of land overlooking LaGuardia Airport at the end of the runway running from the southwest to the northeast.  Depending on air traffic patterns, it is a superb spot from which to watch airplanes land or take off.
  • Overlook Park -- This small park takes advantage of a hill overlooking LaGuardia Airport and the Grand Central Parkway to provide another airport vista.  At this park, however, trees can block part of the view.  It was at this site that Steinway and Ehret originally planned to place the Heine Monument, which now sits in Joyce Kilmer Park near Yankee Stadium.
  • One Room Schoolhouse Park -- This is the former site of the last remaining one-room schoolhouse in Queens, which was open from 1879 to 1925.
  • Other parks include Veteran’s Plaza Park, the East Elmhurst Playground, Barclay Triangle, Playground Ninety, and O’Sullivan Plaza.

As indicated previously, public works such as the 1939 Worlds Fair, the Grand Central Parkway, and the widening of Astoria Boulevard, have had a marked effect on 11369.  A public housing project planned for the area where Northridge is now was blocked by the community in the 1950s.

The predominant residential zoning is R3, which is used throughout 11369.  The highest level of residential zoning is R7, which is used between 88th Street, 92nd Street, Northern Boulevard, and 32nd Avenue.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn

Ocean Parkway was built as one of five grand boulevards in NYC (along with Queens Boulevard, the Grand Concourse, Eastern Parkway, and Pelham ParkwayOcean Parkway and Eastern Parkway were built as extensions of Prospect Park by Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux in the 1870s.  The grand boulevards were planned as part of an extensive system of parkways that would extend the rural beauty of Prospect Park into Brooklyn’s residential neighborhoods, and would eventually connect to Manhattan’s Central Park.

Ocean Parkway is 5½ miles long, with a central drive, landscaped malls, a bridle path (now paved), a pedestrian promenade, and narrow access roads.  Below are pictures of Ocean Parkway in 1894 and today.  The configuration of the road hasn’t changed significantly, although the surrounding landscape has changed.










Between 1953 and 1962, the Prospect Expressway was built from the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel to Ocean Parkway, paving over the northernmost section of Ocean Parkway.  Connections were also built to the Gowanus Expressway and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

In 1963, Robert Moses proposed that the Prospect Expressway should be continued over the length of Ocean Parkway, to connect with the Belt Parkway and the proposed Cross-Brooklyn Expressway.
In 1966, an alternate route for the Prospect Expressway was proposed along Flatbush Avenue.
Dispruptions caused by highway construction in other parts of NYC meant that neither route was approved.  In 1975, Ocean Parkway was designated a scenic landmark.

Below is a map showing the northern end of Ocean Parkway and the Prospect Expressway.  If Robert Moses had his way, the Prospect Expressway would continue the length of Ocean Parkway all the way to the Belt Parkway.



Below are two aerial views of Ocean Parkway.  The top photo shows the southern end of Ocean Parkway near Coney Island.  The bottom photo is an overview of its entire length, looking north toward Prospect Park.



Monday, February 15, 2010

B and Q Train From Church Avenue to Brighton Beach

The Brighton Beach line began in 1878 as the Brooklyn, Flatbush, and Coney Island RR steam train. It was a surface line from Prospect Park to the Brighton Beach Hotel, which was owned by the railroad. Below is a picture of the hotel.



The line was later extended to Atlantic Avenue, where it connected with the main line of the LIRR. Because the LIRR had a competing hotel, there was a dispute and the LIRR terminated the connection. The map below shows the connection of the BF&CI RR to the LIRR tracks. The competing NY & Manhattan Beach RR is also shown.



Meanwhile, the BF&CI RR had re-organized as the Brooklyn & Brighton Beach RR, and arranged for through service with the Franklin Street El. By 1900, the B&BB RR was electrified, there was through-service to Manhattan, and it was a commuter line rather than a seasonal line. By 1907, all grade crossings were eliminated.

It is an interesting line to rail-fans because its track includes tunnel, open cut, embankment, and elevated sections. The placement of these track sections roughly corresponds to the decreasing elevation of the glacial moraine as it slopes southward toward the ocean. The map below shows the location of the different types of track.