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.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

B/D/F Train From Herald Square to West 4th Street

OK, this post is about the portion of the 6th Avenue subway that runs between Herald Square (34th Street) and West 4th Street in Greenwich Village. As mentioned in a prior post, this was one of my contributions to an all-day walking tour that took place on November 15, 2009.


The 6th Avenue subway was the last of the Manhattan subway lines to be built, with service beginning in 1940. It replaced the 6th Avenue El, which was built in the 1870s as the second El in Manhattan and demolished in 1939.

Below are two pictures of Herald Square, looking north, with and without the 6th Avenue El. In both pictures, 6th Avenue is on the left and Broadway is on the right.

The construction of the 6th Avenue subway was very complex due to the prior existence of the Broadway subway, the PATH train’s 6th Avenue line, the Amtrak/LIRR tunnels, the 8th Avenue subway, and the 14th Street subway, all shown on the map below.

The Herald Square station is probably the most complicated piece of subway construction ever attempted. A partial schematic of the station is shown below.

Here are some of the complications:
When it was built, several rail lines, streets, utilities, and water lines had to be supported or avoided.
The station serves the 6th Avenue subway, the Broadway subway, and the PATH train.
The 6th Avenue subway is below the Broadway subway tracks, and above the LIRR tracks.
The 6th Avenue tracks dip down in the middle of the Herald Square station, and the ends are higher.

The photo below was taken outside the West 4th Street station, looking north along 6th Avenue. Bigelow Drugs and the Jefferson Market Library are still here.