FAMILIAR ROADS in unfamiliar scenes

I have been thinking about doing this page for some time, almost from the beginnings of FNY 15 years ago. I would come across a street in an out-of-character scene, in a neighborhood or a state in which it is completely unfamiliar. These type of scenarios are relatively rare in NYC and are sprawled out across the five boroughs and impractical to do in one day’s shooting. But Google Street View has changed all that and I can simply go to the desired street, do a screen grab and there it is. Street View does not always provide a clear photo, so I Photoshopped a few of these in quick and dirty fashion, since I’m not out to win any awards here.


Though the Grand Concourse is a multi-lane behemoth bruiting its way from East 161st north to the Mosholu Parkway in the Bronx, it was extended south over the former  Mott Avenue after its original construction in 1909. On its extreme southern end at East 138th, it’s a service road on either side of an off-ramp of the Major Deegan Expressway.


The Grand Central Parkway, along with the Jackie Robinson (Interborough) Parkway, was among  the first expressways built expressly for automobiles in the early 1930s. The GCP’s service roads are usually busy 2-lane affairs, but when you get out to Glen Oaks east of Little Neck Parkway, the road on the north side of the parkway trickles down to one lane, as ween here.


Astoria Boulevard roars through northeast Queens on either side of the Grand Central Parkway and then east out to Northern Boulevard as a six-lane monster, but in Astoria Village near the East river it’s just a two-lane road. After the Astoria Houses were built in 1951, the boulevard’s extreme west end was cut off to a dead end cul de sac (that does give cars room to turn around) off 1st Street.


Here’s a half-block section of Avenue Y in Bath Beach, Brooklyn that doesn’t even make most maps, between Bay 50th Street  and West 16th Street. Avenue Y used to extend straight through to Stillwell Avenue as its partner Avenue Z still does, but the construction of the high rise complex seen here eliminated a portion of the avenue. Then, Avenues Y and Z are cut off from their eastern sections by the sprawling Coney Island Subway Yards. They resume at Shell Road and run east to Knapp Street, with Avenue Y gaining a short section in Mill Basin, as well.


Broome Street runs across the Lower East Side, Little Italy and SoHo officially between Pitt Street and the Holland Tunnel entrance at Hudson Street, but it was once officially laid out all the way east to the East River. A couple of short, narrow sections of Broome street still remain in the 1940s-era housing projects that dominate the Lower East Side, the easternmost of which runs here to Lewis Street.


One of Kensington and Flatbush’s busiest shopping streets is Church Avenue, which in actuality runs from Borough Park to Brownsville. Part of it is a colonial-era lane running to the Dutch Reformed Church on Flatbush Avenue, which has had a congregation since the 1650s. But Church Avenue begins inauspiciously here at 37th Street just south of 13th Avenue.


Hylan Boulevard, named for NYC Mayor John Hylan who served in the 1910s and 1920s, runs straight along Staten Island’s south shore all the way to Tottenville. In Rosebank, however, it was extended along the former Pennsylvania Avenue, a quiet two-lane road. Here is its northern end at the Narrows and Edgewater Street. The Harbor House bed and breakfast, where I stayed for a few days in 2005 when researching Staten Island for the ForgottenBook is out of the photo on the left, while the historic Alice Austen House is to the right of this scene.


In probably its most familiar role, Linden Boulevard is a surface expressway, with 8 lanes of pedal-to the metal traffic between Kings Highway and the Belt Parkway. But unusually, it has a number of very quiet sections. Its westernmost part runs from Flatbush Avenue to Kings Highway and was originally called Linden Avenue, likely for some vanished linden trees. In the 1920s it was extended and widened along the former Vienna Avenue.


After reaching the Belt Parkway and transferring its traffic there, though, Linden Boulevard isn’t finished. It begins again at Rockaway Boulevard east of  Aqueduct Raceway and runs into Nassau County, where it finally ends at the Southern State Parkway. In St. Albans it took over the route of the former Central Avenue.

However between the Belt Parkway and Aqueduct in Ozone Park, there are a pair of dead ends both called Linden Boulevard, at Pitkin Avenue and Sitka Street, and another one on DeSarc Road, seen here, and a short section between Cross Bay Boulevard and Centerville Street. Undoubtedly, there was once a plan to connect all these separate Linden Boulevards, and some of it got started, but was never finished!


At its longest length, Richmond Avenue once ran north and south, cutting across all of Staten Island from the Kill Van Kull in Port Richmond all the way to Raritan Bay in Eltingville. Then the city planners got involved, renaming the section between Forest Avenue and Richmond Terrace PORT Richmond Avenue.

Thus, the curved road you see here is now the northern end of Richmond Avenue, a curious semicircle at Forest Avenue. It’s been there since the 1800s and shows up on maps of that era. South of Forest Avenue Richmond Avenue expands into a virtual expressway as it runs past the Staten Island Mall.


Tremont Avenue, East and West, runs across the entire borough of the Bronx, from the Harlem River in Morris Heights to the East River in Schuylerville. It absorbed several other roads as it was united under one name in the early 20th Century. Quite different from its easterly role as a traffic speedway and shopping mecca, this section near the Harlem River between Cedar and Sedgwick Avenues is paved with red brick and the hill is so steep that the avenue dead-ends and turns into a step street.


Optimistically-named Utopia Parkway bustles north and south between the East River and the Grand Central Parkway, most of it in Auburndale and Fresh Meadows. It begins as a trickle at Little Bay at 12th Avenue, where it runs along the water with a view of the Throgs Neck Bridge. It doesn’t get its mojo until it gets south of the Cross Island Parkway.



14 Responses to FAMILIAR ROADS in unfamiliar scenes

  1. Gary Dunaier says:

    Awesome concept, great execution. The only thing missing is a map to give some geographical context for those who may not be familiar with specific areas or neighborhoods. Even taking that into consideration, I’ve got just two words for you…

    “More, please!”

  2. Larry Mac says:

    I love this site and it’s perhaps a minor point but as and old railbird I cringe when Aqueduct Racetrack is referred to as “Aqueduct Raceway”.

  3. chris says:

    Er-uh,wasnt Utopia pkwy also the name of a box sculpcha by Joseph Cornell?

  4. Larry says:

    In your pic of Linden Blvd…u didnt mention the cross street..U recall it?

  5. Fred Mayer says:

    I used to ride my bike from Whitestone to Utopia Pkwy and watch them build the bridge. At 11 years old, I was very impressed.

  6. Ryan says:

    Nice collection!

  7. Someone says:

    Apparently, all the Linden Boulevards were lined up in a straight line.

    By the way, the Hylan Boulevard picture was taken in 2007 and so it’s low-def. Nice pics, though.

  8. James says:

    HA! Johnny Hylan was a corrupt hack! Jimmy Walker had him appointed to the children’s court saying at last now the children can have a peer to judge them

  9. Prester John says:

    Love your site. I have visited NY several times but I can never seem to visit enough. I keep reading books about the history as no other city in North America seems to be so historically endowed. Thank you so much for your long term efforts.

  10. jerry says:

    Great page Kevin. When I grew up in Whitestone we had friends who lived on that stretch of Utopia Parkway, which even as a kid I knew was kind of funny since I always thought of UP as a very busy roadway on the other side of the Parkway. The area in your photo was our “go to” spot for 4th of July. The abutters used to pull out all the stops with private fireworks at that spot.

  11. Herb Schonhaut says:

    In your caption of the half-block section of Avenue Y above, the” high rise complex seen here” is called HARWAY TERRACE.

    Other candidates for a part two of this study would be:
    – Rockaway Parkway dead end sections on both the north (East Flatbush) and south (Canarsie) sides of the Railroad embankment between Ditmas Avenue and Avenue D;
    -Tapscott St wide portion between Dumont and Blake Avenues (path of old Hunterfly Rd) in Brownsville;
    -Adams St narrow portion between Sands St and East River (original width of entire length) in DUMBO;
    -Yellowstone Blvd narrow portion between 63 Av and 62 Av (former Rehan Pl) in Forest Hills;
    -Jewel Av narrow portions between 164 and 168 Sts and between 174 and 179 Streets in Hillcrest.

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