Since New York City has so few alleys, I tend to be fascinated by them when encountering one. Even better is an alley that has some notable history attached to it.
In the late 19th and early 20th Century, a trolley line connected Flushing and Jamaica, running originally through the farms and fields of Fresh Meadows. The above image was captured at 164th Street and 77th Avenue in 1936, just a few months before service ended in 1937. In short order, the tracks were pulled up, the weeds paved over, a center median added, and 164th Street became the fast and furious stretch we know it as today between Flushing Cemetery and the Grand Central Parkway. More images of this ilk can be found in the book I wrote in association with the Greater Astoria Historical Society, Forgotten Queens.
South of Grand Central Parkway the trolley line veered off 164th and rode on its own right of way to a terminal on Jamaica Avenue at about 160th Street. In the decades since, most of this trolley route has been either eliminated or hidden pretty well, but one remnant, a dead-end alley named Burdette Place, is still there on 89th Avenue just west of Parsons Boulevard. It’s doubtful the name has anything to do with 1950s-1960s Milwaukee Braves pitching immortal Lew Burdette.
If you explore it, as few who don’t live on it will bother to do, it’s not bad at all, with attached and freestanding buildings.
For me, of course, the attraction is the presence of a remaining 1960- vintage General Electric M-400 luminaire. Along with their Westinghouse Silverliner compadres, these once lit 95% of New York City streets between 1960 and 1972, when the new bright yellow sodium lights arrived. The M400s burn a rather dull greenish-white, and Burdette Place may be pretty forbidding at night.