I was desultorily trudging through Williamsburg on January 1, 2014 when I was reminded of the power of trolley tracks to preserve ancient streets.

Johnson Avenue is a relatively busy two-lane road that cuts through East Williamsburg from Manhattan Avenue east to Flushing, Cypress and Scott Avenues in a section of Bushwick that is being rapidly overtaken by Williamsburgers who have been priced out of the downtown section, and along with them came the artists’ lofts and restaurants with unusual menus.

But there’s a short section of Johnson Avenue unmentioned on printed maps, and you have to zoom in close on Google Maps to see it. In 1964, Johnson Avenue between Union Avenue and Manhattan was eliminated to make room for the Lindsay Park Houses, which were named for a Williamsburg congressman, George H. Lindsay (1837-1916) and for Sternberg Park, honoring community activist Frances Hamburger Sternberg (1920-1990) expanded over the old Johnson Avenue roadbed.


However, a small sliver of Johnson Avenue between Union Avenue and Broadway was not involved with the Lindsay Houses and was allowed to remain. It hasn’t been paved in decades, which vouchsafes a view of trolley tracks belonging to the #14 trolley line, which traveled from Williamsburg all the way to Canarsie via Johnson Avenue, Morgan Avenue, Wilson Avenue, Cooper Street, Rockaway Avenue and Rockaway Parkway.

The line ended service on May 27, 1951, and were severed from the rest of Johnson Avenue when the housing project was being constructed.


Looking east toward the Lindsay Park Houses from the Johnson Avenue stub at Union Avenue.


The intersection of Johnson Avenue and Broadway rates a blinking red traffic signal.

While this part of Johnson Avenue preserves old tracks, remaining segments of Old Ridge Road in Astoria and Jackson Mill Road in Jackson Heights owe their continued existence to old trolley routes.


Categorized in: Forgotten Slices Trolleys Tagged with:


  1. Joe Fliel says:

    You must have forgotten (apropos, considering the name of this page 🙂 ) your first visit to Johnson Avenue back in 1999:


    Appreciated nonetheless, Kevin. This section of Billburg still is a treasure trove of artifacts that haven’t met the wrecker’s ball.

  2. John Dereszewski says:

    The route of the old trolley line is now traversed by the B-60 bus, commonly known as the Wilson Ave. bus. The route begins at Washington Plaza, at the foot of the williamsburg Bridge. While the bus line now reaches Johnson Ave. on a more convoluted route, I guess the trolley just ran down Broadway until taking a left turn on Johnson. I wonder if the B-60 took a similar route until Lindsay Park blocked its path.

    Also, thanks for the reference to Frances Sternberg, who served with me for many years on Community Board 1. Before we became friends, Frances actually nosed me out for board Chainman in 1976.

  3. Fred Mayer says:

    It’s not NYC, but Northport left the old trolley tracks on Main St. The trolley line ran from the LIRR station to town (definitely not walking distance). Kudos for saving some of the past.

  4. Jamie says:

    When we rebuilt Manhattan Ave in 1998, we took up trolley tracks from Ash to Nassau. The only ones we left were embedded in the sidewalk between Box and Clay on the South side of the street.
    I think there was a trolley house between Manhattan and Franklin.

    Come over to Whitestone Village and I’ll show you the original trolley Barn that became the first Whitestone Library and is now a Lawyers office…you can still see the difference in the brick on the façade where they in-filled the arches.

    • Fred Mayer says:

      I grew up in Whitestone ’49-’63 and never knew of a trolley barn. What’s the address? I live in FL now; too far to drop by. Thanks

  5. steven says:

    There are exposed trolley tracks all over Williamsburg. The intersections of Broadway and Marcy Ave have tracks exposed quite a bit along with the bricks. If you aren’t careful walking, you can trip on them!!!

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