PARK AVENUE, QUEENS, Electchester

By SERGEY KADINSKY
Forgotten NY correspondent

As you know, every borough in NYC has its own Broadway and a Main Street. When it comes to Park Avenue, the one in Manhattan is a world-famous name and brand, while its Bronx continuation is lined by a noisy railroad track and warehouses. The Park Avenue of Brooklyn is hidden beneath an unsightly elevated highway, and the Park Avenue of Staten Island is in a quiet neighborhood known as Port Richmond.

 

71st and Park Avenues. Compared to the other Park Avenues of this city, the Park Avenue of Queens  is an infant, having been opened to traffic as recently as 1986.

 

Ironically, you may have an easier time parking on Manhattan’s Park Avenue than the Park Avenue of Queens, which is a privately-owned road. Located at the juncture of Kew Gardens Hills, Hillcrest, and Fresh Meadows, the land on which Park Avenue lies was the last to be developed in the area, as the above 1950s aerial image shows. The site appears to be a previously undeveloped lot.

 

The 1928 Belcher-Hyde Atlas detail shows the block in its infancy. the undeveloped space on top is the Pomonok Country Club. The street grid to the south was organized by the Star Realty Co. Initially the streets had names, but were assigned numbers as part of a larger borough-wide number grid. Notice how 159th to 163rd Streets are interrputed midblock by the golf course’s property line. The space between the planned 71st Avenue and the property line will later become the Park Avenue of Queens.

 

The 1949 Hagstrom Atlas has the area completely covered in the grid, with the golf course as the holdout. By 1951, its eastern two-thirds will become the union-owned Electchester and the city-owned Pomonok housing project would take the rest. The bend in Kissena Boulevard was straightened and the old roadway curve became the two block-long Aguilar Avenue.

The leftover property sandwiched between 71st Avenue and the old property line remained undeveloped until around 1986.

 

It was on the once-vacant lot at 162 Street, where on July 14, 1965, 9-year-old Jay Silverman found the body of 5-year-old Missy Crimmins. A pajama top, knotted into two ligatures, was loosely tied around her bruised neck. The Crimmins case ranks alongside the Ruth Snyder case in the annals of Queens-based domestic crimes. The mother, Alice Crimmins, was widely reputed as the murderer of her daughter, and son Eddie, whose body was found near the Van Wyck Expressway. At the time, Mrs. Crimmins resided in Kew Gardens Hills.

Little Alice Marie “Missy” Crimmins is buried atSt. Raymond’s cemetery in the Bronx, with her brother Eddie. Crimmins’ trial was one of the most sensational local trials in the late 60s- early 70s. The mother was paroled in 1977.

Left: Alice and Edmund Crimmins

 

Park Avenue meets 160th Street

In the early 1980s, the Estates at Hillcrest purchased this property, with the intent of building townhouse condos. To give the property an attractive image, the privately owned extensions of 160th and 161st Streets became Park Avenue and Sutton Place, respectively.

The true mystery here is how the city allowed the developer to get away with this. You see, on the Queens street grid, an Avenue, Road, or Drive should not go parallel with a Street or Place. Not only does Park Avenue do this, but in the middle of the block, it transforms into 160th Street! What a rebellious infant! Even the mapmakers found this hard to believe, and on Hagstrom maps, the block is labeled “160th Street (Park Avenue)” I wonder if the residents have problems with pizza deliveries.

While Park Avenue and Sutton Place appear on the map, their private status is indicated by the curb extensions over their intersections at 71st Avenue.

 

Nearby, the 107th police precinct of the NYPD, built in 1995, is topped by a dish-like object on the rooftop. It is a public art sculpture by Alice Aycock emphasizing the theme of communications. You are not being monitored.

11/6/14


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3 Responses to PARK AVENUE, QUEENS, Electchester

  1. jerry says:

    I have always been intrigued by the name “Electchester”, which as a kid sounded to me like some sort of Frankensteinian combination of Westchester and…..what exactly? Some sort of tribute to the modern wonders of electricity?

    Can anyone “shed some light” so to speak?

    • Kevin Walsh says:

      It was founded by an electrician’s union

    • I reside in Electchester. The name is the result of a naming contest by the IBEW in 1949. Parkchester resident George Klein chose the name and his prize was a $100 savings bond. So indeed, Parkchester’s name was inspired by Westchester and Electchester’s name was inspired by Parkchester. It’s similar to how in eastern Long Island, there’s a Southampton, Westhampton and Bridgehampton.

      You can read about Electchester’s early days in the book “Harry Van Arsdale Jr: Labor’s Champion,” a biography of the notable labor leader whose name appears on Jewel Avenue.

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