The 10th AVENUE ELEVATED: 2 blocks in Borough Park

by Kevin Walsh

Look at any street map of Borough Park that includes subways and you will see that the BMT West End line travels in a right of way north of 39th Street, turns south at 9th Avenue and then along an elevated line down New Utrecht Avenue to 86th Street, then along Stillwell Avenue to Coney Island.


Except that, well, it doesn’t, not exactly.

Most NYC maps, including the classic Hagstrom sampled here, depict the line incorrectly. The el really makes the turn at 10th Avenue, shrouding the numbered avenue a couple of blocks until turning again down New Utrecht at 41st Street.




That leaves a good two blocks and change of New Utrecht Avenue, from 10th Avenue and 41st Street to 9th Avenue just north of 39th Street in the good sunshine, the only two blocks along its entire 3-mile length that can say that.

At 41st Street the el joins New Utrecht Avenue and will be its companion all the way to Bath Beach.

The West End line (these old line names have become outmoded but I still prefer them simply because they change the letters every few years), throughout my youth, was plied by the B line. A few years ago, it changed to the D. The M has buddied up with both letters the whole time. Until 1917, the el was a surface line, with steam engines chuffing down the New Utrecht Plank Road.

Since then, though, New Utrecht Avenue is likely the longest “elled” street in the city since the Third Avenue El was closed. The Third Avenue El covered 3rd Avenue in Manhattan and the Bronx most of the way from Chatham Square to Fordham, with only a sliver of Third Avenue in Mott Haven open to the sun. Third Avenue was thrown open to the sun in stages, with the Manhattan section and the Bronx section of the el south of “The Hub” shutting down in 1955, and north of the Hub to Fordham in 1973.

The longest street in NYC covered completely by an elevated train is Livonia Avenue in East New York.

A view of the “10th Avenue El” looking north from 41st Street.

I was attracted to an abandoned beauty parlor on the corner of 10th and 40th Street. You don’t see an abandoned beauty parlor every day.

Artistic Hair Styling. I didn’t get a look inside but I’ll bet the rows of old-fashioned hair dryers are still there. This salon goes back to the days when women emerged from the hairdresser with mini-sculptures of hair on their heads, with tightly curled ringlets. My mother used to go to get her hair “done”; these days, women get their hair “cut.” When did the word change? The storefront is “for rent” so this slice of the Fab Fifties will, unfortunately, soon leave the scene.

Only in Forgotten New York will the discussion change on a dime from elevated trains to beauty parlor nomenclature. Sometimes I never know where I’m going when Forgottening, and I never know where I’ll go when writing the page. Of course some people want me to go far, far away.

In any case, does anyone have a theory about why they did a reverse “S” curve when constructing the el in 1917, and why mapmakers are adamant about not showing the true route?