If I wanted to bet, I would wager that one in ten passersby, if that many, at this sign at 13th Avenue and 37th Street in Borough Park would know why the housing project going up here is called the “Culver El Project.” But I do and that’s why this website exists…
The houses are being built on the former right of way of both an elevated railroad and an at-grade railroad right of way. The Culver El used to run here, as did the freight-only South Brooklyn Railroad, which connected the waterfront in Sunset Park with Coney Island Subway Yards and some businesses in between. That railroad ceased operations in 1978 or 1980, depending on what account you read. The exposed tracks ran down the center of McDonald Avenue.
In 1954, the now-F train was connected with IND tracks via a new ramp. The Transit Authority made use of the Culver tracks by making it a shuttle in 1960, connecting it with the now-out of use lower level of the 9th Avenue BMT station (now serving D trains) and the McDonald el. The entire Culver el was so called because it replaced a steam railroad founded by Andrew N. Culver in 1889.
In 1975, citing poor ridership, the Metropolitan Transit Authority stopped service on the line. Unfortunately, I had never gotten the chance to ride the structure. I did, though, inherit a number of photos of its demolition — which didn’t happen until 1985, a good decade after the shuttle closed!
Construction on various housing projects has proceeded in fits and starts, a good 40 years after service ended. Some sections are still weed-strewn and flooded after rains.