by Kevin Walsh

photo: NYCRoads.com

Here’s the Belt Parkway (officially Shore Parkway) looking west toward Starrett City (officially Spring Creek Towers) in 1974, the same year the housing project in Brooklyn’s far south opened. I never thought I would see a photo of this dimly-remembered situation I had noticed every time I was seated in a car going through that stretch. I speak, of course, of the Woodie lamps that mysteriously held a set of General Electric M400 lamps in that remote stretch. 

The Woodies were installed when the Parkway was built from 1938-1940, and originally held some very strange-looking luminaires powered by sodium vapor. In the late 1940s and into the 1950s, the Woodies were outfitted with a mixed set of “bell” and “cuplight” lamps, carrying yellow incandescent bulbs, that are familiar to NYC lamppost buffs who remember them as standard issue on the Bishop Crooks, Corvingtons and Twins that populated NYC streets until 1960, when mercury lamps that included the M400 began to squeeze them out.

Yet the Belt Parkway remained steadfastly in the incandescent camp until the early 1970s, when the Department of Transportation began to grandfather them out in favor of the new Donald Deskey poles, going so far as to install “cuplights” on them–a rare sight anywhere else. Even rarer was the sight of M400s on the Woodies — it only occurred in this one stretch between 1964 and the mid-1970s, when Deskeys began to truly dominate. What was the rationale? My guess is a temporary shortage of Deskey equipment, but the DOT wished to replace the old incandescents by hook or crook — and we wound up with these hybrids. If you look carefully, in the background you can see a set of Deskeys carrying the “cups.” 

ForgottenFan Howard Fein: That stretch of the Belt on the Brooklyn-Queens border had the Woodies retrofitted with GE florescent fixtures because it was in the final approach path for planes approaching JFK.

Heady days indeed for lamppost buffs!

By the 1990s the Deskeys themselves were wiped out by a new set of cylindrical, straight-armed posts, all of which now carry Light Emitting Diode bulbs. 

Check out the ForgottenBook, take a look at the gift shop, and as always, “comment…as you see fit.”



Drew September 6, 2017 - 11:01 pm

I wish the Deskeys were still being produced. So New York to me!

Gary Farkash September 8, 2017 - 1:08 pm

There seems o be only one woody left on the Belt system in Rosedale Queens on the approach from Brookville Blvd onto the Belt.

rodney September 13, 2017 - 4:45 pm

I know of that woodie that you speak of!! It’s been there since I was a kid and I’m 31. Unfortunately, the DOT decided to retire the pole.

Kevin Ryan October 18, 2017 - 4:25 pm

Are there any extent photos of Woodie lamposts on the Belt Parkway at night in the 1950’s when they had beautiful square orange box light fixtures ? They were probably fog lights and there were near then NY Idewild Airport

Andy September 7, 2017 - 7:47 am

The area to the right of the photo has since been developed into a large shopping mall. A new exit to and from the parkway, Erskine Street, has been built to the provide access.

Steve September 8, 2017 - 8:03 am

Love the picture. Probably normal rush hour traffic back then.

Jim M September 8, 2017 - 3:33 pm

that is a Pontiac LeMans in the foreground. My sister had a green one

William Mangahas September 8, 2017 - 8:53 pm

Is that a No U Turn sign on the center median ? lol

NY2AZ September 9, 2017 - 10:07 am

Take a look at the right shoulder between the first & second lamp posts. A then late model car is suspiciously parked. Could the wise guys have deliberately left it there with a “message” planted within? “Leave the gun, take the cannoli”


Andy September 10, 2017 - 9:44 pm

In July 1967 there was a mysterious shooting on the Shore Parkway a few miles west of this location, near Mill Basin and Plum Beach. A young woman was killed by a random gunshot while driving westbound. The police could not figure it out for a few days, until it was established that a man on a boat in Jamaica Bay was shooting at cans bobbing in the water. One shot ricocheted and managed to travel across the water and found the open window of the woman’s car. It was purely accidental, and no criminal intent was ever established. This information comes from the book Chief!, an autobiography of Albert Seedman, who later became NYC’s Chief of Detectives

NY2AZ September 13, 2017 - 9:46 am

You ARE good! I read “Chief” way back at the beginning of my career (1974 or ’75) when I was taking the subway to the WTC from the Main St./Roosevelt Ave. l IRT terminal. It was a long ride & “Chief” made the whole affair almost enjoyable. “Thanks for the memories”.

Andy September 15, 2017 - 5:07 pm

Thanks for the kind words. There’s another coincidence here besides the Chief! book. From 1974 until 1978 I rode the #7 , then the #2/#3, between Main Street and the WTC. Lived in Flushing, worked at #1 WTC. Moved to Long Island in 1978 but continued to work at WTC until 1982, traveling on LIRR and IRT. Left the WTC job in 1982. I usually read newspapers to and from work while riding, a habit I still have.

NY2AZ September 17, 2017 - 11:22 am

I used the same route when I lived on 38th Avenue/Flushing. Reading is part of subway etiquette. I live in a resort style community in Arizona where I spend time at a community pool. Between swims I read which sometimes generates curiosity. It’s quite challenging explaining subway etiquette to someone from N. Dakota. It’s best to reference “Taxi Driver”:( “Are you talking to me?”). Suddenly the “never make eye contact” rule makes good sense to my inquisitor & relocation to AZ makes even better sense. Sorry we never crossed paths. If you ever visit AZ look me up. I live 50 miles east of Phoenix in an Tan Valley.

BTW: I read the internet edition of the NY Post daily because Gannet’s AZ Republic is just so much “fake news”.

rodney September 13, 2017 - 4:47 pm

NYC still has a vast amount of Deskey’s lighting up the city. You’ll find some of them in Staten Island, Queens and Brooklyn mostly. I hope that they do not get rid of them. It’s bad enough that all of the streetlights are the same freaking model.

Dennis September 21, 2017 - 11:18 pm

I think this was done to give the woody’s a modern look. An unusual fact about the Belt from the BQE merge to the Sunrise-Brookville exit is that this long stretch was slow in giving up the woodies. There were still many interspersed into the 1990’s. The Deskeys were given cuplight fixtures on this stretch. From west of Pennsylvania Avenue, the cups were replaced with sodiums around 1975. The area east of Pennsylvania Avenue got sodiums about a year later. By this time, the ridiculous alternate lighting at the median was in effect (never understood the reason for this, but still exists in some roadways to this day). This resulted in median Deskeys being fitted with both a sodium fixture and a non-working cup light. This truly looked ridiculous. The remaining woodys got bucket fixtures, also on an alternating basis. The Belt was like Rockaway Boulevard which was slow to give up the cast iron posts. I do miss the Deskeys and do not like the monstrosities being pushed in this ERROR such as the ugly Jersey style Cyclops posts, double masted Corvingtons (this did not exist in the old days, so where is the old time feel, They should use the type 24 twinlamp), Davit posts, and the other ugly types in Manhattan (there are the ugly midtown type and the ugly type downtown which also found their way into Long Island City. As for the NO U TURN sign in the median, these were standard on interstate highways until this country started taking in peasants from the third world who refuse to learn English, and demand we give them everything and hate us anyway, but still feel the need to appease them (thanks Democrats).

Robert Lauricella February 1, 2021 - 11:00 pm

I think that they should go back to the woodies back on the belt parkway bring back the old New York style look. Get rid of these hideous lamp posts.

Jason October 7, 2017 - 2:39 am

Can anybody ID the dark car in the center lane that is driving away? I’m a car buff and can tell the make and model of all but that. It is third away from the vantage point, past the Pontiac and the Cadillac, and almost equal with the Buick on the shoulder


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.