March 2019 marks Forgotten New York’s 20th anniversary. To mark the occasion, I’ve re-scanned about 150 key images from the early days of FNY from 35MM prints. In the early days, when people including me were accessing FNY with dial-up modems, I had to save photos really small — in some cases, just 4″ across. I couldn’t find all those early photos — I think I foolishly discarded some along the way — but all month, and into April, I’ll be picking out some and showing the newly scanned versions.
Signage on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressways — and other expressways and parkways around town — used to be somewhat smaller in the past. Many of NYC’s expressways were built in what traffic czar Robert Moses would call NYC’s golden age of the automobile, the 1950s, when the Interstate Highway System was instituted. Moses, of course, had been building roadways since his very first, the Northern and Southern State Parkways in Long Island and the Interboro (now the Jackie Robinson) in Brooklyn and Queens.
I found two of the oldstyle posts still getting the job done on Columbia Street and Atlantic Avenues in Cobble Hill. The one shown above has had a new, modern green and white highway sign, a style that has been used on parkways and expressways since the 1980s and possibly before that. It displays the I-278 shield.
The posts seem to be thicker versions of the poles that first appeared on the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge in the 1930s. The shafts are cylindrical and support a crossbar supported by a finlike device. The finial is a stepped device echoic of the skyscrapers being built in the 1930s.
There were even older versions on Columbia Street at the expressway onramps. The signs were white with black lettering. The sign is more helpful, since instead of pointing traffic to the BQE West, it sends them toward the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel (referred to officially as the Hugh Carey Tunnel now) and the Belt Parkway. Both signs were illuminated with incandescent bulbs. Both were also replaced years ago.
Today, the sidewalk here has been considerably widened, and a bike lane has been added.
Very few of these stanchions exist today. I know of one, at the eastbound section of Union Turnpike (the service road of Grand Central Parkway) east of 135th Street in Briarwood.