by Kevin Walsh

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.

There are three photos on my “One Shot” today, all of them stoplights in the same genre. These posts, placed on thousands of streets on opposite corners beginning until the late 1920s and surviving for the most part until the mid-1980s, served to control most of the auto traffic in NYC in those years. I don’t know the manufacturer or design numbers of the posts themselves; I refer to them as Olives because they were always painted a dark olive green.

When installed, most carried red and green stoplights manufactured by Ruleta:

Traffic Classics [FNY]; Stephen Gembara’s “New York City’s Red and Green Lights

Ruletas usually came with a red and green pair; when briefly flashed simultaneously, it served as an “amber” or yellow light. Olive posts all shared a grooved shaft and fluted base, and one of the pair always featured the control box, in which the stoplights were electronically switched back and forth.

When I moved to Flushing in 1993, I immediately discovered a surviving Olive, shown above, at Crocheron Avenue and 170th Street. Its Ruleta pair had been replaced by a modern three-light system. Though most Ruletas were two-lampers, rare examples featured an amber; there were also “cyclops” Ruletas that flashed a single red light.

I discovered this beauty on a bike ride to Forest Hills, 110th Street and 69th Road, shortly after moving to Queens in 1993. It survived longer than most, until late 2008. The stoplight was removed and its rusting Olive base is still in place.

Several Central Park Olives, supporting different clusters of stoplights, were functional until 2017, when they were all taken out of service; I’m not sure if their Olive posts are still in place.

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



Vince P. March 12, 2019 - 2:52 pm

My son has a fascination for traffic lights. He most especially keeps a look out for Dog House Traffic lights when we go on road trips. I must show him this post and if we do find one, I will post a photo. Cheers!

Elbern Ed April 11, 2019 - 4:20 pm

I crossed Crocheron Avenue with my younger siblings for years at that traffic light on the way to PS32 on 35th Avenue. I didn’t know until recently that the light was installed there as a result of a “Mother’s Revolution” long before. Apparently, worried housewives banded together and protested to provide safety for the children walking to school. BTW, I find it interesting that the traffic light was left in place through the city’s (several) reconstructions of the corner’s concrete.


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