By SERGEY KADINSKY
Forgotten NY correspondent
On a block of 18th Avenue between 126th and 127th Streets in College Point, Queens, the avenue widens with a green traffic median containing a World War One memorial. Located amid mostly light manufacturers and nondescript rowhouses, this tiny .09-acre park dates back to when this block was the plaza for a railroad station that served College Point. A historical photo of the station was installed in this park by the Poppenhusen Institute, a leading promoter of College Point history.
The station was built in 1868 for the Whitestone Branch, which enabled a quick commute to Long Island City and a ferry to Midtown. At the time, College Point had the appearance of a village, isolated from its neighboring communities by the Mill Creek wetland. The only roads connecting College Point to the rest of Queens were 14th Avenue and College Point Boulevard.
The line’s last train rolled out of the College Point station on February 16, 1932. Long Island Railroad abandoned this five-station branch citing a drop in ridership and the high cost of operation. Its users fought back with a lawsuit and sought to have it converted into a subway line, akin to the Brighton Line in Brooklyn and the Dyre Avenue Line in the Bronx. But the city’s Transit Authority looked at the single-track line and its numerous grade crossings, and refused to accept the rail line. Shortly after its last train, the drawbridge across Flushing Creek was removed and most other traces of the Whitestone Branch then vanished.
The College Point station was a beauty with gable windows, symmetry, and inside it had a waiting room, restaurant, and second-floor residence for the station agent and his family. One can imagine walking out the station here facing a plaza that had taverns and a hotel on its block.
Prolific city photographer Percy Loomis Sperr captured this station nearly two weeks after its closing. The street level windows were boarded up and the station agent was preparing to move out of his residence. Within two years, the local civic association called the station building an eyesore and it was quickly demolished.
Looking north on 127th Street in the same direction as Sperr, there are no hints of the station to be seen, except for the interruption of 18th Avenue between 127th and 128th Streets because there was a station in the way that once stood here. The Q25 bus route approximates the path of this forgotten railway in College Point with a bus stop exactly on the corner of the College Point train station.
A block to the south at 127-11 20th Avenue is a narrow building standing askew to the street grid. Similar to 3030 Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, this building fills up the abandoned right-of-way of Whitestone Branch. Considering the population growth, it would have been nice to access College Point and Whitestone by train from Midtown Manhattan, but unfortunately our leaders did not have the future in mind in the 1930s, unless it involved a nearby World’s Fair.
Next door to this narrow building is 127-03 20th Avenue, with its brick window arches and star-shaped bolts. Kevin wrote about it in 2013 as the former factory of Isaak B. Kleinert Rubber Works. In 2020, the words “Rubber factory” can still be seen on the north face of this building.
Diagonal to this building is the 1941 expansion of Kleinert’s factory, as indicated in the ocrnerstone. This building also stands atop the former railroad. Like many shuttered factories across the city, it functions today as a storage warehouse.
Sergey Kadinsky is the author of Hidden Waters of New York City: A History and Guide to 101 Forgotten Lakes, Ponds, Creeks, and Streams in the Five Boroughs (2016, Countryman Press) and the webmaster of Hidden Waters Blog.