by Kevin Walsh

IMAGINE my surprise when I learned that Atlantic Avenue, one of the lengthiest streets in NYC, divided about equally between Brooklyn and Queens, had been extended for about a block on its east end. (I care about this stuff so you don’t have to.) Atlantic Avenue extends from the Brooklyn Heights waterfront east in about a straight line to where the Van Wyck Expressway meets 94th Avenue (at the former LIRR Dunton station). Its history is pretty straightforward: other than short stints as District Street and Atlantic Avenue when it was first laid out in the early 1800s, as it was extended east, it’s always been under the Atlantic Avenue moniker.

It was extended east to accompany the Long Island Rail Road as it ran from Flatbush terminal to Jamaica. Actually the LIRR ran in a very early railroad tunnel beneath the avenue from the waterfront to about Court Street in the 1830s, where it surfaced; Flatbush Terminal was built about 1907, and the railroad has officially emanated from there since then. As for the Brooklyn Heights tunnel, it was sealed up and forgotten about, except for the occasional smuggler or Prohibition rumrunner until the 1980s, when a railbuff, the late great Bob Diamond, rediscovered it; he ran underground tours and had dreams of running a street car line in it until he ran afoul of various city agencies as well as the FDNY, which snuffed the dream.

The LIRR has always been Atlantic Avenue’s calling card and ran in the middle of the avenue as a surface road. West of East New York, the line’s cars were at first pulled by horses as steam engines weren’t allowed west of there; an open cut and elevated line were constructed along the line’s western end in Brooklyn (which are still in use) in the 1880s, but the line ran at grade along Atlantic Avenue from East New York to Jamaica until 1940, when the LIRR tunnel under Atlantic Avenue was completed.

At Atlantic Avenue’s east end at the Van Wyck, its traffic then traveled east on 94th Avenue, then a two-lane street. However, in 2020 an eastbound spur was completed that shifted eastbound traffic to 95th Avenue, which became one-way east; 94th Avenue then became one-way west. The changes are ostensibly to facilitate traffic heading toward the AirTrain station and the LIRR Jamaica station, but 95th Avenue’s eastern progress ends at 150th Street, whereupon station-bound traffic has to turn left and then right on Archer Avenue.

At the same time the new spur road was built, the city acquired land to use as the new Gateway Park on both sides of the spur. The Department of Transportation has not yet installed new “Atlantic Avenue” signs at the junction with 95th Avenue and it’s unclear if it will.

Sergey chimes in to say he knew about it before I did.

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Sergey Kadinsky September 16, 2021 - 10:17 pm Reply
Zalman+Lev September 17, 2021 - 7:19 am

Seems that this roadway configuration has been on the City’s mind for quite a while as evidenced by this tax map from the late 1960’s: Atlantic Avenue shuffle ca. 1967

Zalman+Lev September 17, 2021 - 7:21 am

Aw, hell, I’ll get this right the first time one of these days! Atlantic Avenue Shuffle

Andy September 17, 2021 - 5:46 pm

As usual, a great posting, and thanks for sharing. Been a while since I last saw that intersection (Atlantic Ave. and Van Wyck Expressway) so it’s nice to see how it’s changed for the better.

If I may, just a few minor historical corrections about the LIRR trackage between Atlantic Terminal and Jamaica. When trains started operating in 1844, they were steam-powered and on the surface for the entire distance. In 1861, service west of East NY was replaced with horsecars to assuage Brooklyn residents who objected to steam engines in their then-new residential neighborhoods. The horsecars’ slow speeds caused steam service to resume by about 1870, but by then the LIRR built its current Main Line between Jamaica and the Long Island City waterfront, with ferries connecting to Manhattan. Ever since, the Brooklyn service has been the second fiddle to service focused on Mid-Manhattan.

In the very early 20th century the line was electrified (the first US mainline railroad to use electric power), and 1903-1905 “the line was depressed into a tunnel from Flatbush Avenue to Bedford Avenue, then placed on an elevated viaduct from Bedford Avenue to Ralph Avenue then depressed back into a tunnel until Manhattan Crossing located just west of East New York station. [East of] At East New York the line returned to grade level then rose onto another elevated viaduct until Atkins Ave. The rest of the line from Atkins Ave to Morris Park located just west of Jamaica remained at grade level along Atlantic Avenue with numerous grade crossings with the anticipation of grade separating the line later on. Additionally a new terminal and yard was built at Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. Electric service commenced in 1905 with the line consisting of two tracks between Flatbush Avenue and Woodhaven Junction and four tracks beyond that point to Jamaica.”

Quotes in above paragraph are from Wikipedia ( The stretch east of East New York referenced above was, as correctly noted, placed in a tunnel in 1940.

Peter September 18, 2021 - 8:01 am

The satellite view on Google Maps shows the extension under construction, but it’s complete and in use on the Street View taken last November.
I’m still not convinced that it serves much of a useful purpose.

Edward September 19, 2021 - 11:13 am

Atlantic Avenue’s history has been all about extensions.
Before 1855 Atlantic Avenue veered left (north) just east of Classon Avenue, followed the route (in part) of the present Brevoort Place, and merged into Fulton Street at the intersection of Bedford Avenue. This was as far as it went.
The section east of Bedford Avenue was originally laid out as part of the former Schuyler Street, named for Maj. Gen. Philip Schuyler, American Revolutionary War hero. (A group of streets in Bedford – Stuyvesant and Ocean Hill were named for military heroes; Pulaski Street, De Kalb Avenue, Kosciusko Street, Lafayette, Greene, Gates and Putnam Avenues; and MacDonough, Decatur, Bainbridge, Chauncey, Marion, Sumpter, McDougal, Hull, Somers, Truxton, Herkimer and Schuyler (now Atlantic Avenue) Streets.) Schuyler street split off of Pacific Street between Classon and Franklin Avenues and extended east to the city limits, which at that time was at present-day Sherlock Place. From Bedford Avenue east Schuyler followed the route of the present Atlantic Avenue. At the time, the Long Island Rail Road ran on its own right of way between Schuyler and Herkimer Streets. This alignment created problems in crossing the railroad, as in places it ran either above or below grade. It also accounts for the distance between Atlantic and Herkimer, and why the “places” (Suydam, Kane, Columbus, etc.) now run in between to fill the gap once occupied by the LIRR.
An act of the New York Legislature dated April 13, 1855 authorized the Brooklyn Common Council to widen and extend Schuyler Street; this act provided for the widening of the street from 60’ to 120’ and the construction of a link connecting and aligning Atlantic Avenue at Classon Avenue with Schuyler Street, and also provided for the relocation of the LIRR to the center of the street. An act dated March 21, 1860 which further widened the street to 160’, also provided that the entire length “shall be known and distinguished by the name of Atlantic Avenue.”
“An Act to lay out, open and grade Atlantic avenue, in the Town of New Lots, Kings County”, passed April 16, 1869, authorized the extension of Atlantic Avenue from Van Sinderen Avenue, through the Town of New Lots to the Queens County border.
The portion between Flatbush Avenue and the East River was originally known as Atlantic Street; renamed to Atlantic Avenue (for continuity) by Common Council on November 29, 1869, effective December 13, 1869.


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