JACKIE ROBINSON PARKWAY, 1932

by Kevin Walsh

WHEN traffic czar Robert Moses commissioned the Interborough Parkway in 1930, which connects Pennsylvania and Jamaica Avenues in Brooklyn with the Grand Central Parkway in Kew Gardens, it was along with the Bronx River Parkway the earliest such road built in the five boroughs, though the Southern Parkway east of NYC was opened earlier. Moses’ parkways all originally had a suburban or downright rural appearance; with wooden railposts and “woodie” lampposts, some of which still stand on the Island and in Westchester.

The Interborough, now of course called the Jackie Robinson Parkway, runs through a number of cemeteries in the mid-island cemetery belt which arose along the hilly area in Brooklyn and Queens. There are 17 separate cemeteries in the belt and I’m not sure which one is pictured here in a 1932 shot by E.E. Rutter. What I can say is, it was a pity that traffic over time became much busier and the Interborough’s original fancy concrete railings and overpasses have long vanished, though the Jackie’s innumerable twists and turns, built to get the parkway around frequent inclines were it to be built straight, are still in place. The road had to be widened over time, displacing even more gravesites than had been moved when the Interborough was first constructed.

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5/26/22

24 comments

Sunnysider May 27, 2022 - 12:33 am

I hate driving on that thing. It’s a death trap. I’m not do sure renaming it after Jackie Robinson was much of an honor.

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Andy May 27, 2022 - 8:33 am

I agree. The Jackie Robinson (nee Interborough) is a challenge to anyone’s driving skills. I’m a case-hardened lifelong New York driver with fifty-seven years driving experience and I still place the Jackie at the top of my list of highways to avoid unless absolutely necessary.

The parkway was named for Jackie Robinson because he is buried in the adjacent Cypress Hills Cemetery. I recall driving with my father to a few Dodger games in 1955 and 1956 when Robinson was still playing in Brooklyn, and we took the Interborough to and from Ebbets Field.

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William Mangahas May 28, 2022 - 8:37 am

“The Jackie Robinson (nee Interborough) is a challenge to anyone’s driving skills. ”

The elevated West Side (Miller) Highway was even more of a challenge.
Did you ever drive it in rain especially on the parts that had cobblestones ?
No pun intended by Mario Andretti would steer clear of the old West Side Highway.

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Andy May 30, 2022 - 4:59 pm

“Did you ever drive it in rain especially on the parts that had cobblestones ?” Yes, and I did not enjoy that experience, but I am a careful driver and knew how to handle my car in those circumstances. I still drive regularly in mid-70s but I would probably avoid the W Side Highway today and opt for one of the parallel avenues in bad weather. Kind of glad the highway was not rebuilt after its infamous 1973 collapse.

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redstaterefugee May 27, 2022 - 11:23 am

You are SO right! It might have been portrayed that way in a scene from “The French Connection” (the one where actor Eddie Egan, the real Popeye Doyle, Popeye & his partner from the case).

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redstaterefugee May 28, 2022 - 10:11 am

The comment should have been written: You are SO right! The Interborough Parkway may have been portrayed that way in a scene from “The French Connection” (the one where Eddie Egan, who was the real Popeye Doyle , who plays a detective supervisor, tells Doyle & partner that they’re “off the case”).

“Sorry about that, chief!”

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William Keller May 27, 2022 - 1:50 am

I recall seeing in
ca. 1980 wooden lightposts begin
at the point (in Little Neck?) where the Grand Central
becomes the Northern
State.

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Bill H May 27, 2022 - 7:38 am

I love that road. Such history. As for the turns, Lear how to drive and slow down if your car can’t handle it. It is somewhat tragic that many of the original features have been lost. Just like the loss of the wood pole and guard rails on the other parkways. I am totally disappointed in the renaming of the inter borough. Just like the renaming of the Tri borough. These were historic and good names that had meaning. It does not serve me at all to have RFK or JR names on these roads. In fact, it hurst us all as it cost millions to rename them! Self serving self I greet actions of politicians.

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Anonymous June 30, 2022 - 4:37 am

agreed

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William D. Jackson May 27, 2022 - 8:42 am

Pretty sure that’s past Myrtle Avenue going towards Pennsylvania/Jamaica Avenues. There’s an s-trwist that first breaks from the foliage and into cemetery territory that this reminds me of.

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philipe May 27, 2022 - 9:10 am

“I’m not do sure renaming it after Jackie Robinson was much of an honor.”
It should still be the Interborough Parkway.

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John May 27, 2022 - 9:24 am

I once spun out, in the rain, on the Interboro in the late 1990s. I was skilled and lucky enough to not touch any barriers or vehicles. Happened in the twisty section! It IS a very direct, useful route.

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Ribbet May 27, 2022 - 2:55 pm

How much longer until we can turn all this wasted space called cemeteries into badly needed recreation areas? Time to outlaw putting dead bodies in the ground!!

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chris May 27, 2022 - 4:08 pm

What is this mania for having to name everything in sight after someone come from?
Once upon a time they left well enough alone.Theres an on-ramp to the Brooklyn Bridge
named after someone.Wow! What an honor!
In some parts of the country they’re naming parking garages after people.How flattering
Pretty soon its going to be parking spaces and fire hydrants.

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Allen May 27, 2022 - 5:55 pm

The modern JRP was modernized by Robert Moses for the 1939 Worlds Fair. The reason the parkway curves is it goes through various cemeteries so when modernized they had to dissenter the least number of graves as possible. When we were kids on Saturday my father would take the JRP to visit my grandparents in the Bronx. We had a car with a bad rear seat door lock so the door would fly open on the curves.

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Peter May 27, 2022 - 11:22 pm

In the 1950’s Temple University bought a cemetery in Philadelphia for a campus expansion. It hadn’t been used for burials in more than 40 years and was severely run down. Temple reburied the 20,000+ bodies elsewhere with simple grave markers. What about the old headstones? It sold them to the city, which used them as landfill along the Delaware River to help stop erosion.

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Thomas Snowden May 28, 2022 - 9:39 am

Wow. Drove this so many times I could have put my ‘66 Fury on autopilot. It was always a challenge…and I loved EVERY minute of it!

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Ron S May 28, 2022 - 12:32 pm

A few comments: 1) Yes, stop renaming things. Koch cared little for Queens and does not deserve a bridge name. Kennedy has no specific connection to the Triborough which was already well named. Likewise Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, Tappan Zee Bridge–the names are geographical/historical and are degraded by naming them after political
hacks (Republican or Democrat).
2) The Interboro (which should also have retained its name) is a 1930’s highway which was appropriate for drivers of cars of the time. it is pointless to criticize it as unsafe
for people to drive 70mph on. Slow down, drive carefully, obey the speeds posted, and stop whining and killing people.
3) In a similar vein, stop blaming roads for road deaths. There were two deadly cases of cars flying off the Bronx River near the Zoo. The road is 100% straight with barriers and good visibility. Politicians immediately brought their podiums out to get on the news with lame ideas about what to do with the road. Nobody thought that we need to do something about moronic aggressive drivers.
4) Southern State Parkway (repeat #3 above).

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Tal Barzilai May 29, 2022 - 7:50 pm

BTW, Jackie Robinson’s grave is actually located in one of the cemeteries that is off of this parkway that was later renamed for him.

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Mitch45 May 31, 2022 - 12:11 pm

I went to high school in Brooklyn from 1978 through 1982. I traveled by a van bus. The driver used the Interboro every day, so I remember the concrete overpasses. The last time I was on the Parkway was a few years ago and the overpasses are now gone. The Interboro was actually never finished. I believe
that Moses intended to link up the Parkway with the Belt Parkway once that was completed. This would have required either an elevated roadway over
Pennsylvania Avenue in Brooklyn or a tunnel underneath it. The extension was never built so the western end of the parkway is essentially useless.

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Allen June 3, 2022 - 4:23 pm

Another Moses plan that thankfully never came to be. A connection to the Belt could have separated Brooklyn neighborhoods like the Cross Bronx. The Cross Bronx created the crime ridden South Bronx that burned in the 70s.

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Frankie June 5, 2022 - 3:54 pm

This is the ultimate driving test for young ones just beginning to drive. If you can master this, then you can drive anywhere in New York. I still call it the Interboro as it should be. Perhaps a section of Bedford Ave would have been more appropriate to honor Jackie Robertson.

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redstaterefugee June 8, 2022 - 10:51 am

Who is Jackie Robertson? The name Jackie ROBINSON is mentioned numerous times, including the title. Both the writer & the editor are at fault. To quote playwright Arthur Miller in “Death of A Salesman”: Attention must be paid!

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Sergey Kadinsky June 7, 2022 - 8:22 am

This section of the parkway runs atop the site of Delta Lake.

Reply

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