I was stumbling around Astoria in September 2022 when I found something interesting on 45th Street just south of 31st Avenue. I have always found Astoria and Long Island City fascinating because of the varied architecture, as the neighborhood was founded in the 1800s and before developers such as Gustave X. Mathews built block after block of multifamily houses that all looked the same (albeit pleasingly so), many different styles of buildings found homes on the same blocks. Since 2011 I have been with the board of the Greater Astoria Historical Society.
In addition, there are several road remnants to be found such as Old Ridge Road and Old Bowery Road in Ditmars (now boringly called 20th Road) and even several neighborhood remnants, such as East Astoria, that were in place before the street grid of LIC appeared in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
One such road and neighborhood remnant can be found here on 45th Street as a paved alleyway runs east to a dead end, just south of 31st Avenue. What’s unusual is that there are two small houses that face the alley, 31-11 45th Street (nearest the camera) and behind it, 31-07 45th Street. If this alley was mapped and had a name, the houses would have 45-xx addresses, since it runs east of 45th Street; instead these homes have 45th Street addresses. Was this alley once a mapped street?
To answer this question I consulted several old maps such as this 1919 LIC atlas by E. Belcher Hyde, found in Historic Map Works, from which I got these screen shots. You can see that a dead end known as Jefferson Place runs in the same spot as today’s mysterious alley. (You can see a pair of yellow boxes, marking frame houses, on its westernmost end.) A second lost street, 16th Avenue, issues south from today’s 31st Avenue. In a confusing situation, the north-south streets they intersect on the map are also called 15th and 16th Avenues, as shown in the second map excerpt. How did that situation come about?
To find the answer to that question, you have to consult an older map, this 1873 atlas of Long Island City. I have circled the area in question. In this far-off era, the grid of LIC was under construction and several older streets were still in existence. The diagonal streets that are on the 1919 map are within the circled area, and you can see they predate today’s overall grid. They ran from Newtown Road, which was allowed to survive, north to Grand Avenue, today’s 30th Avenue. When the grid was built, these older diagonal streets coexisted for awhile with the new streets, and were even given the same names. Clearly, LIC government, as well as developers, fully expected the new streets to supplant the old, which is what happened.
15th and 16th Avenues, of course, were renumbered in the 1920s as 46th and 47th Streets.
An overhead shot from Google Street View clearly shows what was once Jefferson Place south of 31st Avenue, as well as what was once known as 16th Avenue.
Related: Trains Meadow Road remnant
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Thanks to sharp eyed FNY commenters Joe Fliel and Zalman Lev for assistance with this page.