30 JANUARY 28, 2021 RIDGEWOOD TIMES WWW.QNS.COM
OUR NEIGHBORHOOD: THE WAY IT WAS
A colonial road in Queens grows into a traffi c machine
BY THE OLD TIMER
In recent issues, we’ve touched on how our neighborhood
developed from colonial farmlands to the modern
community it is today. This week, we’re going to
focus on two major roadways that link our homes to our
schools, businesses, shops and other attractions.
Many drivers and commuters complain about the
traffi c on Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards, the
10-mile artery running between Elmhurst and the
Rockaways. While we can’t make the traffi c go away, we
can tell you that the roadways have quite an interesting
We start with Woodhaven Boulevard, which was
fi rst laid out in April 1668 as the “South Meadow Road,”
from the village of Newtown which was centered at the
present-day intersection of Grand Avenue and Queens
Boulevard. It was used by the villagers to go to and from
the meadows at Jamaica Bay, where they grazed their
livestock during the spring, summer and fall.
At about 1850, the road became known as Trotting
Course Lane, taking its name from the Centerville Race
Track (also known for a time as the Eclipse Course), located
on the east side of the road, south of what is today
In 1889, Trotting Course Lane was renamed Flushing
Avenue— yes, as in the Flushing Avenue that, at that
time, ran through Bushwick and Newtown and continues
to be a critical connection between present-day
Brooklyn and Queens.
Naturally, confusion resulted from having two roads
with the same name only a few miles apart, and by 1898—
the same year Queens became part of New York City—the
former Trotting Course Lane and South Meadow Road
took on the title Woodhaven Avenue, adopting the name
of the community through which it runs.
The city later realigned a portion of Woodhaven
Boulevard through Glendale, straightening it to make
it safer. A portion of the old road remained, and was
given the old Trotting Course Lane title.
Segments of Trotting Course Lane remain today in
Glendale and Rego Park, and at the entrance to the Forest
Park Crescents co-op building off Union Turnpike.
CROSSING THE BAY
Meanwhile, in 1918, the city decided to build a road
across Jamaica Bay to Rockaway Beach, then connect
this new road to Woodhaven Boulevard and Liberty
Avenue in Ozone Park. The work started on the road,
which was to be 100 feet wide, in October 1921.
Because of the nature of the terrain, it was necessary
to drive numerous steel and reinforced concrete piles
on each side of the proposed road as a bulkhead. Then,
using suction dredges, sand was scooped up from the
bay and poured in between the bulkheads to form the
The project also included new water mains laid from
the Ridgewood Reservoir—then used as part of the city’s
water supply—to the peninsula.
It was also necessary to build two large bridges across
sections of the bay—the North Channel Bridge, a fi xed
span linking Howard Beach and Broad Channel; and
the Cross Bay Bridge, a four-lane drawbridge between
Broad Channel and the Rockaway Peninsula.
The total cost of this project, when it was completed
in 1925, was just under $7 million. It opened on Oct. 26 of
that year and was named Cross Bay Boulevard.
As Queens developed in the early 20th century
and more residents moved in, the city also worked to
improve the entire stretch of Woodhaven Avenue—
and subsequently changed the name to Woodhaven
As a separate project, but part of an overall construction
plan, the city widened Woodhaven Boulevard from
100 to 150 feet from Queens Boulevard south to the new
road at a cost of $1.5 million.
The project led to a bit of a rebellion among Glendale
and Woodhaven residents, who believed that it benefi
tted people who lived in Manhattan and not local
In all, the combined Cross Bay and Woodhaven boulevards
shortened the distance between Brooklyn and
Manhattan and Rockaway Beach by about 10 miles.
THE EXPRESSWAY THAT WASN’T
The boulevards quickly became the main northsouth
artery through western and southern Queens,
and in 1941, the New York City Planning Department
proposed developing an express highway—a forerunner
to the modern expressway—along the length of
the route from Queens Boulevard to the Rockaway
Peninsula. Aft er the U.S. entered World War II, those
plans were scrapped.
Following the war, Queens did get a north-to-south
expressway: the Van Wyck and Whitestone expressways,
running from the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge to
what would later become Kennedy Airport.
Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards were spared
a project that would have displaced thousands of
residents and changed the very face of the communities
through which the boulevards run.
Drivers through the years have relied on the roads to
reach not just the beaches of Rockaway but also a host
of other historic spots, including Forest Park; the longdefunct
St. Anthony’s Hospital in Woodhaven, once a
pioneer in cardiovascular and pulmonary medicine;
and Aqueduct Racetrack, located about a half-mile east
of the boulevards off Rockaway Boulevard.
As time when on, the roads were renovated periodically.
A Works Progress Administration project during
the Great Depression resulted in the reconfi guration
and straightening of the boulevard between Park Lane
South and Atlantic Avenue. Overpasses were also
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
constructed above the Long Island Rail Road’s Montauk
branch in Glendale and Atlantic Avenue, below which
the LIRR’s Atlantic Terminal line runs.
In 1970, the drawbridge connecting Broad Channel
and the Rockaway Peninsula was replaced with the
Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge, a six-lane, fi xed
bridge operated by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel
Authority (later the MTA Bridges and Tunnels Division).
While the new bridge an upgrade, it came with
toll booths that prove controversial to this day.
The Cross Bay Bridge remains the only intra-borough
toll crossing in the city, meaning that drivers coming
from one Queens neighborhood have to pay to travel
to another Queens neighborhood. For years, Rockaway
and Broad Channel residents were exempt from the
toll, but in 2010, the MTA— facing a fi nancial crisis—
began charging those drivers, though the rate was
Meanwhile, on the north side of the Broad Channel,
the North Channel Bridge fell into disrepair during
the 1980s to such an extent that a standard renovation
wouldn’t be enough to save it. The city replaced the span
in 1988 with the Joseph P. Addabbo Bridge, named for
the late congressman who represented the area and
also the father of current State Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo
Most recently, both Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards
underwent a diff erent kind of change with the introduction
of Select Bus Service that offi cially launched
in November 2017. The SBS system, which took over the
Q52 and Q53 bus lines, includes dedicated bus lanes in
each direction and reconstructed, longer bus stops
where customers pay their fare before boarding.
The SBS system came with much consternation from
drivers and business owners alike over congestion, lost
parking spots and other inconveniences. Time will tell,
of course, whether the SBS on Woodhaven and Cross
Bay Boulevards helps make it easier for southern
Queens residents to get around more quickly.
Source: Ridgewood Times, Nov. 20, 2014
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“Our Neighborhood: The Way It Was” that you would like
to share with our readers, please write to the Old Timer,
c/o Ridgewood Times, 38-15 Bell Blvd., Bayside, NY 11361,
or send an email to email@example.com. Any
print photographs mailed to us will be carefully returned
to you upon request.