Monday, May 10, 2010

Queens Blvd is no Eastern Parkway

From City Weaving:

I am familiar with big roads. Coming from the land of sprawl and automobiles, I’m no stranger to vast expanses of asphalt and fast-moving vehicles, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that Queens Boulevard is a different animal than what I’m used to. When I came to New York City from Texas, I happened to move about two blocks away from the so-called “boulevard of death,” and it has been a presence in my life on a daily basis, but I can still remember the first time I had to go to Brooklyn and took Eastern Parkway instead of the BQE. The light bulb went off in my head.

“Oh!” I said. “This is what it should have been.”

Now, I understand (and I’m sure Robert Moses would tell me) that there are technical, functional, and historical differences between these two roads, especially regarding the manner in which they both came into being, but I think it’s truly a shame that Queens Boulevard couldn’t have been envisioned as a parkway from the get-go. Parkways are, after all, just glorified and vegetated boulevards.

The point of all this, really, is that Queens Blvd has always had the size and importance accorded to a main East/West corridor (and has amazingly always had the twelve or more lanes of traffic it boasts) but never the kind of consideration for other forms of traffic–pedestrian, bicycle, equestrian–that Eastern Parkway does. Queens Boulevard came into being when parkways were already an established form of road-building (Eastern Parkway having been the first), but it was clearly viewed as a more stripped-down piece of infrastructure.


Gary the Agnostic said...

Eastern Parkway was the vision of Frederick Law Olmstead and Clavert Vaux; Queens Boulevard (or, at least, Queens Village as we know it) is the vision of a bunch of traffic engineers and politicians.

Gary the Agnostic said...

Calvert, not Clavert. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

No the vision of Queens Blvd was great - all conduits were to be on the service roads and the middle traffic islands were parklike right of ways for street cars.

The Sunnyside portion is inspired (if it was maintained and cleaned) be a crown jewel.

When designed, it was compared to Eastern Parkway and Grand Concourse.

The problem is the overdevelopment and complete lack of taste in architecture that lined its streets.

Queens did not get this way overnight.

Sergey Kadinsky said...

There are many boulevards in Queens that have the potential to match Eastern Parkway in beauty and greenery.

Astoria, Francis Lewis, Springfield, Merrick, and Woodhaven Boulevards all have miles on unplanted concrete medians that can rival Manhattan's Park Avenue.

Anonymous said...

The problem is a garbage built along them. Astoria Blvd is a nightmare of ugly stuff.

Anonymous said...

What about the million trees program?

Why has the city not planted trees on the center malls of Queens Blvd.

Here in Richmond Hill the city finally planted trees, including one right in front of my house that I am thankful for. However, I noticed that on Atlantic Ave there is plenty of room and sun on the treeless center mall. I have a lot of issues with the way they planted the trees on the side streets. Home owners were not notified ahead of time that there sidewalks would be cut up. Hence, some made unnecessary repairs to sidewalks that were later cut out. Also, I saw one place on 115 street between Jamaica and Myrtle Aves where a large healthy bush was torn out to plant one of the trees. Also, residence should have been given instructions on the care of the trees, such as watering, which is critical in the early years. They should also have been informed about the benefits of having a tree in front of their property- Shade, fresh air, privacy, protection from the wind, enhanced property values that come with a more suburban look and feel of the neighborhood.

Patrick Sweeney said...

A grand boulevard was never seriously planned, it was more like a wish that died in the 1920's as the automobile became the king of transport. This was when after 48th Street, QB was widened to accommodate a limited access highway. has the complete story.

PizzaBagel said...

Here in Richmond Hill the city finally planted trees, including one right in front of my house that I am thankful for. However, I noticed that on Atlantic Ave there is plenty of room and sun on the treeless center mall.

I'm guessing that the Flatbush Avenue branch of the LIRR being directly underneath is the reason they haven't placed any trees there.

Queens Crapper said...

As this article points out:

Some might think that the reason there aren’t more street trees, planted areas, or wider medians is because of the subway infrastructure lurking so close under the surface, to which I say, “ridiculous!”

The subway was indeed placed underneath Queens Boulevard as it was being built, but Eastern Parkway also has subway lines running under it.

Anonymous said...

Typical Queens history with John Bowne, Remonstrance in hand, drinking tea with Queen Catherine.

Queens Subways came decades after Queens Blvd. The boulevard WAS meant to be on par with Eastern Parkway - everything, sewers, drainage, even trees calculated in detail.

Funny how the other boroughs were able to use zoning to stop auto dealer lots and the like and instead build beautiful buildings.

Anonymous said...

Queens Blvd. is hardly the most dangerous place to cross or drive in Queens. Far from the top.