Historical Views of the Rockaways
by Emil Lucev, Curator
Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke
Shore Front Parkway
Plus – 1937 Plan
This week’s Historical Views presents a proposed 1937 plan by the Parks Department, and the words of "Pharaoh" Robert Moses, concerning and justifying the project, which opened on June 3, 1939.
Other changes, and undisclosed roadway improvements planned by Moses for the future are marked by yours truly for clarity.
First, as you will readily notice, the Shore Front we got, was not the Shore Front proposed. Sorely needed parking areas and bathhouses were never built, and were replaced by three comfort stations – a few bus stops that never saw a bus.
The stops are on the eastbound lanes only, and the intention was to have buses run westbound on the boulevard from Beach 73 Street to Beach 108 Street. There was no love affair between passengers who rode the buses or trains in the Rockaways.
(Excursion buses might have dropped off beach goers, since the 1939 World’s Fair was in Flushing Meadow Park.)
In one of Moses’ talks, he stated "that in Rockaway we got rid of a cheap amusement area." But what he was thinking was – ‘Ha! Ha! – I got another piece of my roadway from Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn to Montauk Point out in Long Island.’ In a 1939 booklet given out at opening ceremonies, Moses wrote that he hoped that someday in the not-too-distant future, his Rockaway improvement may be extended in both areas.
He tried, but was not successful. He did, however, get Seagirt Boulevard, but not in the way he wanted it to go – along the beachfront. And the back of Ocean Village hi-rise (house of cards) is known as Shorefront Parkway!
On the 1937 proposed plan, letters A. and B. give a clue.
Moses also stated that private enterprise stimulated by local pride and interest will result in constructing north of the Rockaway improvement, the right kind of housing. Meaning hi-rise projects, to replace new 1-2-3- family homes.
Look at the plan where I have mark ed as C-D, and vice versa. A new road through Seaside’s east end to Connect to Grand Central/St. Mark’s/Washing ton Avenue. Now you know why, right? But the connection was made at Beach 102 Street when the hi-risers went up.
Beach Channel drive – E. to H. to F. (where there is a fork in the road leading to Beach 73 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard) is sort of strange? The area around G., a wider Beach 82 Street indicates – the Hammels Houses area. And the hi-rise south of the Boulevard from Beach 74 Street to Beach 90 Street.
The section marked I.-Park, is how Beach Channel Drive was changed after the railroad El went up. Section H. to the north fork of F. now connects the Freeway as Hammel’s Boulevard.
Beach Channel Drive was projected east of the marked E., along the bayfront many years ago, as shorefront was, in 1902 – and never really forgotten.
So at each end of the road from nowhere to no where (Shore Front Parkway) we got a turn around, and at Beach 94 Street to Beach 95 Street a traffic interchange with a wooden bridge over half of it. (Does anyone have a photo of this crossover to the boardwalk?)
The X marks the bathhouse locations and parking areas that were never built.
The seaside amusement area, destroyed by Moses, tried to come back slowly, but failed. Playland lost land the side of a football field but hung on until 1985.
The roller coaster was, before city improvements, 780’ long, Boulevard to beach, and long ago the Rockaway Beach amusement area had four roller coasters.