2009-11-06 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

An Attempt At Railroad Crossing Elimination In The Late 1920s
From The Rockaway Museum by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

As the alarming rate of railroad grade crossing accidents, between fast moving trains of the Long Island Rail Road and local cars and trucks, was escalating, a program was begun to start eliminating about 27 such crossings on the Rock - away peninsula. Today's map view was published in The Wave in late 1928, and the work was scheduled to begin in the following year at a cost of almost $7 million.

The full Rockaway Beach division of the LIRR (Rockaway Park to Edgemere at Beach 56 Street) and the Far Rockaway division from this point east, only go as far as Beach 46 Street.

Why is not known, for there were many more crossings to the Far Rockaway station at Mott and Central Avenues. The worst of these was at Beach 35 Street, where all roads led to Rome (if you will).

For many years, the place where the two LIRR divisions met at Beach 56 Street, was called "Rockaway Junction," and was also the place where Rockaway Beach Boulevard crossed the tracks of the LIRR and continued to Far Rockaway.

The crash of 1929 and the Great Depression which followed all but killed this program, but in the late 1930s and early 1940s the Rockaway division of the Long Island Rail Road was elevated to eliminate all of the grade crossings here. (The Five Towns kept the LIRR on the ground so as not to lose their urban or rural character).

Under the "El" the Rockaway Freeway was opened and was soon tagged as "suicide drive." There were more accidents and fatalities under the "El" than when the railroad was on terra-firma!

Before the year 2000 the white line crowd in city hall, plus the signpost erectors, did a job under the old freeway … but not much changed. Permanent closing was then called for, which seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

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