The Long Island Motor Parkway AKA The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway
The Motor parkway was created in 1908. It was created to support motor racing and also as a toll road. It crossed the LIRR approximately 700 feet west of Glen Cove Road in Carle Place. The trestle still existed as of the early 1980's. Somewhere in the 1980's it was removed. This part of the road traveled south and gave Roosevelt Field the graceful curve on its southwest corner. This part of the parkway crossed Clinton Road by an overpass. To the east of this overpass was a Motor parkway toll house. This Toll house still exists it was relocated to preserve it. It now stands in Garden City proper at Seventh Street. From the southwest corner of Roosevelt Field it headed east past Mitchel field. It traveled on the north side of Stewart avenue, approximately 400 ft north. Basically, over the Meadow brook parkway in that area. In the 1932 panoramic photo of Mitchel Field, the road that would eventually be called Endo boulevard ran north and crossed the Motor parkway by an overpass. The Motor Parkway continued east through the Park and after Newbridge avenue it swung north into a Grandstand area. Parts of this area still exist and are marked. The Motor Parkway was abandoned to Nassau County in 1938.
The Northern State Parkway and the Southern State Parkway
The Northern State Parkway and the Southern State Parkway were planned from the earliest days of the Long Island State Park Commission (LISPC) in 1925. As described in the 1927 LISPC report, "Main Highways and Parkways Provided and Proposed for Long Island" the Northern State Parkway was to be routed "through the highlands in Wheatley (Old Westbury), Manetto (Plainview), Half Hollow and Dix Hills in the northern part of the Island." The stated purpose for the parkway "was to make lands acquired in the suburbs (for parks) accessible to the whole metropolitan population."
Not everyone supported the Northern State Parkway proposal. The powerful property owners along Nassau County's North Shore - the fabled "Gold Coast" - feared that the intrusion of the parkway would destroy their ancestral homes.
In 1928, the same year that the New York State Legislature appropriated funds for the parkway, landowners in East Hills and Old Westbury established a lobbying fund to keep the parkway off their land. After months of acrimonious debate, Governor Alfred E. Smith reached an agreement with the landowners in December 1929. The result was that a two-mile detour, "Objectors' Bend," had to be inserted in the parkway to avoid a group of exclusive residences whose owners wanted the parkway kept as far away as possible.
The first section of parkway, which carried the route of the Grand Central Parkway eastward to EXIT 28 (Willis Avenue) in Roslyn, was completed in 1933. Its opening coincided with that of the initial section of the Grand Central Parkway, which extended west to Queens Boulevard in Kew Gardens. The route of the Northern State Parkway was extended around "Objectors' Bend" to EXIT 31 (Glen Cove Road) in Carle Place in 1934.
Throughout the route, a 44-foot, undivided pavement of four lanes (two in each direction) was the standard configuration. Mountable concrete curbs edged the turf shoulders that blended into cut slopes. To permit adequate sight distances on curves, graceful coves of lawn were either cut into existing woods or created by planting. Specimen trees, which consisted entirely of indigenous vegetation (except for the red dogwood, a favorite of Moses), accented the lawn areas.
Once the opposing landowners saw the landscaped results of the finished work, they were so impressed that some even complained that the additional two miles they had to travel to get on the parkway was a case of discrimination against them. Although the landowners in Old Westbury offered to contribute land for a two-mile long parkway spur to connect with the parkway, Moses refused their request. (However, this area would be bisected by a later Moses creation, the Long Island Expressway, in the late 1950's.)
Between 1936 and 1938, the Northern State Parkway was extended to the Wantagh State Parkway (EXIT 33) in Westbury.
From "Dictated by Safety" by Sidney M. Shapiro, assistant chief engineer of the LISPC, who published the following in 1938:
"Parkways in the New York City Metropolitan area now total one hundred miles in aggregate length, and various sections of the system represent all degrees of efficiency. Those built ten years ago are in some respects obsolete, and even those built last year lack improvement provided on the more recently constructed. In effect, the Parkway System has been a huge research laboratory. The latest conclusions from this research are embodied in the Northern State-Wantagh State Parkway opened this week on Long Island and forming the final link in a 43-mile express road from the Triborough Bridge to Jones Beach. They are conclusions almost solely concerned with one objective - highway safety - and it is for that reason that this obscure (newly constructed) ten-mile stretch of parkway is significant. Its design includes every device and detail that experience has shown to be effective. Included among them are grade-separated crossings, divided lanes,
Long Island's Parkways
For years, Long Island's parkways lived up to their names. The ribbons of roadway filled up with cars on weekends and through the summer as city residents headed for the country.
But after World War II, something changed. The Northern State and Southern State still got jammed on the weekends, but now cars were jamming the roads on the weekday rush hours as well. As more and more Long Islanders began to use the highways to get to work, the word parkway nearly became obsolete.
By 1950, state officials began to take notice of the traffic.
"Most of the state highways now show practically the same congestion on ordinary weekdays," wrote Joseph Darcy, then Long Island's district engineer for the state Department of Public Works, noting that the parkways were becoming commuter roads. "We cannot solve our problem just by widening and improving existing highway routes. The ultimate solution will come only by the building a new, modern expressway or throughway on entirely new locations."
The traffic jams continued as Long Island -- and the nation -- became more dependent on automobiles. Even the 1950 edition of the Levitt house had a new feature: the carport. And the idea of the one-car family quickly became outdated. Mom may have been staying home with the kids, but she needed her own car to get around. From 1949 to 1952, traffic on the Southern State Parkway doubled.
It was, Newsday said in an editorial, "the first concrete action taken by a governmental agency to recognize that Long Island is more than New York's playland." Indeed, the Island had grown up.
"One of the things the LIE did for Long Island was to put us on the map," said Barbara Kelly, curator of Hofstra University's Long Island Studies Institute.
There was little opposition. "The general attitude was that growth was good," said Lee Koppelman, now director of the Long Island Regional Planning Board. "There were no NIMBYs." And if there had been, it wouldn't have made much difference.
Koppelman remembers a few sparsely attended public hearings convened by a state official who made it clear he had no intention of changing the plans. "He would caution the audience that his job was to listen, and that they had to understand that notwithstanding anything they have to say, this is what the state is going to do," Koppelman said.
"People would get up and say, `What is this? Russia?' and go home."
Moses promised that the highway would be finished by 1958, and later revised it to 1961. But by 1957, it only stretched as far as Bayside. In 1958, it hit Roslyn Heights. It touched the Nassau-Suffolk line in 1962.
Everywhere the road went, it brought changes. In all, 10,000 homes were demolished or relocated. The highway created a wall that effectively divided some communities.
And as fast as the road could be built, the lanes filled with cars. In 1967, a Long Island Regional Planning Board study estimated that it would take 18 lanes to keep traffic on the LIE flowing freely.
Long Island Expressway
The first section of the Long Island Expressway, a one-mile-long, six-lane viaduct over Long Island City, Queens, opened to traffic in 1940 after one year of construction. The new viaduct, whose opening coincided with that of the twin-tube Queens-Midtown Tunnel at its western terminus, had its eastern terminus at the new Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (I-278). At its highest point, the viaduct rises 106 feet above Dutch Kills.
In the immediate post-war years, the TBTA (Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority) funded a $32.5 million extension of the elevated highway, now called the "Queens-Midtown Expressway," out to Queens Boulevard. This segment carried signs for NY 24.
A ROUTE THROUGH THE POTATO FIELDS:
On September 1, 1953, Newsday disclosed plans for a 70-mile-long, six-lane highway between Manhattan and the east end of Long Island.
According to a letter addressed to then-Governor Thomas E. Dewey, Moses argued that the Long Island Expressway - originally called the "Central Motor Expressway" - was the only logical solution to present and future traffic problems:
"The proposed Long Island Expressway is a most important part of the arterial highway program which will serve all of Long Island, that is, Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties, with a combined population of over 5,500,000. The backbone of this program is a 70-mile expressway for mixed traffic from Manhattan to Riverhead, Suffolk County. The building of this vitally needed express artery has the full approval and support of the authorities of both Nassau and Suffolk counties, and has been recommended by the Temporary State Highway Finance Committee.
Early completion of this comprehensive expressway system from Manhattan and Queens, through Nassau to the county seat of Suffolk County, is the only logical solution to the intolerable congestion resulting from the rapid increase of building subdivisions, extraordinary population growth and large increase in motor vehicle registration. Almost daily, the remaining estates and large acreages on Long Island are being sold to developers."
Beyond the newly established developments in Nassau County, Long Island was largely comprised of old mansions, potato fields, and oak and pine barrens. The parkways built by Moses some two decades earlier were restricted to passenger cars. This meant all other traffic had to use congested surface roads such as Northern Boulevard (NY 25A), Jericho Turnpike (NY 25), Hempstead Turnpike (NY 24), Sunrise Highway (NY 27), and Merrick Road.
It was feared that commercial and industrial growth would be stifled without the expressway. In 1958, officials claimed that there would be a potential loss of business and jobs if the expressway were not finished by its original completion date of 1961.
Between 1954 and 1958, the NYSDPW constructed the Horace Harding Expressway - by now called the Long Island Expressway along its mainline -from EXIT 19 east to EXIT 32 (Little Neck Parkway), just shy of the Queens-Nassau border. (However, one Queens section of the LIE did not open until 1960 so that a high-volume interchange could be constructed at the Clearview Expressway.)
The new expressway went over the route of Horace Harding and Nassau boulevards, which had the designation NY 25D. Not long after construction crews arrived at the Queens-Nassau border in September 1957, the expressway was given the designation NY 24. (Hempstead Turnpike then assumed the designation of NY 24A.) Decades later, the names "Queens-Midtown" and "Horace Harding" are still used on the service roads in Queens.
In October 1958, the first Long Island section of the LIE opened between EXIT 32 and EXIT 39 (Glen Cove Road) in East Hills. That same month, the designation of Interstate highways in New York State began. The LIE received the I-495 designation from the Queens-Midtown Tunnel to the Clearview Expressway, which was just beginning construction at that time. (The I-495 designation was also to go to the never-built Mid-Manhattan Expressway.) East of the Clearview, the LIE retained the NY 24 designation.
Just east of the newly opened section in western Nassau County, Moses made a deal with Charles E. Wilson, former president of General Motors and defense secretary under President Dwight Eisenhower. Under the deal, which was brokered between the NYSDPW and the Federal government, Wilson, who was deep in debt, sold his parcels of land in Old Westbury to the NYSDPW. Moses could build the Long Island Expressway through Old Westbury - the same area that the Northern State Parkway avoided in the "Objector's Bend" deal a quarter century earlier - but could not construct interchanges for a four-mile stretch.
Little by little, the Long Island Expressway made its way across Nassau and Suffolk counties. In 1960, the segment between EXIT 39 and EXIT 41 (NY 106 and NY 107) in Jericho opened. By mid-1962, the LIE crossed the Nassau-Suffolk border, ending at EXIT 49 (NY 110) in Melville. One year later, the LIE was completed out to EXIT 52 (Suffolk CR 4 / Commack Road) in Dix Hills. In 1964, another section opened out to EXIT 57 (NY 454 / Veterans Memorial Highway) in Islandia. By the end of 1966, the expressway was completed out to EXIT 61 (Suffolk CR 19 / Patchogue-Holbrook Road) in Holbrook.
In 1962, the LIE east of the Clearview Expressway was changed from NY 24 to NY 495, for the purpose of consistency with the I-495 segment in Queens. (West of the BQE, the LIE west of the BQE was dually signed as I-495 and NY 24 until the early 1970's.) In addition, Hempstead Turnpike, which had been NY 24A since 1957, got back its original NY 24 designation.
An article in The New York Times Magazine in 1967 foretold of future development on Eastern Long Island as follows:
Riverhead now looks like a county seat in the Midwest farm belt. Surrounded by dusty potato fields at the head of Peconic Bay, between Long Island's north and south flipper-like tail forks, this agricultural market town, after it is linked with the Expressway, may be transformed into the industrial hub of a new Northeast coastal network of air, high-speed rail and highway transportation.
DOUBLE-DECKING THE LIE:
Only a few years after its first section opened, the Long Island Expressway was fast becoming known as "the world's largest parking lot." In 1963, Henry Barnes, the New York City transportation commissioner, proposed a $94 million second deck on the Long Island Expressway throughout Queens. The second deck was to be reversible, going westbound in the morning and eastbound in the evening, and would go along with four to six extra lanes. As he saw it, the only obstacle was "aesthetics." By that time, daily volume had averaged 130,000 vehicles.
At its interchange with the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (I-278) and Maurice Avenue (EXITS 17-18), the Long Island Expressway is double-decked for about 1.5 miles. This was part of a four-year, $75 million reconstruction project that began in 1966.