Recently Queens Parks Commissioner Jackie Langsam and community members held a ribbon cutting ceremony to unveil the completed portion of the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway that is the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway.
The roadway was paved with asphalt, drainage issues were corrected, benches were installed, trees were planted, and information signs were placed along the way, telling of the history of the Motor Parkway. The project’s cost was $4.1 million.
The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway was built by William Vanderbilt who was a car racing enthusiast and opened in 1908. The road was to stretch from Queens to Riverhead for 70 miles, but later scaled back to 45 miles ending in Lake Ronkonkoma. It was the first roadway built specifically for cars, the first concrete roadway and the first use of overpasses and bridges to eliminate intersections.
It was a toll road and toll keepers lived in houses along the way. Only one survives today in Garden City and it’s used as a museum. Vanderbilt was a racing enthusiast and he held car races on the parkway until there were some fatalities and racing was outlawed.
When Robert Moses, the city planner, wanted to build the Northern State Parkway, incorporating the Motor Parkway was considered, but by then it was obsolete and didn’t meet current safety standards. When the Northern State was completed in 1937 it marked the end of the need for the Motor Parkway. Portions were given to Nassau and Suffolk County and the Queens portion became a bike path in 1938.
Anyone looking to explore the Motor Parkway should get a NYC bike map and follow the Greenway. Those that want to take a car there can find many on-street spots and there are parking lots in Cunningham and Alley Pond Parks.
I like to park a little south of St. Francis Prep High School as there is an entrance there. After years of enduring potholes and big spaces in the roadway it was nice to feel the smoothness. It was a crisp autumn day and the ride was spectacular with the colors of the trees and the falling leaves. I encountered only a few bikers, mostly just people walking or jogging. There are some steep inclines in spots, but the downside is the long stretches where you are just gliding effortlessly. Enjoy the ride.
The Motor Parkway ends in a park across from Creedmoor Hospital at Winchester Blvd.