Hello and welcome to Friday Evening Photo Blogging. For this photo diary I have two separate stories from Queens County, a little historic essay and an "ode to joy" from the borough of Archie Bunker.
But first a little organic special effects from Saturday in Bronx. Photoshop is alright but I was walking in the Van Cortlandt park wetlands and when I saw this Cardinal flower, it called for a little old fashion know how.
The flower was in the shade of a shrub and there were specks of sunlight coming through the shrub all over on the ground. So I knelled down in front of the flower with my left leg extended to the base of the shrub. I moved the masking shrub around with the left foot until the sunlight was falling through on the flower just right. A few cheers for the left.
Below are photos from two recent Queens walks and don't miss the Bonus Bronx photo at the bottom.
The first set of photos is from a bicycle path with an odd name. It is called The Long Island Motor Parkway and remembered by some at The Vanderbilt Parkway. Often billed as the first "limited access highway" in the United States the Long Island Motor Parkway very much was. As a toy for the rich the limited access road helped solidify the era of The Great Gatsby.
All parts of this once private toll road that ran for 45 miles from the Fresh Meadows section of Queens to Lake Ronkonkoma in Suffolk County were given back to the public by good old Robert Moses who fought and won a war against William K. Vanderbilt Jr. with a toll free highway that would run right right along side. Robert Moses said he "would match Vanderbilt entrance for entrance in order to drive him out of business" and he did. After Moses got done kicking Vanderbilt to the curb the Power Broker offered a little gift to Queens County.
Under competition from Moses, Vanderbilt reduced the toll on the Motor Parkway to 40 cents. By 1937, the Long Island Motor Parkway was no longer able to compete with the state-of-the-art, toll-free, more modern Northern State Parkway. Negotiations soon began with Queens, Nassau and Suffolk Counties to dispose of the road.
In April 1938, the Motor Parkway was officially closed to motorists, and the deeds were sold to county officials in exchange for the cancellation of the parkway's $90,000 tax debt. Three months later, Moses opened the Queens section of the Long Island Motor Parkway as the "Queens Bicycle Path" before an audience of hundreds.
Technically this rich man's fancy that was built in the name of "Old Number Sixteen" was not first in many respects it is given credit for because the public access Bronx River Parkway was announced the year before and would become the first road in America to utilize a median. With Vanderbilt's money and his enthusiasm for car racing the first 10-mile section of parkway was opened in time for the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup race. It had no dividers, would almost immediately need to be widened and repaved because of poor construction but the Long Island Motor Parkway beat the Bronx River Parkway as the first highway in the nation to utilize bridges and overpasses. At that 1908 groundbreaking ceremony, the general manager of the Vanderbilt Cup races had this to say;
There have been in the past highways for all kinds of vehicular traffic, canals for the movement of freight, railroads for the transportation of passengers, and trolleys for the convenience of those living in the suburbs of our large cities, but in no case has the motorist been considered. And now the day of the automobile has come. A highway is about to be constructed for its use, free from all grade crossings, dust and police surveillance, and a country opened up whose variegated charms are hard to equal in any part of the world.
Think of the time it will save the busy man of. Speed limits are left behind, the Great White Way is before him, and with the throttle open he can go, go, go and keep going, 50, 60 or 90 miles an hour until Riverhead or Southampton is reached, in time for a scotch at the Meadow Club, a round of golf and a refreshing dip in the surf, and all before dinner is served, or the electric lights begin to twinkle.
Today with the Bronx River Parkway still bringing commuters back a forth from Manhattan to Westchester the Long Island Motor Parkway is long gone but it had some history. Always controversial, racing was banned in 1910 when three spectators were killed and twenty others injured. The road for elite New Yorkers to travel back and forth to their Long Island estates would acquire the nickname "Rumrunner's Road" because bootleggers were also willing to pay the toll on a road with no police. But Robert Moses put an end to that and now the runners are wearing sneakers.
There are little pieces of the highway to be found all across Long Island. My favorite being the one remaining toll lodge that is now the headquarters of the Garden City Chamber of Commerce. Inside you can find nostalgia from the heyday of William K. Vanderbilt Jr. but nothing about Robert Moses giving him the shaft. That must be too traumatic for a Chamber of Commerce. The toll lodge is worth seeing since it was designed by John Russell Pope.
What remains as a road in Queens, this beautiful greenway that is both a bike path and hiking trail and stretches 2.5 miles through picture perfect neighborhoods from Cunningham Park to Alley Pond Park was not the first bicycle path in the nation. That distinction belongs to Queens more famous neighbor, Ocean parkway in Brooklyn but it's a great ride where you can almost feel the presence of the Long Island elite in their Stutz Bearcats and the bootleggers running their whiskey.
Actually the pictures are not as interesting as the story. It's just a walk in the park on an almost straight road. Or really a walk from one park to another.
There are a few inclines.
Most of them lead up to some of those original bridges that date back to the early motorway days.
Some of the views are not so natural but still very pleasant. I wonder how long ago it was when someone placed this birdhouse in a tree.
And how would you like to live in this house with a greenway that leads to two wonderful city parks for a back yard?
There are a few gentle curves to make it more interesting.
For the many pedestrians who use this right of way.
But the highlight of a nature walk from Cunningham Park to Alley Pond Park was the destination. The pond that must have given this park its name is like a secret sanctuary. It is so hidden by phragmites that you can easily miss seeing this wetland.
There was just one little spot to look in and see what was going on.
It was getting late in the day for the walk back to Cunningham Park.
One late afternoon forest sighting besides the path seemed a bit odd.
I like the look of a forest in the late afternoon.
When I got back to where I started I could see the sun setting through a tunnel where the Long Island Motor ends but continues on to Brooklyn as a bicycle path.
A Queens sunset!
As a segway to my second Queens story, a quick out of town trip this week that is also a waterworks store. I went to the historic Paterson Great Falls for the first time. It should make a good photo diary in the future even though the history is about a Founding Father who is not to popular in these parts.
And now a very happy story of restoration and reminder of a story I've told before. Yet another tribute to Robert Moses for turning Flushing Meadows Corona into a great park from the Vally of Ashes in the The Great Gatsby;
This is a valley of ashes - a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the form of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of ash-grey men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.
Do you remember my Photographs and Memories: Going Back to the 1964-65 World's Fair? According to counter at my Photobucket account many do. About twenty people per day still visit DailyKos for a look at that diary. Obviously I'm a bit of a World's Fari Freak so I was very happy to see a joyous sighting two weeks back. This was not the parkland progress of Robert Moses but an achievement of present day politicians. Since August 10th the 1964-65 view has been restored;
One small step for the remains of the 1964 World's Fair site: the Unisphere Fountain has been restored and reopened after nearly $2 million in improvements! Earlier this week Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe & Co. cut the ribbon at the site of the Queens icon at Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The Unisphere was officially designated a New York City Landmark in 1995, and this is the first time the fountain has been operational since that designation was made. In the below video, Benepe says the fountains haven't been on for 15 to 20 years, and he refers to the area as the Versailles in New York, "the palace grounds for regular people."
I cannot believe those fountains are back on. It made me feel like a child again. I even went a stood in the spray for a while.
And now for the bonus Bronx photo. I've never mentioned the fact that I live five blocks from where John F., Robert F. and Edward Kennedy attended Grammar School. A few weeks back I was in the parking lot of the Riverdale Country School and I saw this very old school bus. It is actually a real Woody but in very bad shape.
So I asked one of the teachers "Is the school keeping that old bus because of why I think it's still here?" The answer was "That's right. That is the bus that President Kennedy went to school in."