Dec. 22, 2021 By Michael Dorgan
The Parks Dept. has completed a $1.85 million revamp of a historic section of pathway that goes through Alley Pond Park in Oakland Gardens – and several officials visited the area last Friday to hold a ceremonial ribbon-cutting event.
The section of pathway — which runs 0.8 miles from the entrance of Alley Pond Park on Winchester Boulevard to Springfield Boulevard — has undergone a major overhaul with a new asphalt pavement, guide rails, benches, trees and shrubs put down.
The pathway forms part of the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, which was one of the first concrete roads in the nation for automobiles having been built more than a century ago, according to the Parks Dept.
Council Member Barry Grodenchik allocated $1.44 million in city funds toward the project, with Mayor Bill de Blasio adding $415,000 from the city budget.
Grodenchik said that the parkway had not been repaved in decades and was in desperate need of an upgrade.
“The path provides a clean, safe, quiet place for exercise and recreation,” Grodenchik said at the ceremony. “The ongoing pandemic only reinforces the importance of access to outdoor public space.”
NYC Parks Commissioner Gabrielle Fialkoff, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, State Senator John Liu and Assembly Member Nily Rozic also attended the ceremony.
The project forms part one of a two-phase redevelopment of the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway that connects Alley Pond Park to Cunningham Park.
The second phase, which is expected to cost $3.7 million, will see the renovation of two additional miles of parkway from Springfield Boulevard to 199th Street. Funding for this phase is coming from the mayor’s office.
The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway has a rich history and was originally built as a private racetrack in 1908 by William K. Vanderbilt, Jr., a railroad mogul and financier. Vanderbilt was the great-grandson of the railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt.
The private parkway was opened to the public as a toll road in 1912 and stretched 45-miles from Fresh Meadows in Queens to Lake Ronkonkoma in Suffolk County.
It was the first long-distance concrete highway in the U.S. to have bridges and overpasses — and was used primarily by the city’s elite commuting to their Long Island estates, according to the Parks Dept.
The parkway acquired the nickname “Rumrunner’s Road” during Prohibition as bootleggers often used it to dodge the police. The parkway was closed down in 1938 after becoming outdated and insolvent.
The route was then deeded over to New York City as well as Nassau and Suffolk counties. The Queens section was turned into a bicycle path.
Fialkoff said that the current redevelopments will preserve the pathway for generations.
“The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway is both a recreational asset and a living piece of New York City history and… has received the makeover it deserves,” Fialkoff said.
Community Board 8 Chair Martha Taylor and Long Island Motor Parkway Preservation Society President Howard Kroplick also attended the ceremony.