A Trolley Route Right of Way Still Survives in Jackson Heights Near LaGuardia Airport

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One of the last remaining trolley right-of-ways in Queens can be found in a diagonal between 95th Street and 24th Avenue just south of LaGuardia Airport in Jackson Heights, consisting of a semiprivate roadway. A “no trespassing” sign can be found on 24th Avenue, but the Department of Transportation marks it with street signs calling it Jackson Mill Road, and it’s lit by city-issued light poles. In some stretches, the blacktop has crumbled and thinned enough to permit lengthy stretches of trolley tracks to appear.

This is a remnant of a trolley line that branched off Northern Boulevard and traveled to the North Beach amusement area, instituted in 1886 by brewer George Ehret and piano manufacturer William Steinway. Within a few years it was attracting over 10,000 visitors every Sunday (Saturday was still a work day in that era) with a bandshell, merry go round, ferris wheel, steam roller coaster, and East River bathing. The line began service in 1893, and was built along the Old Bowery Road, the only road through the eastern part of what was then the swampy Trains Meadow area. The old road bent in a reverse L shape east, then north to North Beach, which lay along the shore of Bowery Bay. A bridge carried the tracks across a long-filled inlet called Jackson Mill Pond; its titular mill, in operation since the colonial area and known successively as Kip’s, Fish, and Jackson’s Mill, ground corn and grain until about 1870.

The trolley line outlived the amusement park it was built to serve. North Beach closed in the 1920s, the pond was filled in, and the park was developed into the small Glenn Curtiss Airport, which became the North Beach Airport and in 1937, LaGuardia Airport. The trolley line was finally shut down in 1949.

However, its right of way is clear on the map in the two sections of Jackson Mill Road still in existence, an east-west lane between 93rd and 97th streets north of 32nd Avenue, and the northerly stretch that still has the exposed trolley tracks. There had been another set of remaining tracks at 96th Street near Astoria Boulevard, but homes were built on top of them about ten years ago.

 

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Above, a map of eastern Jackson Heights in 1909. The roads I have marked on the right are still in existence, as they carried trolley tracks from 1893 to 1949. Today, a street grid, houses and businesses have filled in the empty spaces.

Kevin Walsh’s website is forgotten-ny.com