Queens is the biggest borough, and has some of New York City’s longest streets. And like everything else, those streets are the result of evolution. Let’s take a look today at two of the borough’s longest routes and review their origins, while taking a look at their humble beginnings, or endings, depending on your point of view.
Seen here is Roosevelt Avenue’s eastern end, where it meets Northern Boulevard at 155th Street in Flushing. Here is a soon-to-be defunct McDonalds, an IHOP restaurant, a branch of the Queens Public Library, a shopping center, and flags aplenty. Roosevelt Avenue, named for President Theodore, is relatively new on the Queens map; it’s soon to celebrate its centennial. It is a product of the Flushing elevated train, since when the line was constructed between 1914 and 1928, it required a right of way. It was decided to cut a street through that followed the unofficial border of Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, and then through the heart of Corona, and build the el along that route. Roosevelt Avenue serves as a de facto eastern extension of Greenpoint Avenue beginning at Queens Boulevard.
Initially Roosevelt Avenue ran only as far as what is now Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, as the el was not extended east of Willets Point Boulevard until it was completed as a subway out to Main Street in 1928. That year began downtown Flushing’s transformation as a quiet seat of a sleepy Queens town into the crossroads of Queens it has become today. In 1928 a preexisting east-west street running through Flushing, Amity Street, was widened and then extended through to a junction with Northern Boulevard, giving rise to the Roosevelt Avenue known today.
From the point shown in the photograph, it’s possible to bike, walk or drive all the way west to the East River in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
This major east-west route from Williamsburg to the edge of Jamaica is seen from its eastern end at the junction of Jamaica Avenue and Kew Gardens Road, another ancient route in itself (it was called Newtown Road decades ago and ran to what became Kew Gardens in the east end of the former town of Newtown). Here you find the relatively new Kew Gardens subway stop serving the E train, open only since 1988.
Metropolitan Avenue was opened in 1815, give or take a couple of years, as the Williamsburgh and Jamaica Turnpike and was once a toll road with toll gates and a “pike” or a lengthy log that would be move aside when the toll was paid. It was mainly a farm to market road used by eastern farmers bringing their produce to New York City via East River shipping. In future decades Williamsburg would lose the “h” and the W&J would lose the toll, and was renamed Metropolitan Avenue. Oddly, this busy route has never gained extra lanes and the considerable widening comparable roads like Northern Boulevard and Queens Boulevard have, and remains a four-lane road throughout its length.
The neighborhood of Middle Village was named because it’s approximately halfway between Williamsburg and Jamaica, the two towns the road was built to service.