By Mark Hallum
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and civic leaders Monday stood at what used to be the entrance of a pedestrian ramp leading to a crossing over the Clearview Expressway at 39th Avenue to call on DOT to replace what some regard as a link between two parts of Bayside split by the construction of the freeway.
DOT removed two of the structures last month.
Auburndale resident Henry Euler, a Community Board 11 member, said the pedestrian ramps were originally built as a compromise between the city’s so-called master builder Robert Moses and the residents of Bayside to preserve the identity and unity of the neighborhood, which was carved in two by a major roadway.
“Our community was divided into four sections when they built the Clearview Expressway in 1960,” Euler said. “Those ramps were helpful because they link one section with the other. We were promised those ramps when the expressway was built. People were very upset [at the time of construction], hundreds of homes were taken, hundreds of trees were destroyed and it was a situation where people did not want this expressway in this location. They fought it and they tried to have it along Francis Lewis Boulevard because they thought it would be less intrusive on the community. But finally, according to Robert Moses, it had to go there.”
Moses, an architect and polarizing public official during the mid-20th century, transformed much of the city with his urban plans that often involved building highways through residential neighborhoods.
Euler explained how he had seen the bridges decompose over time with support bars starting to hang down underneath. Letters from Euler and the Auburndale Improvement Association were sent to the Department of Transportation and elected officials about the state of the right-of-ways, but received no response from the state agency until the community was notified they would be permanently removed.
“One of the promises that was made to the community when the Clearview Expressway was built was to have these pedestrian underpasses or overpasses,” Avella said. “Because what happened was Bayside was literally bisected. And we already have a situation on 216th Street where the city Department of Transportation is taking down an [pedestrian] overpass across the Long Island Rail Road. We’re still trying to negotiate with the city on how to replace that and now we have two other pedestrian overpasses being taken down.”
Avella said his office, along with state Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside), CB 11, the Auburndale Improvement Association and Bayside Historical Society all sent letters to the state DOT explaining that even if the structures could not be rehabilitated, they wanted the pedestrian bridges to remain a feature in the community.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall