Forest Parkway may be short, but it’s long on Queens history: Our Neighborhood, The Way it Was

An undated, early 20th-century photo of Forest Parkway, looking north toward Forest Park, in Woodhaven.
Photo courtesy of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society

For a road that runs just a bit over 1,300 feet, Forest Parkway in Woodhaven is surrounded by a lot of interesting history.

For starters, it actually used to be just a little bit longer. Today, the road begins at a T-junction at Jamaica Avenue and ends at Park Lane South, at the entrance to Forest Park. But many years ago, the road actually continued into the park, ending outside the old Golf Clubhouse (today known as Oak Ridge).

The Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society has erected three different historical markers on Forest Parkway. One sits outside the Woodhaven Library, which was built 95 years ago by funds provided by famed philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The Woodhaven Library was the last Carnegie Library built in New York City.

Across the street you’ll find the Betty Smith house, where the novelist famous for writing “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” once lived.

And closer to Jamaica Avenue, you’ll find a sign outside the Woodhaven Post Office, which was built in 1940 and contains a beautiful mural inside by famed Lithuanian artist Ben Shahn that depicts the Bill of Rights.

Right at Jamaica Avenue is a building with a beautiful rounded corner with the name Forest Parkway on it; anyone who rides the elevated train to the city is very familiar with that. For many years, that corner was occupied by a drug store (Zagame) and for the past few decades it has been a bank.

On the other side of Forest Parkway, right at Jamaica Avenue, sits an old large bank which is where the Woodhaven Business Improvement District (WBID) and Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation (GWDC) and WORKS Little League are located.

On the outside of the bank building you can still see a sign for Pasta & Pasta Law, which hasn’t been active in Woodhaven for several decades. One of the Pasta brothers, James Pasta, served in World War 1 and was the first Commander of American Legion Post 118.

Surprisingly, this isn’t the first bank that sat on that spot. Originally, the Bank of Long Island had a nice building at that corner, but it was torn down in the 1920s and replaced with the current, larger building.

There is a monument to the young soldiers of Woodhaven who lost their lives during World War 2. For many years, the Memorial Day Parade here stopped to pay tribute to these heroes and up until the early 1970s they used to include a 21-gun salute.

Although there hasn’t been a Memorial Day Parade here in Woodhaven for decades, the WBID and GWDC still hold a ceremony each year in front of the monument, honoring those lost in all wars.

At the top of Forest Parkway, at the entrance to the park, you’ll find the Memorial Trees, planted in memory of each of the young men who lost their lives in the First World War.

A look at Forest Parkway today (Photo via Google Maps)

During the 1970s, Hollywood came calling and one of the most acclaimed made-for-TV movies ever made filmed scenes on Forest Parkway.

“Queen of the Stardust Ballroom” stars Maureen Stapleton as Bea, a lonely widow who lives on Forest Parkway and runs a small thrift shop on Jamaica Avenue. She’s begins visiting the Stardust Ballroom (the old Haven Theater in disguise) to go dancing where she meets Al, played by Charles Durning.

Stapleton and Durning were nominated for Emmy awards for their outstanding performances, two of the 11 nominations the film would receive. It ended up winning two Emmys: one for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography and another for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography for a Special.

Those watching the film will be treated to several glimpses of Woodhaven circa 1974, when it was filmed. For example, you’ll see the post office and you’ll see the long-since-removed steps to the elevated train on Forest Parkway.

Locals will also be scratching their heads watching a bus roll down Forest Parkway and stop in front of the post office. Of course, there was never a bus line that traveled along Forest Parkway; that was just some creative license taken by the filmmakers.

It may not be the longest road around, but Forest Parkway is long in history and remains one of the more beloved and well-known streets in Woodhaven.