Queens community leaders and NYC Parks Borough Commissioner Michael Dockett broke ground on the first phase of the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway reconstruction project on Wednesday, April 28.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Councilman Barry Grodenchik, Community Board 13 Chair Bryan Block, Community Board 11 District Joseph Marzilliano and Community Board 8 District Manager Marie Adam-Ovide were in attendance for the groundbreaking at Union Turnpike and Winchester Boulevard.
The first phase of the project involves resurfacing between Winchester and Springfield boulevards. Eventually, the entire length of the parkway, which runs through Alley Pond and Cunningham Park, will be refurbished.
“The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway hasn’t been repaved in decades, so it is in desperate need of an upgrade,” Grodenchik said. “The resurfacing will allow families, children and seniors to safely enjoy a range of activities on this historic thoroughfare.”
The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, also known as the Long Island Motor Parkway, falls within City Council District 23, which is represented by Grodenchik. The Vanderbilt is a major recreation and exercise venue in eastern Queens, where local residents enjoy walking, running, bicycling, roller skating and skateboarding in a car-free zone.
The reconstruction project is funded with $300,000 from Mayor Bill de Blasio and $1.25 million from Grodenchik. The first phase includes installations of new asphalt pavement and new steel guard rails. Phase two of the project is funded with $3.9 million from de Blasio and is currently in procurement.
Richards said the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway reconstruction project will give Queens residents access to more of the recreational space that is so vital to their quality of life.
“The project will create a wonderful scenic route that will offer an enjoyable experience to the bicyclists and pedestrians who use it,” Richards said.
Upon completion, the project will be one of more than 800 completed under NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver’s leadership, advancing the city’s mission to build a more equitable 21st-century park system.
“Under Commissioner Silver’s leadership, we’ve worked tirelessly to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to quality parks. We’re excited to officially break ground on the historic Vanderbilt Motor Parkway project, which will provide New Yorkers with improved open space for recreation and respite,” Dockett said.
Originally built in 1908 as a race course by the railroad mogul and financier William Vanderbilt Jr. (1878-1944), the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway later developed into a major public thoroughfare. It was one of the first concrete roads in the nation, the first highway to use bridges and overpasses, and the first high-speed route from Queens to Suffolk County.
The parkway’s largely untold history is filled with intrigue: race cars, bootlegging, historic preservation efforts and public controversy. Today, the Parkway survives as a bicycle path, but began as America’s first all-elevated road for cars.