Please Explain: Parkways

Friday, March 07, 2008

Parkways are a kind of road common in the New York City area, but more rare in the rest of the USA. Find out what parkways are, and how they fit in to the American transportation system. Dr. Timothy Davis is Lead Historian for Park Historic Structures & Cultural Landscapes Program at the U.S. National Park Service.


Dr. Timothy Davis

Comments [17]

Dave Ruby from Westchester

The ride through Jones Beach, especially at this time of year, might represent what it was like when the parkways first opened. Light traffic, mostly original median and lighting structures.

At the other end is quite a statement of the Robert Moses park system. Two three lane causeways with significant bridges for marine traffic. All to handle maybe twelve weekends of traffic.

Mar. 07 2008 03:45 PM

I empathize with the caller from Calif. I felt the same way when I came here, when Howard Johnsons covered the landscape.

He should have been here for the West Side Highway, a very early highway that, by negative example, showed how the newer highways benefitted from evolving design (ie, for one example, don't have cars enter and exit the highway via the _fast_ lane).

Mar. 07 2008 01:56 PM

Park Ave. above Grand Central had more to do with the design of the new GCT after the great train wreck of 1902.

The designer(s) chose to put the nightmarishly noisy and dirty train tracks underground. To pay for the massive overhaul of GST, they sold the first "air rights" at the street level.

You can imagine the construction process, done in segments; by the end, we have the wide, pretty Park Ave.--and a string of very ritzy apartment buildings without, I hear, basements.

Mar. 07 2008 01:47 PM
Serge Boyce from Fairfield, CT

How does the Merritt Pkwy in Connecticut fit into the parkway system?

Mar. 07 2008 01:45 PM
Catherine from Long Island

I travel the Parkways and Expressway on LI. Unlike the expressway, the parkways treelined curves filter the low blinding light at dawn and at dusk, while. I've always guessed this was by design, can the guest confirm this?

Mar. 07 2008 01:43 PM
chestina (felt pressure to change it) from Midtown

Robert Moses Parkway goes to Niagara falls. I was told as a little girl that the idea of a superhighway (autobahn) was in the air and experimented upon by the British throne on the Queen Elizabeth Way (brutal road till updated)to Toronto, opened ihtink in 1935. around the same time Hitler was planning the autobahn.

Mar. 07 2008 01:41 PM
robyn from 11211

Mar. 07 2008 01:38 PM
Rich from jersey city/blairstown nj

The only parkways that remain truly as parkways are the Robert Moses State Parkway and the Ontario State Parkways in upstate New York. There function still remains to bring people to parks. Robert Moses is so little used that weeds grow in the cracks.

Buffalo has destroyed some of its parkways. The awful Kensington Expressway replaced the original Parkway and served to sever that city into two.

Mar. 07 2008 01:35 PM
chestina (felt pressure to change it) from Midtown

I grew up on a parkway that led to a park in Buffalo, which was modeled on Paris (circles) - but the parkways there are not big streets, they were lined with elegant residences. Some still are. Mine did lead to a park and still does.

Mar. 07 2008 01:30 PM
Hilary Kitasei from NYC

Hatred of Moses (much of it earned) should not blind us to the benefits of the parks. Only by preserving the parks in the parkway can we imagine a future where they are used for light rail (great idea!)

Mar. 07 2008 01:21 PM
Riverdale Nature Preservancy from Riverdale

The National Parks Service's Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) report on the Henry Hudson Parkway is available on our website:, along with several other interesting studies and reports on this parkway. Environmentalists will especially be interested in the Gaia Institute's plan for "Stormwater Capture Parks along the Henry Hudson Parkway." It shows the importance to the city of protecting the parkways as vital ecological resources (equivalent to some 25% of its vegetative cover).

Mar. 07 2008 01:16 PM
hjs from 11211

what will we do with all these roads when gas is $10/gallon?

Mar. 07 2008 01:15 PM
markbnj from online: or

Give me a break gelson.

Yes, Moses was a racist (see my blog post HERE
I quote myself HERE:
Moses's problems caused a great deal of shame and problems for New York City, that remain to this day such as:
Racist/class concious/
These factors totally influenced how and where our City developed in his reign of terror and power in our city.

Mr. Moses specifically designed ALL of his parks, parkways, beaches and even highways so that blacks, lower class "masses", and others need not partake of his designs.

All of Mr. Moses's works were designed for access to cars. His parks, his roads, and even his bridges were built with a car in mind, and were designed to NEVER allow public transportation.

Essentially, if the parkways had a rail line alongside it, (both a Light rail line AND a freight line!)
We could use these as feeder lines, and people could have had a great deal more use of these upperclass, upper crust, elitist roads.

And see HERE:
for my suggestions on HOW to re-shape our nation's infrastructure


And we CAN save our country.
We need to fix LOGTS of things at ONCE.
look here:

Cheers to all, and to all a good weekend

Mar. 07 2008 01:14 PM
Gelston from New York

The Long Island beaches were totally inaccessible to anyone until Moses used eminent domain over rich, private landowners to create the parkways. The ban on buses was part of his determination to ban ALL commercial activity on his parkways - including billboards, truck and all business except carefully-controlled park-appropriate concessions. Even the gas stations were park-like. NYC was not alone in banning buses on parkways. They required larger turning radii, more expressway-like infrastructure that took away from the park character. That said, NYC can decided to allow buses on its parkways (school buses already use them). The important thing is to make sure that the park functions (like the greenways, trails, and parks) are not compromised.

Mar. 07 2008 12:55 PM
michael winslow from INWOOD

The Northern State Parkway was created so white people could drive out on Long Island and so they could go to the beach.

Robert Mosses created the parkway in such a way so black people and the poor couldn't make it out to the beach because at the time most had to take the bus. You can't drive buses on the Northern State because the bridges are too low.

Mar. 07 2008 12:38 PM
Hilary Kitasei (chair, Henry Hudson Pkwy Task Forc from NYC (now in Puerto Rico - will try to call in!)

Communities in Manhattan and the Bronx have been trying valiantly for the last six years to preserve the Henry Hudson Parkway by designating it a Scenic Byway. (The Taconic, Bronx River Parkway, Palisades and Merritt are all Scenic Byways.) As a scenic byway, the parkway would be managed to preserve its parks and beautiful bridges, and be eligible for new sources of federal funding the city is not taking advantage of. We succeeded in getting all of the agencies with jurisdiction (State DOT, NYC Parks, NYC DOT, and even MTA) to agree to collaborate on a corridor management plan, and the funding to do it. But now the Bloomberg administration has refused to go forward with it. Given that the parkway includes the greenway and the waterfront park the Mayor is investing so much in, it is confounding why he wouldn't jump at the State's willingness to make one of its highways through the city behave like the parkway it is -- a "road through a park" (in the words of Boston's DOT, a city that appreciates its parkways).

Mar. 07 2008 12:30 PM

As a lover of the Pacific NW's vast wilderness, I have always been ambivalent about its roads. The very pathways into some of the world's most amazing, ancient forests, of course were built in order to "manage" them (think chainsaws).

Mar. 07 2008 10:14 AM

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