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Saturday, August 19, 2006

What Ever Happened To Linden Ave? Deehan Ave? Wilde Lane?....

surprise quiz - match the original street name (column A)with the one you remember from the sixties (column B):
column A

Wilde Lane
Linden Av

Deehan Av
and, so you don't feel like a total loser:
E 44 St

column B
Linden Blvd
Linden Blvd (2)
Church Av
See the bottom of this blog for answers. No cheating! No help from your parents!

Before we begin, did you read the posting in the column to the right?  Did you read the blog that appears below this one?  Good!
The picture, courtesy, at the upper right of this blog is what is now Linden Blvd looking west at Utica Avenue toward E49th St taken in 1924. If you look carefully, that tall building on the left, about two blocks away is PS 135. The tracks in the foreground carry the Utica Avenue trolley. Check out the cobblestones. Smooth roadway had not yet entered the lexicon of road builders.
There were some major thoroughfares that took us out of the neighborhood, but none could offer us the vast
opportunities afforded by Linden Blvd. Whereas Church Avenue and Utica Avenues provided easy transport to all three subway lines and various connecting surface lines, their ultimate destinations were all within the confines of the five boroughs. Even Kings Highway - my, what a regal name - while it meanders through so many Brooklyn neighborhoods and grows to an eight-lane giant by the time it reaches East Flatbush (yeah, the Department of Traffic considers the curb lane as a lane, even though it's primary purpose is for parking) it meets an ignoble, and some may say, untimely end at Howard Avenue in East New York. Even Utica Avenue at its southern terminus contributes to Flatbush Avenue's march toward Floyd Bennett Field and the Marine Park(way) Bridge.

In all fairness, even Linden Blvd has a humble beginning, with its start at Flatbush Avenue between Caton and Church Avenues as a one way eastbound street. How many of you have ever visited the Flatbush branch of the Brooklyn Public Library on Linden Blvd just east of Flatbush Avenue?

If you were fortunate to grow up in a family with a car, NY Route 27 - Linden Blvd - was the way to get out to the country. Route 27 starts at the Gowanus Expressway, shares the right of way with the Prospect Expressway and then heads east on Caton Av until Bedford Av where Caton ends and makes a slight left turn to join Linden Blvd. At this point Linden Blvd is flanked primarily by six-story apartment houses, interspersed with the occasional two-family house. While not high-end, the houses do exude a degree of upper-middle-class class - many had doormen, at least in the nineteen thirties and forties; by 1960 they had long-since peaked. By the time the traveler reaches New York Avenue there are more and more four-floor 'walk-ups.' No elevators! And more two-family homes.

I've been unable to confirm this, but while I was growing up on Linden Blvd rumor had it that the white line down the center of Linden Blvd separated more than just the on-coming traffic. It allegedly also served as the boundary between the six-seven and the seven-one police precincts, now part of Brooklyn South. The word was, 'Don't ever get hit by a car while standing on the white line; neither precinct would respond. Drag yourself to either side.'

Further east, probably around New York Av, the white line (yes, 'white'!) also served as the boundary between Erasmus Hall and Wingate High Schools, once the latter opened in the late fifties.

There is nothing of any architectural significance until Albany Av and St. Catherine’s RC Church and school. If you lived in the neighborhood and you were Catholic, you went to St. Catherine's. As a result, the local elementary school, PS 235, on Lenox Rd at East 39th St was predominantly Jewish.

Seven blocks east was East Flatbush Jewish Community Center, on the corner of Schenectady Av. Well, actually, not on the corner. The plan was to build a sanctuary on the vacant lot on the corner and convert the original building into a community center - a dream that never materialized. The building is now a church. Diagonally opposite is PS 135, an imposing five-story building that was old sixty years ago. And a block further, across the street was a brand-new health care facility. (Help me out folks: I think it was a nursing home. Interboro?)

I bought my first tank of gas at the Texaco gas station on Utica and Linden. (27.9 cents for regular, leaded gas and they checked my oil!). 1959 was a very good year. I learned every bump and pot hole on Linden Blvd.

The Rugby library's first home was east of Utica, in a row of stores on the north side of Linden Blvd, before it moved to a new, larger building on Utica and Tilden Av.

Linden goes through another change east of Kings Highway. The intersection of Kings Highway, Remsen Av and Linden Blvd has to be the most pedestrian-unfriendly intersection in the City. (Actually, in 2003 there were 92 accidents at the intersection, ranking it the fourteenth most dangerous intersection in the City. In the early fifties there was some talk and plans were proposed to make one of the roadways under ground.  No doubt the plans were left on the center island of the intersection and no one was brave enough to retrieve them. Pennsylvania Av at Linden Blvd was more dangerous - 103 accidents that year.) Anyway, on its steady march to the 'country,' Linden Blvd now becomes an eight-lane monster.

Linden Blvd had an interesting traffic control arrangement as it sliced through East Flatbush. Not every intersection had a traffic light. Small signs well-hidden on lamp posts at each corner advised drivers to stop at the intersection if the light ahead of them was red. In most cases the lights were at three-block intervals. For example, Albany Av had a light and the next eastbound light was at Troy Av. The next light was at Schenectady Av, three blocks to the east and then another three blocks at Utica Av which sported an overhead signal. This traffic control concept might have been successful had it been a universal policy throughout the City or if Linden Blvd were in the middle of a desert with no foliage growing in front of the traffic lights or the small signs.

Traffic lights were black four-sided box-shaped lights which were effective only at intersections that were true right angles. They were mounted on stantions about ten feet high at the curb on the corner. Usually two signals controlled an intersection, mounted diagonally across the street from each other. And, they were absolute. Either the light was red or it was green, and the second the light turned red for one direction, it turned green for the waiting traffic. In a nod to fairness, the Department of Traffic experimented with the equivalent of an amber signal. Just before the signal would turn red, both green and red signals would be lit. In New York, that was typically viewed as a signal to speed up.

Now, for the poor hapless driver waiting, say at East 43rd St., to cross Linden Blvd. He was instructed via a small sign where normally there would be a stop sign to look in both directions to see if the light was red for traffic on Linden so he could cross. Even if it were red, there was a fifty-fifty chance that some Linden Blvd driver would not stop at East 43rd St, but continue on to the next traffic light. Obviously, to make this work, all the lights had to change at the same time. If our hero made it across Linden Blvd he was greeted at Lenox Rd with a yellow stop sign (with reflective bead letters) and another stop sign at Clarkson. Standardized red stop signs were still years away as were three-light traffic signals and progressive signals to keep traffic moving at a steady pace and yellow lines down the center of the street. Someone in the City government woke up and by the end of the fifties, Linden Blvd had joined the ranks of other streets with a more conventional traffic control system.

Although it loses its identity somewhere at the Queens border and becomes North Conduit Rd, it still maintains its Route 27 title as it continues east on The Sunrise Highway which was built in the 1920's to alleviate the congestion on Montauk Highway. It will go through several such changes until 122 miles from its western beginning, it ends at a non-descript traffic circle at Montauk Point.
OK.  A word about Vernon Av - not to be confused with the Verson in Long Island City.  As anyone who spent at least one semester in Tilden High School, the street and eventually the school was named after Samuel J. Tilden, an attorney and New York governor who battled Boss Tweed's Tammany Ring.  In the most contested presidential election of the nineteenth century Tilden came up one electoral college vote short to Rutherford B. Hayes despite gaining the popular vote and there went Brooklyn's claim to having a president of the United States.  Hey, it couldda been worse.  You coulda graduated from Vernon High School.
Our next session, we're going to discuss where we bought 'stuff.' You know, like food, clothing. Like I said, 'stuff.'

Quiz Answers:

Grant - Snyder Av; Wilde Lane  (later became Church Lane)- Church Av; Vernon - Tilden Av; Linden Av - Linden Blvd; Deeham Av - Linden Blvd; E44 St - Troy Av.


M&M said...

The "health care facility" at the corner of Linden Blvd. and E. 49 Street was Flatbush General Hospital. I spent a few days there as a patient about 1969 or 1970 I think. I had kidney stones.
Mark Gilman

Robert Garofalo said...

i spent 3 months at flatbush general in the mid 60s. i was looking for Dr Bitar who saved my life,i think i was 13 at the time,nurse Pettet and Mike the orderly are names i remember

Sandy said...

Ah, memories--I surrendered my appendix at Flatbush General in 1964; and my mom had her kidney stones removed there three years earlier. What disturbed me most about the place was its proximity to a cemetery.

Sandy A. (Somers '64, Tilden '67, BC '71, now a Chicagoan since '78)

Anonymous said...

Great memories!The Texaco service station mentioned was operated by a Harold Friedman for many years--his name was over the entrance door.I was bar mitzvah at the E.Flatbush Jewish Center in '42;my father cashed in his life insurance policy to pay for the on-site party.As a kid lived in a small apt.corner of E.51 St.&Clarkson Av.& attended PS232, Winthrop Jr. H.S.Made no difference being poor&unprivileged; I wasn't aware that I was!!/AJS