Ely Around in Queens

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    The 23rd Street/Ely Avenue station has increased in importance in recent years, as Greenpoint has gotten hotter — Queensicans needing access can change trains to the G line here, when the G vouchsafes to cross under the noxious and noisome Newtown Creek, which it won’t be doing for awhile. Many subway amateurs think this is the place where 23rd Street crosses Ely Avenue. This is a fallacy, as Ely Avenue is actually the former name of 23rd Street. It carried the name until the 1920s, as the then NYC Topographical Bureau decided to put Queens under one numerical street system in 1915, and the streets were numbered gradually from neighborhood to neighborhood, completing the process by 1930.

    However, some anachronisms remain on subway station signs. The best-known are along the #7 line, where Rawson, Bliss, and Lowery Streets, as well as Lincoln Avenue, are still on the station signs for 33rd, 40th, 46th and 52nd Streets. Names also persist along the N/Q in Astoria, and the A in Ozone Park and the Rockaway peninsula.

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    Ely Avenue also appears on this building under the #7 tracks at 23rd Street and 45th Avenue.

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    65th Street hasn’t been called Rowan Street since the 1920s. When the Independent Subway was routed under Broadway in Woodside in the 1930s, apparently one or more of the numeraries in the office thought it’d be helpful if some of the old names made it onto the signs for the benefit of area old-timers, such as 65th Street’s old name.

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    Only the subway signs at the Woodhaven Boulevard IND station refer to its junction with Queens Boulevard as Slattery Plaza. (Most Queensites these days call it Queens Center.) Here, Woodhaven Boulevard, once called Trotting Course Lane, roars south, ultimately crossing Jamaica Bay to the Rockaway peninsula. Why does the IND call this Slattery Plaza? He was a well-regarded engineer in New York State in the early part of the 20th century.

    From West Point’s website:

    John Rodolph Slattery graduated 5th in the USMA Class of 1900. Born in Athens, OH, on 31 Jan 1877, he was appointed to the Academy by Charles P. Taft, brother of President William Howard Taft.

    After graduation, Slattery was assigned to the Philippines to work on bridges and roads—a typical beginning for an engineer. The next few years found him living in Honolulu, HI; Jacksonville, FL; and Vicksburg, MS, in charge of flood control. He remained in Vicksburg for several years and worked on the Flood of 1916. He then served in France as the Chief Engineer of the Seventh Army Corps until 1919.

    One of his contributions was the development of a project on the upper Hudson River known as the Port of Albany. After it was completed, oceangoing vessels could travel 150 miles inland from New York City. While working on the project, Slattery was noticed by John Delaney, Dock Commissioner of New York City, who was impressed with Slattery’s work and wanted him to serve as one of Delaney’s chief aids on the new system of transportation in New York, the subway system. In an unusual move, the Army granted Slattery a year’s leave of absence so he could work on the subway system. At the end of that year, Slattery had served 25 years and wanted to retire, but the Secretary of War would not allow it. Dissatisfied with the decision, Slattery resigned in 1925 and became the Deputy Chief Engineer of the Board of Transportation, in charge of such projects as the tunnels to Queens and Staten Island and the New York Central Railroad.

    Slattery earned a master of arts from Ohio University. He was a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and past president of the Society’s New York section, American Military Engineers and the Municipal Engineers. He also received accolades from the mayor of New York for his work. The intersection of Queens and Woodhaven Boulevards in Queens, NY, is named Slattery Plaza in his honor.

    He suffered a heart attack while working in 1932 and died several days later in Jackson Heights, NY, at the age of 55.

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