Tracking the Evolution of Flushing’s Broadway LIRR Station

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    When I moved to Flushing in 1993, my building was a few blocks away from the Long Island Rail Road station we are taking a look at today — the (to some) inexplicably named Broadway station. Broadway in Queens runs from the East River at the Socrates Sculpture Park on Vernon Boulevard to the heart of Elmhurst at Queens Boulevard — miles to the west of fabulous Flushing. Yet here the Broadway LIRR station sits. How can this be?

    Until about 1920, all of Northern Boulevard from the Flushing River to the city line in Little Neck was named Broadway. West of the Flushing River, Northern Boulevard was known as Jackson Avenue, because it was built as a toll road by John Jackson in the 1850s from the waterfront through Astoria, Woodside and the Trains Meadow area now called Jackson Heights.

    East of the Flushing River there was an existing trail that had likely been used by Native Americans for centuries prior to the incursion of the white man. The road stretched to Flushing and to the farms and fields east of it as far as Roslyn, and sometime in the 19th century, it acquired the name Broadway. East of what would become the Queens-Nassau County line in 1898, it was called the North Hempstead Turnpike, which made sense, since it ran through the town of North Hempstead, originally in Queens, later in Nassau.

    The above map is from 1909 and shows the LIRR Port Washington line as it runs through the area. I’ve inserted “modern” street numbers on a couple of the streets, which were originally numbered from 1 to about 30 in Flushing, but were renumbered as Queens acquired a single overall street numbering system beginning in 1915. Both Crocheron Avenue, named for a local landowning family, and Sanford Avenue, named for U.S. Senator Nathan Sanford (1777-1838), who resided in Flushing, have kept their old names.

    The Broadway station achieved its present condition in 1913, when the grade crossings on 22nd Street (now 162nd Street) and Broadway (Northern Boulevard) were both eliminated. It was quite an involved operation. The tracks had to be placed on an embankment and, east of about 165th Street, routed through an open cut, then an elevated bridge in Auburndale and another open cut in Bayside, as the contours of the territory differed greatly.

    Both 162nd Street and Northern Boulevard had to be extensively excavated, and an artificial slope had to be constructed so that traffic had at least a ten-foot height to pass under the embankment, which was placed on a concrete and iron trestle.

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    This is a postcard from 1907 showing the north side of the Broadway station, facing Depot Road. As you can see, runabouts were easily able to pull up trackside and deposit passengers. In the background you can see some of the homes lining the north-south streets in Broadway-Flushing. At this time the line still ran at street level and was still single-tracked.

    What’s now the LIRR Port Washington Branch was built by the Flushing Railroad in 1854 and extended as far as Great Neck by 1866. After a series of mergers and acquisitions, the Long Island Rail Road had acquired the branch by 1875. The line was extended to Port Washington in 1895.

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    The 3-story apartment building seen in the postcard still stands on Depot Road, facing what is now the westbound track of the railroad.

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    The 1913 photo above looks north on 162nd Street toward Northern Boulevard. The elevated trestle across both 162nd Street and Northern Boulevard has been recently completed, with massive concrete pillars holding up the trackbed.

    Now the roadbeds are being depressed under the overpass. This entailed the replacement of the water mains and other pipes. When complete, 162nd Street would run to the left of the pillar in the center of the photo. The Broadway station is off to the right of the picture.

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    This is 164th Street looking north across the tracks from just north of Northern Boulevard in December 1913. Here, the railroad has remained at grade with the street. The crossing has since been eliminated — there is a pedestrian underpass in this location now.

    Only the handsome Broadway station building is the same today, though it has been altered somewhat. To the right of the photo, the Broadway-Flushing post office, which was never given a name and is still called “Station A,” was built some decades later.

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    By the 1920s the crossing would look like this. A passenger crossunder was built beneath the tracks. The station featured pebbled concrete railings, which, when I first encountered the station in the 1990s, still sported bolts that had held iron station lamps in place. Similar railings are still in place at the Hollis station on the main line.

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    After extensive renovations, completed in 2007, the crossunder looks like this. The red windows shelter a wheelchair ramp that connects to the crossunder. You can see the roof of the station building in the background.

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    When I first started boarding the LIRR from this station in 1993, it was in a state of disrepair; by the early 2000s it had literally begun to crumble. In fact, much of the westbound platform had to be closed because it was tumbling down onto the tracks. Sometime in the 1960s the platform had been extended east to service 12-car trains, and the newer portion of the platform was in good shape. Except for new railings and lighting, it was left alone when the rest of the platform was rebuilt.

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    Before renovations, the Broadway station featured an interesting curio from the LIRR’s salad days: a separate “house” that served as a waiting room on the eastbound side. By the 1990s, it had been reduced to serving as a urinal for local vagrants and youth, and in 2006 it was unceremonially demolished.

    On the westbound side, a simple lean-to served as a waiting area. However, on that side the station house gave adequate shelter because even though the ticket office was closed most of the time, you could get under the eaves during rain or snow. That feature is still there. The LIRR has also installed metal seats, but they get pretty hot in summer.

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    I got this photo in 2006. At this point the station house renovations and improvements had just been finished. However, you can see the decrepit condition of the platform; a complete transformation was in the offing.

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    The MTA destroyed the old part of the station to the last stone, and built new pilings and platforms. While this was done, the renovated station house’s windows were boarded up so no cracks could develop. During construction the eastern end of the station, the part that had been built in the 1960s, filled in yeomanly, but for about a year you had to enter in the rear of the train.

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    So, during my entire tenure using the Broadway station, 1993-2007, I dealt with a crumbling, decrepit structure that cast shame upon the greatest metropolis in the country. After I moved to Little Neck, it was transformed into a state of the art suburban rail station, with new lighting, handicapped access, public address, railings and shelters.

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    Another upgrade was the installation of Jean Shin‘s “Caledon Remnants,” as part of the MTA’s Arts for Transit program. It appears on the station house as well as sprucing up the old concrete entrance stairs.

    Artist Shin says of the work: “Fragments of traditional Korean ceramics are arranged into mosaic murals of vase silhouettes on the façade of the Broadway Long Island Railroad station in Flushing, Queens. Located in the heart of a vibrant Korean-American community, the abstract, green-blue silhouettes enhance the beauty of the Celadon itself, while the overall piece speaks to the rich, yet fractured, cultural history of the Korean diaspora. The pottery remnants were imported from Icheon, Korea as part of a cultural exchange.”

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