The Actual Boulevard of Death


    You can take the Q39 bus here, but why? There’s a somewhat hidden stretch of Laurel Hill Boulveard, which is entirely overflown by the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, down here. On either side of the street, high masonry walls define the borders of Third and Fourth Calvary Cemeteries. There are sidewalks, however, and this is one of the loneliest spots to walk through that can be found in all of Western Queens.


    The street is only ten blocks long, spanning the area between 58th and 48th Streets, and it’s one of those hazy areas where you might be in the neighborhood of Maspeth, or in Woodside, or perhaps Sunnyside. It’s actually and definitively Woodside, by the way, but there really is no one around whom you’d be able to ask. You’d be surrounded by literally millions walking down this street, but they’re all dead.

    More after the jump…


    Over pints at nearby saloons, I’ve been told that this stretch of Laurel Hill Boulevard is favored by teenagers for illegal drag races. Just a few years ago, some unlucky kids got killed down here in a terrible accident back in 2009. This street is a great example of something which afflicts Western Queens. If you’re in trouble and had to call 911, how would you describe where you are? Look at 48th and Laurel Hill Boulevard in an online map, and you’d think you were on the overhead highway.


    Three men died last Thursday night when their car slammed into a concrete barrier on Laurel Hill Boulevard after skidding across the road. Police say the driver lost control of his 1992 Volvo while trying to pass another car at a high rate of speed.

    A bottle of vodka and small amount of cocaine were later found inside the obliterated car, according to Deputy Inspector Thomas Kavanagh, commanding officer of the 108th Precinct. There was a witness to the crash, which happened at about 10:30 p.m. near 58th Street, where the boulevard runs beneath the expressway and through the cemetery.

    The driver, 26-year-old Pedro Sanchez of Brooklyn, and his two passengers, Thomas Owens and Eric Sanguenette, both 27 of Woodside, were pronounced dead at Elmhurst Hospital.


    There are pedestrian entrances to both Calvary’s along this road, and at least one is usually a locked up vehicle gate. I’ve seen the gate open when funerals are underway, which is actually pretty often in sections three and four of the great funerary complex. Most of my time, cemetery wise, is spent at First Calvary over in Blissville as it and its inhabitants are a bit older than these sections – which are generally of 20th century vintage. Saying that, these cemeteries actually function as open space for people who live nearby and it’s incredibly common to see people jogging or riding their bikes along the manicured loam and past the grandiose monuments.


    The term “Boulevard of Death” is normally used to refer to Queens Boulevard, due to its amazing number of traffic fatalities, but I think that this bit of Laurel Hill Boulevard deserves some consideration as well. If not Boulevard of Death, perhaps the Boulevard of the Dead? Also, something I’ve always wondered about is whether or not this street is “hallowed ground” because… you know, vampires. This is a great spot for vampires as the BQE blots out the sun and Laurel Hill Boulevard is cloaked in a permanent shadow.


    At the corner of 48th Street, a monument company called Riley Bros. has been happily ensconced for more than a century. The company is mentioned singularly for its signage. As I’ve mentioned in the past, many years of my life were spent slogging away in the belly of the advertising beast on Madison Avenue, and interesting typography always demands comment and notice.


    The “good name in monuments” signage is magnificent, and would be “readable” in a snow storm. Laurel Hill Boulevard is interrupted just west of this spot by the BQE as it approaches the LIE interchange and the Kosciuszko Bridge. It resumes its ancient path on the other side of the Bridge by First Calvary and slopes toward the lugubrious shoreline of the Newtown Creek in Blissville, ending at Review Avenue. It follows the BQE east to 67th Street, as a service road, as well.

    Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman lives in Astoria and blogs at Newtown Pentacle.

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