More than a hundred people turned out for Sundays dedication ceremony to officially list the Long Island Motor Parkway in Cunningham Park on the national and state registers of historic places.
U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills), Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Bayside), and Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis) joined other officials and walkers, joggers and bikers to celebrate the listing as recognition of the parkways historic status, effectively limiting any development or alterations to the existing strip of the old motorway that runs from 199th Street to Alley Pond Park.
This is the first step in getting the parkway listed under landmark status, said Marc Haken, president of the Friends of Cunningham Park. The historical status means it has to stay in pristine or original condition. We dont ever want (the parkway) to become a miniature golf course.
Haken, along with other community members and elected officials, received official confirmation that the parkway, also called the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, was listed on the New York Register of Historic Places in January, a state official said. Four months later in April, they received word from federal officials that the highway was also on the national register.
Im very excited about this, he said. Its nice when you finally see all the building blocks come into place for something.
William K. Vanderbilt, Jr. built the highway in 1908 to give his family a private means of traveling by Ford Model T from Fresh Meadows to Lake Ronkonkoma in Suffolk County, Haken said. The highway was built from east to west, he said.
But now people use the highway, which was closed in 1938, for recreational purposes, such as walking, running or cycling. For those attending the dedication ceremony, having the strip of highway on the historic registers ensures a valuable part of Cunningham Park will not be taken away.
This gives a positive spin that people have the foresight to create for the future, said Rabbi David Winter, a Hillcrest resident. Especially for the younger generation, it makes history relevant.
State Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Bayside), who helped the Friends of Cunningham Park in its mission to get the parkway listed as a historic site, said he enjoys the path as one of a few quiet places in the community and particularly because it is a safe place to teach his children how to ride a bike.
Were still working on that, he joked. But (the parkway) is one of the jewels of the neighborhood. Its just really a special place to have in the community.
The historic status means that any future developments or alterations to the parkway, such as building cell phone towers, food stands, or modifying the 16-foot-wide road, would need to go through a review panel, Haken said.
But Park Ranger John McCoy, who will tend and manage the site on a daily basis, said the importance of the parkways historic status means it will not only be preserved but beautified and expanded for future generations.
The federal government will now have to help in upgrading the parkway, said the 25-year-old ranger who was born in Ozone Park. I can only see good things coming out of this.
Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2002 Community News Group
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