Looking northwest across 71st
and the boulevard, we find the Ridgewood Savings building and
one of Forest Hill's many multi-story luxury apartment houses,
replete with terraces and penthouses. A local Green Line bus
shoots by a white Queens Surface express bus stopped at the corner.
The now ubiquitous "Pedestrian Killed" sign dominates
the center median.
For decades now, many numbered Avenues,
Roads and even Streets across Queens have been getting 2nd names,
often marked with blue signs as opposed to the official green
holding the number designation. Many of these thoroughfares weren't
even carved out of old farmers fields until the numbering system
came into being. This is probably one reason why, with the older
preexisting Avenues already numbered, other terms such as Road
and Drive had to be pressed into service as former farmland was
broken up into housing lots and new routes were carved into the
Queens landscape. The oldest Avenues go way back into prehistory,
such as 66th Avenue, which was once known as White Pot Road,
and not just by the European newcomers. 71st Avenue was not unlike
its fellow Avenuers in that it also had a real name once upon
a time. Where it differs from all of them is that it never gave
up that older name. In a rare situation that Bliss, Lowery, Fisk
and White Pot could only dream about, 71st Avenue is also known
by all in the city as Continental Avenue. In fact, both names
actually coexist on more or less equal terms, and it is all official.
Residents are just as apt to say they're going to Continental
one day, while saying they're headed over to 71st the next day.
Like a reversible jacket, the two names are interchangeable.
Even the subway stop is called 71st/Continental Ave. The careless
might think 71st is 71 Street. I suspect that Continental was
retained due to influence and pressure from the exclusivistic
power brokers living in nearby Forest Hills Gardens, who probably
felt a nondescript numbered main drag was too mundane for their
community. My suspicions are enhanced by the Garden's other main
north-south route, Ascan Avenue, 4 short blocks east of Continental.
Looking at a map, it becomes fairly clear that Ascan should have
become 73rd Avenue.
Directly west from the center
median, the next corner is 70th Road, another multi-killer crossing.
It's gotten so bad around here that they now have "People
Crossing" signs to warn motorists of the surrounding "wildlife".
Of all the crazy warning signs that have been employed around
this highway, this one disturbs me the most.
© 2001, Jeff Saltzman.