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Queens Blvd. at the LIE
Photo Gallery: Queens Blvd

Death Blvd

looking south
Looking south on the eastern side of the Queens Blvd/LIE interchange. It's June 2000 and heavy reconstruction, which never seems to end and whose very beginnings are already shrouded in hazy memory, is continuing along. The very pillars supporting the massive original issue, center section Long Island Expressway girders and slabs, were removed. Temporary jerry-worked supports of iron and wood keep the highway in the air. As of this writing in February 2001, I believe the new supports are already in place. Similar activity has been occurring along the LIE at Junction Blvd and 108th Street. The brick wall on the left hides the sunken express lanes of Death Blvd. For some reason in the 1930's, the city chose to have those lanes escape direct collision with the then Horace Harding Blvd here and the terminus of Woodhaven Blvd a block to the west, not that anyone needing to cross here will complain. Even with just the local lanes to deal with, this is dangerous pedestrain territory. For years, the underside of the LIE here has been used by various busses terminating their runs in the vicinity, to turn around and head back from whence they came. Horace Harding, the boulevard, not the man, was originally named Nassau Blvd. Far to the east in Little Neck, a short sliver that didn't make it into the extended HH or LIE right of way remains as Nassau Blvd. Apparently feeling it has to compete with the highway that stole it's express lanes and which it now must serve as a lowly service road for, Horace Harding is actually called an Expressway itself, not Boulevard, and I suppose it fancies that the LIE is still Horace Harding. Had the LIE never been built, Horace Harding would likely have evolved into the same pedestrian deathtrap that Queens Blvd is, since it shared a similar multi-laned and islanded design.
We're beneath the pigeon infested underbelly of the LIE looking west, as Queens Blvd says "Yes, I'm the great pretender" pretending of course to be an expressway just like its shadowy antagonist above. To the right, just before 59th Avenue and the Queens Center Mall, is one of those classic grey brick, 1950's functional, linear Look Building style office digs. The Damadian MRI center there awaits your presence to see if you need arthroscopy on your knees. The kind of injuries being suffered by pedestrians on Death Blvd however, are not likely to require Damadian's more benign services. Many of them will find themselves - if they're lucky - inside the pile of gray off in the haze to the left, St. Johns Hospital, which would dearly love to stop getting so much business from its dubious hosting boulevard.
west from lie
Looking west closer up from under the LIE, a city bus traverses Queens Blvd heading from Woodhaven Blvd to the left, north into 59th Avenue to the right. The Queens Center Mall on the right went up in the 1970's, and is today anchored by Macy's, who once went bankrupt, and JC Penney, who is now in danger of doing so. Macy's used to occupy the round white building further down, where Stern's now is, or was. Since June 2000, Stern's closed up, and that building is getting new floors added as it prepares for life hosting a megaplex theatre. Stern's as an ongoing entity is also going byebye, as its parent Federated commits Macy's to covering Stern's lower scale constituency. The vents in the brick wall aligning the express lanes are for the subway below. Though the Woodhaven Blvd stop is only a local station, this area has clearly outgrown it and desperately needs it to be converted for express train access, but if the LIE reconstruction looked like fun, imagine what having to widen the subway station below at least 1 1/2 track widths on both sides would be like for at least a four block stretch. I suspect that such provision was already designed behind the walls of the station platforms, but it would still prove a nightmare above and below the ground.
Shifting over some, we take a peek southwest, where two of the LIE's several sections head west towards the Midtown Tunnel. The beige retaining wall in the distance holds up a ramp leading from the eastbound Queens Blvd onto the eastbound LIE.
A closer look west. St. Johns looms to the left, a relatively new Sears Auto Service center in front of it, hard by the corner. Queens Blvd's express lanes undulate in the late afternoon sun as they roll up and down towards a date westward with 57th Avenue, one of their prime pedestrian hunting grounds.

© 2001, Jeff Saltzman.