Day 1046

Beneath the Cross Island Parkway

November 10th, 2014

In grateful recognition of the gift by Sara Willets Meyer of the land on which this bridge and a portion of the Belt Parkway have been built — Anno Domini MCMXXXIX

Sara(h) Willets Meyer was the last member of the Willets clan to live in the grand mansion, no longer standing, that her grandfather built here in Bayside around 1850. The plaque above indicates that she donated a strip of land from the family estate for the construction of a piece of the Cross Island Parkway, which was being built as part of the larger Belt Parkway project when she died in 1939.

At about 36 miles in length, the Belt extends more than halfway around the perimeter of Brooklyn and Queens. It comprises four different sections, each with a different name: Shore Parkway, Southern Parkway, Laurelton Parkway, and Cross Island Parkway. On road signs, for whatever reason, the Cross Island is labeled as a separate entity, while the other three sections all get lumped together under the Belt moniker.

During its planning stages, the Belt was known as the Circumferential Parkway. Its present name was selected from among a wealth of options near the end of 1938, according to a Brooklyn Daily Eagle article from December 20, 1938:

At least one of the two major puzzles baffling the public has been solved.

Nobody knows yet who's going to be Scarlett O'Hara in the film version of "Gone With the Wind" but Park Commissioner Robert Moses has settled the controversy raging over the renaming of the Circumferential Parkway . . .

From now on, he said yesterday, the $28,000,000 project will be known as the Belt Parkway, largely as a concession to those who, like Queens Borough President Harvey, asserted their inability to spell or pronounce its temporary title.

Commissioner Moses decided to act after numerous suggestions had poured into his office, among them Ringstrasse Parkway, submitted by Mayor LaGuardia. One suggestion which Moses cherished until the last was Lynque Parkway, which combined the last three letters of Brooklyn with the first three of Queens. He finally decided it sounded too tortuous.
Pshhh. Tortuosity would have never stopped Henry Stern!

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