Allyn Jennings (1892-1978) was a principal associate to Robert Moses (1889-1981). For 40 years, Robert Moses served as the “master builder” of the City of New York. He played a primary role in the development of its parks, transportation, and housing. Beginning in 1924, he held a dozen city and state positions, many concurrently. Invested with this authority, Moses constructed 416 miles of highway, 13 bridges, 658 playgrounds, 17 miles of beach, 11 swimming pools, zoos, recreation centers, and ball fields, and more than doubled the city’s park acreage to 34,673 acres. Moses is remembered as the man who built the city that New York is today; however, he could not have done it without associates such as Jennings.
Allyn Jennings was born in New York on October 2, 1892. As related in Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, Jennings served in the Coast Guard in World War II. While he was concerned with national safety, his boss, Moses, had a much different idea of the war: it interfered with his plans. The beaches under his control were also part of the Atlantic coast that the Coast Guard was trying to protect from attack, but Moses would brook no meddling. When the Coast Guard ordered the Jones Beach boardwalk lights dimmed, Moses was enraged, and it is unclear whether he ever complied. “Doesn’t RM know there’s a war on?” Allyn Jennings reportedly remarked. The comment was repeated, and Jennings’s career came to an end. Perhaps the last associate who stood up to Robert Moses, Jennings died in September 1978 at his Jacksonville, Florida, home.
In December 1936, the Regional Plan Association recommended the construction of a link between the Gowanus Parkway and the Triborough Bridge. What was then called the Brooklyn-Queens Connecting Highway was to be financed equally by federal, state, and city funds. The construction of the Kosciuszko Bridge over Newtown Creek in 1939 was the first piece of what would later become the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, colloquially referred to as the BQE. The route of today’s BQE was adopted by Robert Moses in late 1945 and was constructed in the 1950s and 1960s.
On November 17, 1955, the City of New York acquired this Woodside land in order to carry out renovations on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Jurisdiction over this land was conveyed to Parks later that day. Renovations on this land included modifications of the lines and grades of the street system and the laying out of six “sitting parks.” The parks were named on June 18, 1987. Two were called Crosson Green and Crosson Park. The other four – Jennings Park, Latham Park, Sherry Park, and Spargo Park – were all named for the most prominent and dedicated of the “Moses Men,” for their many years of service to Parks and New York City. Widening the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in this area was necessary to provide for an accelerating lane on the expressway. Jennings Park resides at the eastern intersection of 43rd Avenue and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.