Richmond Parkway

Korean War Veterans Parkway

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

The Korean War Veterans Parkway, formerly the Richmond Parkway, was laid out by Robert Moses (1888-1981), who was New York City’s Parks Commissioner (1934-1960), city construction coordinator, and chairman of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. He also held nine other state and city positions. This parkway was part of his network of parkways for the New York City area. Although it was conceived and planned in the early 1930s, construction did not begin until 1966 and was completed in 1972. The parkway extends southwest from the southern end of LaTourette Park, then turns west at Huguenot Avenue, interchanges with the West Shore Expressway, and continues across the Outerbridge Crossing of the Arthur Kill, terminating in New Jersey.

Parkways date back to 1866, when architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux proposed a network of wide tree-lined boulevards radiating from Prospect Park in Brooklyn. The Bronx River Parkway, constructed from 1916 to 1924, was the first modern parkway with limited access ramps, extensive landscaping, and grade separation, allowing crossing roads to pass under or over the parkway on bridges, eliminating the need for traffic lights. In 1930, Moses proposed his own network of parkways, looping through and around the boroughs and out into Long Island, and later built much of what he had envisioned. His parkways continue to be widely used, keeping local streets clear of congestion and making New York a navigable city.

The Korean War Veterans Parkway was originally intended to be 9.5 miles long, but a coalition of residents, environmentalists, and some public officials protested against its eastern portion. In 1966 Mayor John Lindsay ordered a halt to all construction north of Richmond Avenue, and Parks commissioned a study to determine an alignment with the “least social cost.” The study determined that Moses’ route would have inflicted a large social cost, destroying environmental resources, beautiful scenery, and important city institutions. The commission suggested an alternate route, but environmentalists continued to object, and the extension was never built. In April 1997, the New York State Legislature renamed Richmond Parkway the Korean War Veterans Parkway, in honor of the men and women who fought in the Korean War. The parkway is scheduled for a large-scale overhaul in the coming years.

The Korean War (1950-1953) began on June 25, 1950, when North Korean forces crossed the 38th parallel, the dividing line between North and South Korea, and invaded South Korea. Within a month, the North Koreans had pushed the South Korean army and supporting American forces to the southernmost tip of the Korean peninsula. In response, the United Nations (UN) authorized an army, under the command of United States General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964), to repulse the North Koreans and re-establish the boundary between the North and South at the 38th parallel. In mid-September, MacArthur staged a daring amphibious landing at the Inchon Peninsula and attacked the North Koreans from behind. The UN troops had soon pushed the North Korean army back across the 38th parallel, and were advancing on the Yalu River, the border between North Korea and China.

Fearing invasion, Chinese forces next became involved in the conflict. In November, the Chinese attacked the UN forces near the Yalu River, and quickly succeeded in driving them back into South Korea. The UN forces then counterattacked and managed to re-establish a battle line near the 38th parallel. In April 1951, President Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) relieved General MacArthur of his command, rejecting MacArthur’s aggressive policies which Truman believed would instigate a major war with China and the Soviet Union. Fighting would continue in Korea for the next two years, although little ground was ultimately exchanged. Finally, on July 27, 1953, both sides signed an armistice, which ended hostilities and restored the 38th parallel as the dividing line between North and South Korea.

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