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Trolley Car Triangle

Trolley Car Triangle

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

This site references the historic Grand Street trolley line that once ran through this area.  Trolley Car Triangle, bounded by Astoria Boulevard and 97th Street, was developed as a park in 1927. The City acquired the property in September 1928 by condemnation, and NYC Parks immediately gained jurisdiction. The park was originally known as Street Car Triangle, but was renamed Trolley Car Triangle in 1997. 

The first-ever Brooklyn City trolley car entered Queens County in May 1894. At the end of the month, the Grand Street line was opened, running between the Maspeth Depot and Broadway. The line was soon extended to Junction Avenue and across to Bowery Bay. 

The opening of the line was a ceremonious event during which the first trolley car to travel the line carried a roster of distinguished passengers that included the president of the Brooklyn Heights Rail Road. When the car reached Jackson’s Mill during the opening run, the passengers stopped to tour the old mill whose water wheel and grinding stones were then still intact. They then continued on to enjoy Gala Amusement Park on Bowery Bay, the current site of La Guardia Airport.

The neighborhood of East Elmhurst, through which the line ran, has inadvertently preserved a rich history of the trolley lines. During the 1920s and 1930s, developers built up streets on both sides of Bowery Bay Road and Flushing Avenue, now Astoria Boulevard. Since the Brooklyn City Rail Road did not want to negotiate a new franchise, it kept the line as it was, and residents became used to trolley traffic in their backyards. In the 1930s, the other parcels of Old Bowery Bay Road and Flushing Avenue were eliminated, so the trolley tracks were the only testament to old street configurations. A decade later, the city paved over much of the line; however, one can still find spots of exposed trolley tracks and original bricks where the pavement has worn away, thus affording a glimpse of 1890s Queens. 

Founded by the Dutch in 1652, Elmhurst was originally known as Newtown. It encompassed the northwestern portion of Queens for over two centuries, until Long Island City was given a separate charter in 1870. In the 1890s, the Cord Meyer Development Company completely transformed the Newtown area, laying out streets, building new residences, and creating new neighborhoods. In 1896, Cord Meyer, the owner of the company, named his development Elmhurst, meaning "a grove of elms." His intention was to disassociate the neighborhood from the foul smells of Newtown Creek, a tributary of the East River that runs inland for three miles and serves as the boundary between the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.

During the 1940s through the 1960s, the neighborhood of East Elmhurst was a haven for renowned jazz musicians, actors, and entertainers including Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Brown, Harry Belafonte, Charlie Shavers, Ray Bryant and Charles “Honi” Coles, and the legendary Major League Baseball center fielder, "The Say Hey Kid", Willie Mays.

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