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The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, a race track, toll road fr the wealthy, piece of history and a possible multi-use trail

For the past several months, Pedal Pushers Online, C.L.I.M.B. and some committed neighbors have been carving their way across portions of Nassau and Suffolk Counties plotting the course of what they hope will become the Long Island Greenway and Healthy Trails system (LIGHT). Roughly paralleling the historic route of the Long Island (Vanderbilt) Motor Parkway, the project began few months ago as a seventy-seven year old grandmother (whose children would make her stop the car so they could walk down the part of the abandoned Vanderbilt Motor Parkway) worked alongside two high school girls, girls that were there to clean up a connector to the VMP so that their Earth Club could continue to enjoy the greenspace for their nature studies. This alliance and others stand as a signal that something exciting is happening on Long Island for cyclists, joggers, inline skaters, hikers, geocachers, environmentalists, and outdoors lovers. A plan is brewing... The first steps of a baby are being taken, and it's a sign that concerned citizens are showing interest in preserving green space here in our own backyard. The baby is the renaissance of Long Island's historic Vanderbilt Motor Parkway in the form of a multi-use trail. The people that showed up for the Edgewood Preserve cleanup and the small but dedicated crew that are plotting the course over barricades and through bramble thickets are taking the first steps toward revitalizing this priceless asset as a greenspace with a rich local history and an extremely uncertain future. Here are some of the characters and facts of the story.

The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, a race track, toll road fr the wealthy, piece of history and a possible multi-use trail

rule The History: The short version is that The Long Island (Vanderbilt) Motor Parkway (const. 1908 ~ 1910) ran from Horace Harding Blvd. in Queens, through Nassau County and on to Lake Ronkonkoma. Existing now primarily in segmented bits and crumbling pieces, this reinforced concrete roadway was built by William K. Vanderbilt as a racetrack for the very rich, who also used their "Tin Lizzies" to travel between Queens and their Suffolk County resorts. Built as a commercial toll road, it became Long Island's very first parkway. The toll of two dollars seemed a bargain for these early (rich) motorists. The privately owned enterprise did fairly well until Robert Moses built his Northern State Parkway (the one we know today) and the loss of revenue caused the Long Island Motor Parkway to close. Vanderbilt owed overdue taxes to the counties through which the Parkway passed, and he ultimately settled the bill by surrendering the parkway's right of way, relinquishing ownership to the counties. They in turn granted easements, sold and/or leasing the land to a patchwork of special interests such as the Long Island Power Authority and various railroads and other private interests over the years.
rule

The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, a race track, toll road fr the wealthy, piece of history and a possible multi-use trail

The Present: Over the years, segments of the parkway have been utilized as rights of way for railroads, overhead power lines, and buried cables. In some cases houses or other projects have been built on the original route and in these sections the original roadbed has been destroyed. In other areas, such as sections which pass through county properties, parks, and recreation areas, portions of the original reinforced roadway can still be found and ridden. The crumbling concrete artifacts of an important local and national heritage, these portions of The Long Island Motor Parkway, one of the first reinforced concrete roadways in this country, cry out to be preserved. In addition to being the first reinforced concrete roadbed, The Vanderbilt was also the first roadway anywhere to utilize bridges and overpasses to eliminate intersections. A very few of these original bridges and abutments, along with property fence posts and mile markers can still be found, If you know where to look. And that is part of what this project is all about, making this living history accessible to millions of Long Islanders and New York State residents, so that they can see an important part of our heritage as a nation on wheels.


rule There's Denis Byrne the spark plug history buff who loves to point out the various artifacts of the original parkway still extant under the brush and the rubble. You really haven't experienced enthused story telling until you have heard Denis, pointing and raising outstretched arms, exclaim, "You see that?" Pointing to an uplifted section of asphalt and concrete. "That's what's left of Deadman's Curve. This is an important artifact that we need preserved for our heritage." And, you haven't witnessed aplomb until you see him let go of the bars as he pedals through a skeletonized bridge abutment with arms reaching for the parapets extolling, "the county actually kept them from tearing this down!"

Then there's Sam Berliner, the seventy-something founder of the LI Motor Parkway Panel, who applied for open space protection for all the individual parcels that comprise the LIGHT in Nassau County along with his cohorts Al Velocci, Howard Koplick and Pat Masterson, who together have cleared thousands of feet of remaining overgrown parkway footage in places such as Old Bethpage Village, Battle Row Campgrounds, and Bethpage State Park, among others.

rule

The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, a race track, toll road fr the wealthy, piece of history and a possible multi-use trail

Take Action: As we pedal along through brambles, briars, abandoned air conditioners, innumerable discarded beer bottles, and discarded car parts, it becomes obvious that these semi-abandoned stretches of land passing behind homes and businesses will profit immeasurably from the increased traffic that such a recreational trail will provide. The route of the Long Island Motor Parkway from Bethpage Park to the outer edge of Eisenhower Park passes behind homes, many of which now utilize the right of way as their defacto alleyway installing illegal gates and driveways.



Sometimes the original route provides a paved access for illegal dumping or ATV Use. In portions it is an unofficial bridle path. Establishing a controlled and well designed path would create an environment that would largely control and help eliminate many of the current abuses which arise from neglect and abandonment. Although the route is sadly neglected and abused in many portions, the journey from Suffolk to Nassau proves remarkably easy. Devoid of Long Island's ubiquitous motorized vehicular traffic the route is quiet, peaceful and enjoyable to pedal. Any frequent recreational or serious bicyclist on Long Island is painfully aware of the perils to life and limb associated with cycling Long Island's Roadways. This ride was one of joyous traffic avoidance. Being off road, we avoided repetitive and oft times ignored stop signs, intersections, stop lights, 18 wheelers, suv's, cell phone connected drivers and busy streets with no shoulders. Wide open pathways led to, quiet, secure, and relatively exhaust free air to breathe instead. That type of trip is something rarely encountered on Long Island. It is pleasant, informative, and historic as well.

The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, a race track, toll road fr the wealthy, piece of history and a possible multi-use trail

rule Then there is Mike Vitti. He is not only the president of C.L.I.M.B. (Concerned Long Island Mountain Bicyclists) but he is also the resident authority on moving government and parks departments into action. Why is he interested? Are there mountains on Long Island? You betcha! The VMP climbs plenty of north shore glacial moraines, some of which are so steep that their 22% grades will require switchbacks and climbing turns when the project is built. The project is daunting, but doable. Mike has been overheard to remark, "This is a terrific section. There's plenty of room for a paved path and single track, right here, next to each other." (Single track is the mountain biker term for a small path, an unpaved section along which mountain bikes can easily pedal.) "This can serve as a great off road corridor linking the parks which already have mountain bike paths, an off road link for off road mountain bikers."
rule

The Cause: Denis and Mike took turns pointing out the historic aspects of the trail as well as the progress being made to develop this route into a full fledged, approved, multi-use path. At one point Denis pointed out something that you may have driven past a thousand times and never noticed, a small mound of earth, right on Wantagh Avenue, across the street from the firehouse. Situated under the power lines is one of the remaining undisturbed embankments from the Motor Parkway which led originally to a now missing bridge crossing Wantagh Ave. It is all that remains of one of the first ever Long Island over passes. It is a bit of our historic past that no one notices but, it is still there - for now at least. Adjacent to the Seaford Oyster Bay Expressway, is the site of the aforementioned, Deadman's Curve, over grown and easily missed, the once proud roadway still pokes its way out of the undergrowth with a banked turn that would do the Indy 500 proud. Such are the numerous and frequent historic tid bits that an interpretive trail could illuminate for Long Island residents and visitors. Living historic references to a past, literally under our feet, that is rapidly disappearing under our bulldozers. Denis exploded in joy as he saw the new historic marker recently installed at another bridge abutment. "If only the entire trail were like this, and why shouldn't it be?"

The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, a race track, toll road fr the wealthy, piece of history and a possible multi-use trail

rule There is the 77 year old woman who helps dig debris from the abandoned scrub pine forest floor of the Edgewood Preserve, part of the proposed LIGHT Trail. Joining in the cleanup effort she places a piece of broken car, followed by a tire on a rim, followed by a desk drawer, into the back of a pickup, debris to be hauled away, and why does she care? It's simple she explains, "It's about respect, respect for our planet, and respect for each other, our neighborhoods, our open space, our world. Unless we take care of it and treat it with respect, well, we'll just lose everything I guess."
rule



The Status: So where are we with this wonderful project to preserve and enlighten Long Island regarding its history? And, where are we with promoting the adoption of this wonderful multi-use trail by local, town and county governments? In some cases things are moving along nicely. There are commitments from the Parks Department to develop the Motor Parkway through The Bethpage Restoration Village and other portions in Suffolk. LIPA seems to alternatively be in favor of, and at other times, indifferent to the development of its powerline portions of the trail, citing safety issues. Success of an actual segment of trail can be demonstrated by a part of the parkway that is currently being used as a multi-use trail. Specifically the entrance hill trail along the Bethpage State Park main entrance road. This original segment of the Motor Parkway is used daily by hundreds of Long Islanders as LIPA's power towers hover overhead, unharmed by their passing. Municipalities along the way generally fall in all parts of the spectrum with regard to being on board and moving forward with the project. Some allude to liability issues and others fall fully in favor of developing such a valuable historic and recreational asset. But without popular support, there is no reason for our politicians to get on board. They answer to only one mantra, that of the power to be re-elected. This project needs to be elevated to the level of a campaign issue. In that regard, show your support by contacting your local legislator and telling them that you are in favor of the LIGHT Project!

The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, a race track, toll road fr the wealthy, piece of history and a possible multi-use trail

rule Then there's the thirty something road warrior. He's normally found tearing up the roadways on his high-tech 18 speed road bike but, today he rides a fat tired mountain bike. He's along to find out, just what the trail would have for him. "I'm just tired of being a target for SUV's and eighteen wheelers. It's just great to be able to ride and not have to keep your head on a swivel to find the next threat. The simple joy of riding comes back on a trail like this one."
rule

The Politics: All around America local, state and federal governments are providing funding and planning services to design implement and build multi-use paths to encourage, physical exercise, alternative transportation modalities, and open space preservation. Everywhere that is, except Long Island, and particularly not in Nassau County which is currently bereft of such local facilities. This is an opportunity to catch up.
The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, a race track, toll road fr the wealthy, piece of history and a possible multi-use trail

The Long Island Greenway and Healthy Trails system (LIGHT) serves all of the above mentioned principals, and beyond that it would also raise certain forgotten and frankly under served open spaces to public usage, thus opening these areas to scrutiny and maintenance. In many areas the trail currently serves as the "alleyway" between developed areas. Dumping and illegal disposal of yard waste are rampant. The detritus of so called civilization frequently winds up in these so called abandoned areas. Therefore, promoting usage and passage through these areas would cause a tremendous decline in this illegal and unsightly activity simply by reducing the opportunity for abuse. Additionally, the motorized access, upon which such dumping depends, would be greatly reduced by current trail planning techniques which would require bollards, or removable pillar barricades at trail entrances. This restriction of motorized access and the increased non-motorized traffic would work together to limit the opportunity for dumping abuses.

rule Then there is the 60 year old curmudgeon with road rash scars, the result of riding in Long Island Traffic. He cruises along, out of place on his old mountain bike, while dreaming of rides on his tandem, cruising with his wife past the backyards of the neighborhood in which she grew up. In that dream, together they are sharing a journey through their history and that of this wonderful island, a beautiful place, scarred and pock-marked, but still alive. He dreams of a future with room for such memories to be made anew. He dreams of a trail, borne of a forgotten, abandoned, and abused alleyway.
rule

The Future: Pedal Pushers Online as part of the LIGHT committee are dedicated to seeing this trail come to fruition as a safe and attractive multi-use corridor connecting the far reaches of Long Island. The Long Island Motor Parkway Trail would be a multi-use trail of better than 45 miles which would also serve to further connect proposed, but as of yet unimplemented plans for about eight north/south bike trails proposed by the Long Island Non-Motorized Transportation Survey. The completion of the Long Island Motor Parkway Trail will also provide Long Island with the much needed alternative transportation network so eagerly embraced and widely used by municipalities all over this country and so terribly absent here.

The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, a race track, toll road fr the wealthy, piece of history and a possible multi-use trail

For the past several months, Pedal Pushers Online, C.L.I.M.B. and some committed neighbors have been carving their way across portions of Nassau and Suffolk Counties plotting the course of what they hope will become the Long Island Greenway and Healthy Trails system (LIGHT). Roughly paralleling the historic route of the Long Island (Vanderbilt) Motor Parkway, the project began few months ago as a seventy-seven year old grandmother (whose children would make her stop the car so they could walk down the part of the abandoned Vanderbilt Motor Parkway) worked alongside two high school girls, girls that were there to clean up a connector to the VMP so that their Earth Club could continue to enjoy the greenspace for their nature studies. This alliance and others stand as a signal that something exciting is happening on Long Island for cyclists, joggers, inline skaters, hikers, geocachers, environmentalists, and outdoors lovers. A plan is brewing... The first steps of a baby are being taken, and it's a sign that concerned citizens are showing interest in preserving green space here in our own backyard. The baby is the renaissance of Long Island's historic Vanderbilt Motor Parkway in the form of a multi-use trail. The people that showed up for the Edgewood Preserve cleanup and the small but dedicated crew that are plotting the course over barricades and through bramble thickets are taking the first steps toward revitalizing this priceless asset as a greenspace with a rich local history and an extremely uncertain future. Here are some of the characters and facts of the story.

The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, a race track, toll road fr the wealthy, piece of history and a possible multi-use trail

rule The History: The short version is that The Long Island (Vanderbilt) Motor Parkway (const. 1908 ~ 1910) ran from Horace Harding Blvd. in Queens, through Nassau County and on to Lake Ronkonkoma. Existing now primarily in segmented bits and crumbling pieces, this reinforced concrete roadway was built by William K. Vanderbilt as a racetrack for the very rich, who also used their "Tin Lizzies" to travel between Queens and their Suffolk County resorts. Built as a commercial toll road, it became Long Island's very first parkway. The toll of two dollars seemed a bargain for these early (rich) motorists. The privately owned enterprise did fairly well until Robert Moses built his Northern State Parkway (the one we know today) and the loss of revenue caused the Long Island Motor Parkway to close. Vanderbilt owed overdue taxes to the counties through which the Parkway passed, and he ultimately settled the bill by surrendering the parkway's right of way, relinquishing ownership to the counties. They in turn granted easements, sold and/or leasing the land to a patchwork of special interests such as the Long Island Power Authority and various railroads and other private interests over the years.
rule

The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, a race track, toll road fr the wealthy, piece of history and a possible multi-use trail

The Present: Over the years, segments of the parkway have been utilized as rights of way for railroads, overhead power lines, and buried cables. In some cases houses or other projects have been built on the original route and in these sections the original roadbed has been destroyed. In other areas, such as sections which pass through county properties, parks, and recreation areas, portions of the original reinforced roadway can still be found and ridden. The crumbling concrete artifacts of an important local and national heritage, these portions of The Long Island Motor Parkway, one of the first reinforced concrete roadways in this country, cry out to be preserved. In addition to being the first reinforced concrete roadbed, The Vanderbilt was also the first roadway anywhere to utilize bridges and overpasses to eliminate intersections. A very few of these original bridges and abutments, along with property fence posts and mile markers can still be found, If you know where to look. And that is part of what this project is all about, making this living history accessible to millions of Long Islanders and New York State residents, so that they can see an important part of our heritage as a nation on wheels.


rule There's Denis Byrne the spark plug history buff who loves to point out the various artifacts of the original parkway still extant under the brush and the rubble. You really haven't experienced enthused story telling until you have heard Denis, pointing and raising outstretched arms, exclaim, "You see that?" Pointing to an uplifted section of asphalt and concrete. "That's what's left of Deadman's Curve. This is an important artifact that we need preserved for our heritage." And, you haven't witnessed aplomb until you see him let go of the bars as he pedals through a skeletonized bridge abutment with arms reaching for the parapets extolling, "the county actually kept them from tearing this down!"

Then there's Sam Berliner, the seventy-something founder of the LI Motor Parkway Panel, who applied for open space protection for all the individual parcels that comprise the LIGHT in Nassau County along with his cohorts Al Velocci, Howard Koplick and Pat Masterson, who together have cleared thousands of feet of remaining overgrown parkway footage in places such as Old Bethpage Village, Battle Row Campgrounds, and Bethpage State Park, among others.

rule

The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, a race track, toll road fr the wealthy, piece of history and a possible multi-use trail

Take Action: As we pedal along through brambles, briars, abandoned air conditioners, innumerable discarded beer bottles, and discarded car parts, it becomes obvious that these semi-abandoned stretches of land passing behind homes and businesses will profit immeasurably from the increased traffic that such a recreational trail will provide. The route of the Long Island Motor Parkway from Bethpage Park to the outer edge of Eisenhower Park passes behind homes, many of which now utilize the right of way as their defacto alleyway installing illegal gates and driveways.



Sometimes the original route provides a paved access for illegal dumping or ATV Use. In portions it is an unofficial bridle path. Establishing a controlled and well designed path would create an environment that would largely control and help eliminate many of the current abuses which arise from neglect and abandonment. Although the route is sadly neglected and abused in many portions, the journey from Suffolk to Nassau proves remarkably easy. Devoid of Long Island's ubiquitous motorized vehicular traffic the route is quiet, peaceful and enjoyable to pedal. Any frequent recreational or serious bicyclist on Long Island is painfully aware of the perils to life and limb associated with cycling Long Island's Roadways. This ride was one of joyous traffic avoidance. Being off road, we avoided repetitive and oft times ignored stop signs, intersections, stop lights, 18 wheelers, suv's, cell phone connected drivers and busy streets with no shoulders. Wide open pathways led to, quiet, secure, and relatively exhaust free air to breathe instead. That type of trip is something rarely encountered on Long Island. It is pleasant, informative, and historic as well.

The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, a race track, toll road fr the wealthy, piece of history and a possible multi-use trail

rule Then there is Mike Vitti. He is not only the president of C.L.I.M.B. (Concerned Long Island Mountain Bicyclists) but he is also the resident authority on moving government and parks departments into action. Why is he interested? Are there mountains on Long Island? You betcha! The VMP climbs plenty of north shore glacial moraines, some of which are so steep that their 22% grades will require switchbacks and climbing turns when the project is built. The project is daunting, but doable. Mike has been overheard to remark, "This is a terrific section. There's plenty of room for a paved path and single track, right here, next to each other." (Single track is the mountain biker term for a small path, an unpaved section along which mountain bikes can easily pedal.) "This can serve as a great off road corridor linking the parks which already have mountain bike paths, an off road link for off road mountain bikers."
rule

The Cause: Denis and Mike took turns pointing out the historic aspects of the trail as well as the progress being made to develop this route into a full fledged, approved, multi-use path. At one point Denis pointed out something that you may have driven past a thousand times and never noticed, a small mound of earth, right on Wantagh Avenue, across the street from the firehouse. Situated under the power lines is one of the remaining undisturbed embankments from the Motor Parkway which led originally to a now missing bridge crossing Wantagh Ave. It is all that remains of one of the first ever Long Island over passes. It is a bit of our historic past that no one notices but, it is still there - for now at least. Adjacent to the Seaford Oyster Bay Expressway, is the site of the aforementioned, Deadman's Curve, over grown and easily missed, the once proud roadway still pokes its way out of the undergrowth with a banked turn that would do the Indy 500 proud. Such are the numerous and frequent historic tid bits that an interpretive trail could illuminate for Long Island residents and visitors. Living historic references to a past, literally under our feet, that is rapidly disappearing under our bulldozers. Denis exploded in joy as he saw the new historic marker recently installed at another bridge abutment. "If only the entire trail were like this, and why shouldn't it be?"

The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, a race track, toll road fr the wealthy, piece of history and a possible multi-use trail

rule There is the 77 year old woman who helps dig debris from the abandoned scrub pine forest floor of the Edgewood Preserve, part of the proposed LIGHT Trail. Joining in the cleanup effort she places a piece of broken car, followed by a tire on a rim, followed by a desk drawer, into the back of a pickup, debris to be hauled away, and why does she care? It's simple she explains, "It's about respect, respect for our planet, and respect for each other, our neighborhoods, our open space, our world. Unless we take care of it and treat it with respect, well, we'll just lose everything I guess."
rule



The Status: So where are we with this wonderful project to preserve and enlighten Long Island regarding its history? And, where are we with promoting the adoption of this wonderful multi-use trail by local, town and county governments? In some cases things are moving along nicely. There are commitments from the Parks Department to develop the Motor Parkway through The Bethpage Restoration Village and other portions in Suffolk. LIPA seems to alternatively be in favor of, and at other times, indifferent to the development of its powerline portions of the trail, citing safety issues. Success of an actual segment of trail can be demonstrated by a part of the parkway that is currently being used as a multi-use trail. Specifically the entrance hill trail along the Bethpage State Park main entrance road. This original segment of the Motor Parkway is used daily by hundreds of Long Islanders as LIPA's power towers hover overhead, unharmed by their passing. Municipalities along the way generally fall in all parts of the spectrum with regard to being on board and moving forward with the project. Some allude to liability issues and others fall fully in favor of developing such a valuable historic and recreational asset. But without popular support, there is no reason for our politicians to get on board. They answer to only one mantra, that of the power to be re-elected. This project needs to be elevated to the level of a campaign issue. In that regard, show your support by contacting your local legislator and telling them that you are in favor of the LIGHT Project!

The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, a race track, toll road fr the wealthy, piece of history and a possible multi-use trail

rule Then there's the thirty something road warrior. He's normally found tearing up the roadways on his high-tech 18 speed road bike but, today he rides a fat tired mountain bike. He's along to find out, just what the trail would have for him. "I'm just tired of being a target for SUV's and eighteen wheelers. It's just great to be able to ride and not have to keep your head on a swivel to find the next threat. The simple joy of riding comes back on a trail like this one."
rule

The Politics: All around America local, state and federal governments are providing funding and planning services to design implement and build multi-use paths to encourage, physical exercise, alternative transportation modalities, and open space preservation. Everywhere that is, except Long Island, and particularly not in Nassau County which is currently bereft of such local facilities. This is an opportunity to catch up.
The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, a race track, toll road fr the wealthy, piece of history and a possible multi-use trail

The Long Island Greenway and Healthy Trails system (LIGHT) serves all of the above mentioned principals, and beyond that it would also raise certain forgotten and frankly under served open spaces to public usage, thus opening these areas to scrutiny and maintenance. In many areas the trail currently serves as the "alleyway" between developed areas. Dumping and illegal disposal of yard waste are rampant. The detritus of so called civilization frequently winds up in these so called abandoned areas. Therefore, promoting usage and passage through these areas would cause a tremendous decline in this illegal and unsightly activity simply by reducing the opportunity for abuse. Additionally, the motorized access, upon which such dumping depends, would be greatly reduced by current trail planning techniques which would require bollards, or removable pillar barricades at trail entrances. This restriction of motorized access and the increased non-motorized traffic would work together to limit the opportunity for dumping abuses.

rule Then there is the 60 year old curmudgeon with road rash scars, the result of riding in Long Island Traffic. He cruises along, out of place on his old mountain bike, while dreaming of rides on his tandem, cruising with his wife past the backyards of the neighborhood in which she grew up. In that dream, together they are sharing a journey through their history and that of this wonderful island, a beautiful place, scarred and pock-marked, but still alive. He dreams of a future with room for such memories to be made anew. He dreams of a trail, borne of a forgotten, abandoned, and abused alleyway.
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The Future: Pedal Pushers Online as part of the LIGHT committee are dedicated to seeing this trail come to fruition as a safe and attractive multi-use corridor connecting the far reaches of Long Island. The Long Island Motor Parkway Trail would be a multi-use trail of better than 45 miles which would also serve to further connect proposed, but as of yet unimplemented plans for about eight north/south bike trails proposed by the Long Island Non-Motorized Transportation Survey. The completion of the Long Island Motor Parkway Trail will also provide Long Island with the much needed alternative transportation network so eagerly embraced and widely used by municipalities all over this country and so terribly absent here.

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