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Queens Chronicle

How the Interborough came to be

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Posted: Thursday, January 2, 2014 10:30 am

One Queens community that underwent drastic change in the 1930s was the Kew Forest section of Kew Gardens bordering Forest Hills.

The area of 77th Avenue, 77th Road and 78th Avenue off Union Turnpike and Queens Boulevard was developed with homes as early as 1917. Property deeds called the land Kew Gardens. Most of Forest Hills was still farmland. Today there is still a block named Kew Forest Lane.

By 1929 many prominent businessmen working in the East New York section of Brooklyn were complaining of the drive home to Long Island every day. To speed up their trip they lobbied hard for a roadway to go from Pennsylvania Avenue in Brooklyn through seven cemeteries and Forest Park, to then link up to the planned Grand Central Parkway, which would get them home to LI.

Many bodies had to be removed from Cypress Hills and Mount Carmel cemeteries to make this become a reality. Serious damage was done to the Kew Forest section, including the teardown of a block of stores less than 10 years old. All the apartment buildings on the east side of Union that are all still standing today lost their beautiful frontage, awnings, trees and shrubbery.

The work began in 1933 and was completed in June 1935. Homes on the west side of the parkway on 77th Road and 77th and 78th avenues were rezoned as Forest Hills.

Historians say the new Interborough Parkway was obsolete by the time it opened. Its winding curves around the cemeteries had to be taken at slow speeds.

The parkway was renamed for Jackie Robinson on the 50th anniversary of his entering the major leagues with the Brooklyn Dodgers, in May 1997. Robinson himself is buried in Cypress Hills cemetery.

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