Queens has blurred its conection to the rest of Long Island by renaming its old roads, but Flushing Avenue survives as a historic throwback.You’d think that a road with a pedigree like Flushing Avenue’s would be the El Camino Real of Brooklyn and Queens.Instead, to paraphrase a twangin’ Duane Eddy classic song title, it’s five miles of bad road.
The westernmost section is the oldest, dating to the colonial era and earlier; it ran east from the now-filled Wallabout Mill Pond in what is now the Navy Yard east to Bushwick Avenue.
(At its western end, Flushing Avenue becomes Nassau Street; further east, a short street just south of Flushing Avenue and Kent Avenue is called Little Nassau Street.) By about 1805, tolls were being charged and the road was known as the Brooklyn and Newtown Turnpike.
(A long wooden pole, or pike, was placed across the road; this pike was turned, or moved out of the way, when the toll was collected.) The B&N was extended to Broadway in 1850, and to Bushwick Avenue in 1858.
The Long Island Rail Road, celebrating its 170th anniversary in 2004, crosses Flushing Avenue in style at 56th Street in Maspeth The first thing to remember about Flushing Avenue is that it doesn’t go to Flushing; in fact, it doesn’t approach within five miles of it.
Flushing Avenue takes its unusual name because of the relative isolation of Flushing, Queens.
In the colonial era, marshy land and creeks cut Flushing off from traffic from the west, and as there were few good roads into Flushing, carts and coaches had to first go to Jamaica and travel north from there.Flushing Avenue, in the past, was a toll road built to be an alternative to the southern approach.Beyond Bushwick Avenue the road ran in a sinuous, circuitous fashion to avoid hills.In 1868, the hills were leveled, the road was straightened and, by 1893, the road had its present form and length it has today, extending out to the junction at Grand Street (later Avenue) and Maspeth Avenue.(To muddy the water even further, an even older road extended southwest from what would be the Brooklyn and Newtown Turnpike at what would be Broadway in the colonial era, joining a highway known as Cripplebush Road, which ran approximately in a north-south route where Bedford Avenue is today.) Flushing Avenue, therefore, is in the tradition of streets and roads named to be.Amboy Road in Staten Island went to a vanished ferry to Perth Amboy, New Jersey; White Plains Road in the Bronx goes to a network of roads that, if you go the right way, will get you to White Plains; formerly, Queens had a whole group of Hempstead and North Hempstead Turnpikes (of which Hempstead Avenue is the only vestige, connecting to Nassau and Suffolk’s lengthy Hempstead Turnpike).