This 2002 photo shows the northbound Korean War Veterans Parkway at Maguire Avenue. (Photo by Douglas Kerr, www.gribblenation.com.)
THROUGH THE HEART OF STATEN ISLAND: The Korean War Veterans Parkway, formerly known as the Richmond Parkway, is among the newer highways in New York City. However, planning for the parkway began early in the career of Robert Moses, then the city's planning coordinator and parks commissioner.
Planning for the Richmond Parkway began as early as 1930, when Robert Moses presented his master plan for the New York City parkway system before some five hundred civic leaders. Construction of the Staten Island parkway system was to be included with the "Narrows Tunnel," which Moses would construct some three decades later as the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The Narrows Crossing, in conjunction with the Staten Island parkway system, was to provide for limited-access traffic between Long Island and New Jersey.
In 1945, the state named the Richmond Parkway as a state arterial, and three years later, the city began preliminary right-of-way acquisition for the parkway. By 1961, the city completed much of the right-of-way acquisition. The right-of-way was to resemble the wide "ribbon parks" similar to those found on the Long Island parkways. However, the right-of-way would remain unused for many years, and along its northern reaches, would not be used at all.
More than three decades after he first announced the Staten Island parkway plan, Moses again pressed for construction of the Richmond Parkway. In 1965, the New York City Board of Estimate approved the route, and subsequently, the New York State Department of Public Works (NYSDPW) awarded the first construction contracts. The 9.5-mile-long parkway was estimated to cost $34 million.
ROUTE PLANS AND DESIGN CRITERIA: The Richmond Parkway was divided into the following sections:
SECTION 1: This designation referred to the 4.8-mile-long section of parkway along the Staten Island Greenbelt (Latourette Park, High Rock Park Conservation Center, Richmond County Country Club). This was a preliminary alignment that was never "final mapped."
SECTION 2: This designation referred to the 4.7-mile-long section of parkway routed along the existing right-of-way of Drumgoole Boulevard, a four-lane arterial route.
Construction of "Section 2" began in 1966, the year that Moses lost his post as the New York City arterial coordinator. This section of parkway - the only one to ultimately open - was completed in the fall of 1972.
Designed for an ultimate capacity of 65,000 vehicles per day (AADT), the Korean War Veterans Parkway is comprised of two 34-foot-wide carriageways (accommodating two 12-foot-wide concrete lanes and a 10-foot-wide asphalt right shoulder) in each direction, separated by a 46-foot-wide grassy median. An additional two lanes (one in each direction) could be accommodated within the median. The maximum gradient was held to three percent, and the minimum curve radii were held to 1900 feet. The parkway is flanked by two one-way service roads, which bear the "Drumgoole Road" designation.
Unlike the older parkways, the Korean War Veterans Parkway was not constructed with the Moses-style, stone-arch bridges. Instead, the bridges were of composite steel beam construction with solid abutments and brick-faced wingwalls, following the expressway bridge construction convention of the era.
From 1972 to 1976, the NY 440 designation applied to the completed section of the Richmond Parkway. (Previously, from 1952 to 1972, the designation applied to Drumgoole Boulevard.) At the end of the parkway, the NY 440 designation continued north along Richmond Avenue to the Willowbrook (Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.) Expressway. The designation was moved to the West Shore Expressway when it was completed in 1976.
REMEMBERING THE KOREAN WAR VETERANS: In 1997, the Richmond Parkway was officially renamed the "Korean War Veterans Memorial Parkway" by the New York State Legislature. New direction signs and route shields (in the "Westchester-style" shield design) were erected along the parkway one year later. When the new signs were erected, the "Memorial" was dropped from the name.
From the New York State Senate archives:
Portion of state highway system in the county of Richmond to be designated as "The Korean War Veterans Memorial Parkway:" All that portion of the state highway system in the county of Richmond constituting the Richmond Parkway from Staten Island Expressway to Outerbridge Crossing Approach shall be designated and known as "The Korean War Veterans Memorial Parkway."
In 2001, a total of 300 "Rose of Sharon" plants were planted at 12 locations along the parkway to serve as a living memorial to Korean War veterans. The "Rose of Sharon," a tall shrub with hibiscus-like flowers, is the national flower of South Korea.
CURRENT AND FUTURE IMPROVEMENTS: The New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) maintains the Korean War Veterans Parkway, and the New York City Parks Department maintains surrounding rights-of-way. Major reconstruction work is undertaken by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), which also installs signs and reference markers.
The NYSDOT and the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council have scheduled the following projects on the Korean War Veterans Parkway over the next five years:
Replacement of the pedestrian bridge just south of Arden Avenue in the Annadale section of Staten Island. The $2.5 million project was completed in 2002.
Bridge rehabilitation and roadway resurfacing along the entire length of the parkway. The $13 million project was completed in 2003.
In 2003, the NYSDOT opened a new park-and-ride facility just south of the interchange between the Korean War Veterans Parkway and the West Shore Expressway (NY 440). The $9 million Pleasant Plains park-and-ride facility, which has a capacity of 150 vehicles (but can be expanded to 250 spaces), may be incorporated into a rebuilt interchange between the two highways beyond 2010. Future connections also are planned between the park-and-ride lot and the MTA Staten Island (SIRT) rail line.
In 2005, the NYSDOT rebuilt the northern terminus of the parkway at the Richmond Avenue-Arthur Kill Road interchange. The $20 million project included construction of a 200-car park-and-ride lot and bus depot, as well as intersection improvements on Arthur Kill Road and Richmond Avenue.
According to the NYSDOT, the Korean War Veterans Parkway carries approximately 30,000 vehicles per day (AADT).
This 2001 photo shows the northern terminus of the Korean War Veterans Parkway at Richmond Avenue. The northbound exit crosses the right-of-way for the unbuilt lanes of the southbound parkway. A park-and-ride lot and bus depot was built in the wooded area shown area. However, a section of unused parkway remains extant between the parking lot and Drumgoole Road, including a vestigial overhead sign (for Arden Avenue-Albee Avenue) dating back to the parkway's completion in 1972. (Photo by Hank Eisenstein.)
CONTROVERSY THROUGH THE STATEN ISLAND GREENBELT: The eastern half of the Richmond Parkway, which had been planned seven decades ago as part of Moses' "Northeast Bypass" plan, has been met with considerable opposition by residents, environmentalists and some public officials. Between Arthur Kill Road and the Staten Island Expressway (I-278) - referred in planning documents as "Section 1" - the proposed alignment for the Richmond Parkway was to traverse Latourette Park, one of the Moses parks in central Staten Island.
Work began on this easterly parkway section in 1965, soon after the New York City Board of Estimate approved its construction. Excavations for the parkway were used to construct what is now known as "Moses Mountain," a knoll that offers a panoramic view of Staten Island and New York Harbor. The knoll was to be part of a hiking trail constructed alongside the parkway.
Soon after construction began, mayoral candidate John V. Lindsay proposed a "Richmond Expressway" along the Richmond Parkway corridor. Lindsay offered the "southern bypass" proposal, which was to extend the I-287 designation over the Outerbridge Crossing into Staten Island, as a compromise for not constructing the Lower Manhattan Expressway (I-78). Unlike Moses' parkway plan, the expressway was to accommodate commercial vehicles.
In 1966, the New York City Department of Highways ordered a halt to construction, and commissioned the engineering consulting firm Lockwood, Kessler and Bartlett to develop alternative alignments for "Section 1," which was never "final mapped" by the city. The alternative alignments for "Section 1" were as follows:
EAST ROUTE: This routing was a minor variation of the "Vollmer-Ostrower" alignment selected by Moses in the early 1930's. Beginning at the Arthur Kill Road-Richmond Avenue interchange, the Richmond Parkway was to cross a relocated Richmond Creek on a 144-foot-long plate girder span, and continue along the northern perimeter of Latourette Park and Latourette Golf Course. The parkway would be depressed in the area of Richmond Hill Road, where a diamond interchange was to have been constructed. Veering slightly north of the original alignment (to minimize land takings through the Staten Island Greenbelt), a cloverleaf interchange with the Willowbrook Parkway Extension was to have been constructed near the intersection of Rockland Avenue and Brielle Avenue. After crossing through the Sea View Hospital complex, the parkway was to pass over Manor Road, where a diamond interchange was to have been constructed. It was to then proceed through the Henry Kaufmann-Boy Scout Camp; a pedestrian overpass and a pedestrian underpass would have been constructed to link the portions of campground severed by the parkway. Returning to the original alignment, the parkway was to have a diamond interchange at Todt Hill Road-Ocean Terrace. The parkway was to end at the existing (unused) three-level interchange structure at the Staten Island Expressway.
WEST ROUTE: This was a new alignment proposed (but not recommended) by Lockwood, Kessler and Bartlett in 1966. Under this proposal, the Richmond Parkway was to parallel Richmond Avenue to its west, cutting through the proposed Fresh Kills Park. An interchange was to have been constructed to serve the park and the then-proposed Staten Island Mall. The parkway was to cross Richmond Avenue (where a diamond interchange was to have been placed) just north of Travis Avenue, cutting through a residential area. Upon entering Willowbrook Park, the Richmond Parkway would have utilized the right-of-way for the Willowbrook Parkway Extension north to the Staten Island Expressway. (This would have necessitated reconstruction of the existing interchange between the Willowbrook Parkway, the Staten Island Expressway and Victory Boulevard.)
The report recommended construction of the revised "east route," reasoning that the alignment would provide the highest amount of benefit and best fill in the gap in the Staten Island arterial system, while minimizing impacts to developed areas and the Staten Island Greenbelt. The route, estimated to cost $23 million to complete, would have required the relocation of seven families.
Despite these efforts, residents protested the proposed Richmond Parkway Extension. Responding to the protests, Mayor Lindsay ordered a halt to all construction north of Richmond Avenue in 1966, reversing his position in favor of the "southern bypass" expressway along the corridor. Moses responded to the Lindsay moratorium in the following 1967 statement:
Our answers to the present New York City administration on the long-established Richmond Parkway route will afford a glimpse of the policy of obstruction that has brought almost all arterial programs to a halt and substituted nothing.
We are not despoilers of beauty, as alleged by the so-called Staten Island Citizens Planning Committee. The Richmond Parkway follows closely the natural terrain. Great care has been taken to preserve existing trees and shrubbery. I may add that it was only through my last-minute intervention with Governor Rockefeller, his brother Laurance, and the then-park commissioner, Newbold Morris, that High Rock Park was acquired with 75 percent state funds so that this magnificent, primitive area about to be sold and subdivided was added to the city park system.
We are firm in our position that the original Richmond Parkway route is the only suitable and practical one between the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and the Outerbridge Crossing. All alternative routes have been examined by our consulting engineers have been found to be excessively costly. They do not meet traffic patterns, and do not serve the anticipated development of Staten Island. The city's consulting engineers recommend against the route now sponsored by the city transportation administrator, which has only the dubious merit of providing access to a newly created, privately owned shopping center. As to the charge that the Richmond Parkway will destroy the green areas of Staten Island, we have shown that nature paths, bicycle paths and bridle paths can be better provided and more practically constructed as part of the parkway within the present right-of-way.
AN INNOVATIVE APPROACH: In May 1968, the New York City Parks Department commissioned Wallace, McHarg, Roberts and Todd to determine an alignment that would result in the "least social cost." This report was written in response to community protest, which was joined by some members of the Lindsay Administration, over potential environmental damage. The report utilized map transparencies for each social factor, with the darkest gradations of tones used for areas representing high "social value" such as parkland. The "social value" composite map was then compared with geological maps for determining the optimal alignment.
The report was highly critical of the "east route" alignment, stating the impact on parks and institutional facilities as follows:
This parkway proposal corridor selects the area of the highest social values in all categories and would therefore represent the maximum social cost. It would destroy important institutional, scenic, recreation and wildlife resources. Dramatic physiographic features would be obliterated.
It went on to bestow a more favorable review on the "west route" alignment as follows:
As social values are at a maximum to the east, in the area of the Greenbelt, any corridor west of this will produce less social costs. (This alignment) closely corresponds to the least social cost area for much of its length.
The "least social cost" report was the progenitor of the modern environmental impact study, which was required on Federal-aid highway projects beginning in 1970. The map transparency process used in the Wallace, McHarg, Roberts and Todd report served as the precursor to modern GIS mapping programs in route planning studies.
OPPOSITION STOPS THE PARKWAY: In 1972, Vollmer Associates submitted a new alignment proposal that would have added 140 acres of parkland versus the original alignment. The four-lane parkway, whose two split-level carriageways were to be separated by a planted median, was to connect Richmond Avenue with the partially completed interchange at the Staten Island Expressway. Full-diamond interchanges were to be placed at Richmond Hill Road and Rockland Avenue, and a partial-diamond interchange was to be placed at Slosson Avenue. No provisions were made for an interchange with the proposed Willowbrook Parkway.
The rise of environmental activism and disapproval of a 1973 statewide $3.5 billion transportation bond issue ultimately precluded any further construction of the Richmond Parkway. Nevertheless, in its report Maintaining Mobility, the Tri-State Regional Plan Association advocated construction of the parkway as follows:
Although issues remain to be resolved on this route, the Richmond Parkway should be completed from Arthur Kill Road to the Staten Island Expressway (I-278). This route will be needed to serve present and future development.
When its report was first published in 1975, the Commission recommended the parkway as a priority route that was to be completed ten years hence. In its revised 1981 report, the Commission continued to support construction of the parkway, although it pushed the estimated completion date out to 2000.
The Richmond Parkway was studied once more in the 1980's under the auspices of the New York City Planning Department, which commissioned Parsons Brinckerhoff to conduct the study. Nine different "build" alternatives were studied, including the original parkway alignment and a new alignment along an expanded Richmond Avenue (which would have been widened to provide four expressway lanes - two in each direction - along with flanking service roads). The study found that none of the "build" alternatives provided significant benefit in terms of trip times, volume-to-capacity ratios and average speeds over the "no-build" alternative.
NEW USES FOR THE RIGHT-OF-WAY: As the 1990's drew to a close, the Korean War Veterans Parkway extension remained on the New York City official planning map. In 1998, a coalition of nine environmental and civic groups on Staten Island mounted a campaign to persuade Governor George Pataki and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to de-map the long-planned, but unbuilt Korean War Veterans and Willowbrook parkways. Guy Molinari, the borough president of Staten Island, favors de-mapping the routes, provided that there are ways of handling the traffic that the parkways would have handled. Together, the unbuilt parkways form an integral part of the Staten Island Greenbelt, a 2,500-acre city park of woodland and serpentine hills in the middle of the borough.
The NYSDOT plans to utilize the ramps at the incomplete Sunnyside interchange between the Korean War Veterans Parkway and the Staten Island Expressway for a park-and-ride facility. The proposed Sunnyside park-and-ride lot would allow residents and commuters to access the SIE bus lane and the Staten Island Greenbelt.
END OF THE ROAD: This 1998 photo shows the overpass that was to carry the Korean War Veterans Parkway over Richmond Avenue. The overpass, which reflects 1970's-era expressway design rather than the traditional stone-arch parkway design, today stands unused. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
The Korean War Veterans Parkway between Arthur Kill Road and the Staten Island Expressway should be completed as a four-lane, limited-access route, using the modified 1972 Vollmer alignment. Enough room should be set aside for the parkway's ultimate expansion to six lanes.
Such a move can help alleviate congestion along the South Shore of Staten Island. Furthermore, decades of experience on Long Island and in Westchester County have shown that the needs of motorists, park users and communities can coexist peacefully. From what we know today, measures can be taken (such as noise reduction walls and underpasses for hiking trails) to placate all interested parties. If executed correctly, the proposed parkway can be made into one of New York's scenic treasures.
David Zarkewicz, contributor to nycroads.com, added the following comments:
I would seriously like to start up a community group that would work toward getting the Korean War Veterans Parkway re-mapped and built. I would be willing to meet the environmentalists halfway on this one, and I wholeheartedly agree with your solution. Getting to the Verrazano Bridge is a hassle when you live in Annadale, on the south shore of Staten Island, as I do. You have two options, either to take Richmond Avenue north with its 15 to 20 traffic lights, or take a more circuitous route via the West Shore and Staten Island expressways.
SOURCES: Joint Study of Arterial Facilities, The Port of New York Authority and the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (1955); "Shore Front Drive," New York State Council of Parks (1962); Regional Highways: Status Report, Tri-State Transportation Commission (1962); "A Tour of Staten Island Improvements, and the Next Steps," Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (1965); Arterial Progress 1959-1965, Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (1965); "Four of Moses' Roads Get City Priority" by Joseph C. Ingraham, The New York Times (7/14/1966); "Richmond Parkway Location Report," New York City Department of Highways (1966); "The Least Social Cost Corridor for Richmond Parkway," New York City Parks Department (1968); Public Works: A Dangerous Trade by Robert Moses, McGraw-Hill (1970); "Richmond Parkway: Alternate 6 Corridor Alignment Study," Vollmer Associates (1972); The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro, Vintage Books-Random House (1974); Maintaining Mobility, Tri-State Regional Planning Commission (1975); Maintaining Mobility, Tri-State Regional Planning Commission (1981); "Island Facing Massive Traffic Tie-Up," The Staten Island Advance (8/21/1983); "Richmond Parkway Alternatives Study," New York City Planning Department (1988); "Greenbelt Fans Want Routes off the Maps" by Jim O'Grady, The New York Times (11/22/1998); "State Weighs Several Fixes To Help Expressway" by Michael Wagner, The Staten Island Advance (8/01/2000); "Plants To Serve as Memorial on Korean Vets Road" by Melissa Scasny, The Staten Island Advance (5/31/2001); "Ian McHarg: Values and Overlays" by John Corbett, University of California-Santa Barbara (2001); "Park-and-Ride Wrapping Up" by Angie Mangino, The Staten Island Register (7/15/2003); New York Metropolitan Transportation Council; Hank Eisenstein, Ralph Herman; Raymond C. Martin; Nathan W. Perry; John Rooney; Kevin Walsh; David Zarkewicz.
Korean War Veterans Parkway shield by Ralph Herman. Lightposts by Jeff Saltzman.