AN OCEANFRONT PARKWAY FOR STATEN ISLAND: The Shore Front Drive was part of Robert Moses' ultimate plan for a shorefront parkway route from Staten Island to the Hamptons, a goal that had been sought since he first became chairman of the New York State Parks Department in the 1920's under Governor Alfred E. Smith.
In 1941, the New York City Planning Department proposed a "South Shore Parkway" along the Staten Island shoreline from Great Kills Park east to the proposed Narrows Crossing. The early route proposal, which did not extend west of Great Kills Park, was as follows:
The South Shore Parkway along the south shore of Staten Island will link the proposed Narrows Crossing with the Willowbrook Parkway Extension at Great Kills Park. Its construction should facilitate a desirable rehabilitation of the Staten Island shorefront.
However, the Shore Front Drive did not receive serious consideration until 1962, when Governor Nelson Rockefeller signed a bill authorizing its construction. The proposed route, which was to bring to fruition part of Robert Moses' long-desired shorefront parkway between Staten Island and Montauk Point, was advanced as a state-sponsored measure to control beach erosion and promote orderly development of adjacent properties. It was advanced by the New York State Council of Parks, which Moses also chaired (in addition to holding posts as Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority chairman and New York City arterial coordinator).
Moses advocated construction of the Shore Front Drive as follows:
Arterial parkways and expressways must be provided to move traffic resulting from the expansion between the new Verrazano-Narrows and the Port Authority crossings. To the state system of the Clove Lakes (Staten Island) Expressway, the West Shore Expressway, the Richmond (Korean War Veterans) Parkway and the Willowbrook Parkway has now been added the Shore Front Drive, which will provide a parkway route between the new bridge and the Outerbridge Crossing into New Jersey.
The Shore Front Drive, a route along the waterfront of Staten Island, will serve a rapid growth area. It will provide access to residential and recreational areas.
This artist's conception from 1962 shows the Shore Front Drive looking east along the South Shore of Staten Island toward Great Kills Park. The shoreline was to have been extended to accommodate the parkway right-of-way, as well as for new parks and beaches. New jetties would have provided additional protection for the shoreline. (Figure by New York State Council of Parks.)
ROUTE PLAN AND DESIGN: Beginning at the interchange between the West Shore Expressway (NY 440) and the Korean War Veterans Parkway, the Shore Front Drive was to continue south along the western perimeter of the Mount Loretto property to the shoreline, where there was to be a connection to the "Conference House Spur," a four-lane divided parkway spur extending west from Shore Front Drive around Conference House Park to the western end of Hylan Boulevard.
Continuing east along the shoreline from the Conference House Spur interchange, the parkway was to be constructed on fill between the existing U.S. bulkhead and U.S. pierhead lines through Great Kills Park. At Great Kills Park, a connection was to be provided with the Willowbrook Parkway Extension. East of Great Kills Park, the Shore Front Drive was to have been constructed through Cedar Grove Beach Park and Miller Field (for which an easement would have been required). The parkway would have continued east along the existing Father Capodanno (Seaside) Boulevard and Lily Pond Avenue to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge approach (I-278).
The 13-mile-long Shore Front Drive was to be comprised of two separate sections:
10.5 miles of the proposed route, from the West Shore Expressway-Korean War Veterans Parkway interchange to Miller Field, was to be new construction. The parkway was to be 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 have been accommodated within the median. A 10-foot-wide multi-use path was to be constructed along the oceanfront side of the parkway. New "ribbon parks" and beaches were to be constructed on fill created within the right-of-way. To provide access to beaches and the oceanfront path, 11 pedestrian overpasses were to be constructed. This new construction was estimated to cost $23 million.
2.5 miles of the proposed route, from Miller Field to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, were to be constructed along the existing Seaside (Father Capodanno) Boulevard and Lily Pond Avenue. The existing Father Capodanno Boulevard was reconstructed to four-lane (at-grade) divided arterial standards in the early 1960's. Future plans called for an estimated $9 million upgrade of this facility to controlled-access standards.
Interchanges were to be constructed at the following locations:
West Shore Expressway-Korean War Veterans Parkway (existing interchange; there are ramps to the Shore Front Drive right-of-way) Amboy Road (partial cloverleaf interchange; northbound exit / northbound entry) Page Avenue (partial interchange; southbound exit / southbound entry, to serve Amboy Road and Hylan Boulevard) Hylan Boulevard (partial diamond interchange; northbound exit / northbound entry)
According to the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA), the Shore Front Drive was slated for completion in 1972. The parkway proposal included plans for a 268-acre expansion of Conference House Park, a new 77-acre Lemon Creek Park, a 93-acre expansion of Wolfe's Pond Park, and a new 209-acre Cedar Grove Beach Park.
At its eastern end, the proposed Shore Front Drive may have continued north of the Staten Island Expressway as the North Shore Expressway (NY 439), completing the limited-access highway ring along the Staten Island shoreline. Near the interchange between the Shore Front Drive and the Conference House Spur, there may have been a connection to a proposed Raritan Bay Crossing, providing a new direct route to central and southern New Jersey.
This 1962 map shows the western terminus of the unbuilt Shore Front Drive, including the West Shore Expressway / Korean War Veterans Parkway interchange (shown in a different configuration from the one that was constructed a decade later) and the unbuilt Conference House Spur. (Map by New York State Council of Parks.)
STOPPING MOSES IN HIS TRACKS: During the late 1960's, with Mayor John V. Lindsay halting construction of the nearby Korean War Veterans and Willowbrook parkways, and relieving Moses of his post as the city's arterial coordinator, the future of the Shore Front Drive appeared bleak. The New York City Parks Department, which during the mayoral administration of Robert F. Wagner supported construction of the parkway, reversed its earlier position.
In 1972, with the establishment of the Gateway National Recreation Area along the Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens shorelines, the Shore Front Drive was declared dead. A similar tactic had been employed eight years earlier to stop construction of the Ocean Parkway Extension along Fire Island.
From nycroads.com contributor David Zarkewicz:
I am sure that anyone who has experienced Hylan Boulevard on a Saturday afternoon, would love to see a Shore Front Drive constructed. A parkway along the south shore of Staten Island makes sense if it involves the terrain covered for Father Capodanno Boulevard from Arden Avenue east to the Verrazano Bridge. This route parallels the busiest section of Hylan Boulevard. A Shore Front Drive doesn't make any sense west of Arden Avenue, because Hylan Boulevard is essentially a highway west of this point.
However, I don't believe that the Shore Front Drive will ever be built. Many shorefront homes and recreation areas would have to be destroyed in order for such a majestic parkway to be built.
NEW USE FOR THE RIGHT-OF-WAY: In 2003, the NYSDOT opened a new park-and-ride facility on the Shore Front Drive right-of-way just south of the interchange between the West Shore Expressway and Korean War Veterans Parkway. 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 (for which design work will begin after 2005) between the two highways. In addition, connections are planned between the park-and-ride lot and the MTA Staten Island (SIRT) rail line.
The "Loretto Spur," a four-lane controlled-access highway, should be constructed along the Shore Front Drive (Loretto property) right-of-way from the West Shore Expressway / Korean War Veterans Parkway interchange south to Hylan Boulevard. Ramps should be constructed in the vicinity of Amboy Road to connect the Loretto Spur with the Pleasant Plains park-and-ride lot.
SOURCES: "Master Plan: Express Highways, Parkways and Major Streets," New York City Planning Department (1941); "Road Is Approved for Staten Island," The New York Times (4/27/1962); "Shore Front Drive," New York State Council of Parks (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); "The Ocean Drive," Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (1966); Transportation 1985: A Regional Plan, Tri-State Transportation Commission (1966); "New Staten Island Transit Suggested in Master Plan," The New York Times (3/02/1970); "State Weighs Several Fixes To Help Expressway" by Michael Wagner, The Staten Island Advance (8/01/2000); "Park-and-Ride Wrapping Up" by Angie Mangino, The Staten Island Register (7/15/2003); New York State Department of Transportation; David Andreatta; Hank Eisenstein; Ralph Herman; Nathan W. Perry; David Zarkewicz.
Shore Front Drive shield by Ralph Herman. Lightposts by Jeff Saltzman.