A Brief History of the Motor Parkway
The Long Island Motor Parkway was built by W.K. Vanderbilt II and functioned as America’s first expressway. It also doubled as the route for the Vanderbilt Cup Races. At its longest length it would stretch from Fresh Meadows in Flushing, Queens County to Lake Ronkonkoma, in Smithtown, Suffolk County.
As a private enterprise, the Long Island Motor Parkway charged tolls and when the free Northern State & Grand Central Parkways were built they ran the Long Island Motor Parkway out of business
To pay the back taxes on the properties, Vanderbilt donated his property to Queens, Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Each county used their land for different purposes. Queens County used theirs to build a bike path, some of which remains today and is used by residents in Eastern Queens. Nassau County gave its portion to the utility companies which used it for electrical transmission. Suffolk County preserved a large portion as a road.
The section of the Motor Parkway from Horace Harding Blvd (Long Island Expressway Service Road) to Winchester Blvd remains intact. When Union Turnpike was extended east, in the 30s the Motor Parkway was shifted to the north. Eventually, with the building of Creedmoor hospitals building 40 (the Creedmoor tower) the bridge over Winchester Blvd was demolished - and with it a connection to neighborhoods in the east of Queens.
Learn More About the Parkway At The Following Sites:
Howard Kroplik has a wonderful site detailing the past of the Long Island Motor Parkway as a racing venue:
Sam Berliner has a site on the history of the motor parkway
The Friends of Cunningham Park helped to put the Motor Parkway on the list of National and State Historic Sites.