Nov 08 2014 Preserving history with a bike path

David Weingard of the East Meadow Herald reported last week  on the $1.8 million grant to complete the Salisbury Park Drive segment of the Motor Parkway Trail.


Howard Kroplick
Preserving history with a bike path

County set to receive funding to continue work on Salisbury Park Drive trail
By David Weingrad

The Long Island Motor Parkway, built in 1908, extended 45 miles and connected Fresh Meadows, Queens, to Lake Ronkonkoma in Suffolk County. The private toll road, built by entrepreneur William Vanderbilt, was the first in the U.S. designed exclusively for automobiles.

Vanderbilt, a motor racing enthusiast, planned for the road to host his popular Vanderbilt Cup Races, which he had started four years earlier on public roads. The death of a spectator in 1906 prompted Vanderbilt to construct the private highway.

The races ran through what is now Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, following what is now Salisbury Park Drive east. “It was like the Super Bowl of its day,” said Howard Kroplick, who grew up in East Meadow and founded the Long Island Motor Parkway Preservation Society 10 years ago. “By 1910, more than 300,000 people came to Nassau County to watch these races.”

Two more accidental deaths in 1910 effectively ended the Vanderbilt Cup Races, and in 1938, the state took possession of the Long Island Motor Parkway in lieu of back taxes owed, and then closed it. But the legacy of the historic roadway lives on, thanks to Nassau County, which, in 2011, created a plan for a 27-mile mixed-use bike and hiking trail on the parkway’s path.

The construction of a one-mile demonstration segment, on Salisbury Park Drive, from Carman Avenue to Stewart Avenue, was recently completed by the county’s Department of Public Works, using money from a remaining environmental bond act allocation.

On Oct. 27, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that Nassau County would receive $1.8 million from the Federal Highway Administration, administered by the state Department of Transportation, to complete the Salisbury Park Drive segment of the trail as part of a program to fund bike and pedestrian projects statewide.

It’s the first major funding the county will receive for its plan to pay homage to the historic, but little-known parkway. “This was part of Long Island’s history,” said Kroplick. “It’s a little bit of a treasure here that people are just starting to recognize.”

The new trail will not follow the precise path of the parkway through Eisenhower Park, but will instead begin at the intersection of Old Country Road and Merrick Avenue, and connect with a path along Merrick Avenue that the county built last year. It will continue east on Old Country Road and veer southeast on Salisbury Park Drive along the perimeter of Eisenhower Park, eventually meeting the Wantagh Parkway.

Mike Martino, the spokesman for the public works department, said the county does not expect to receive the state funding for another year, because there must first be an agreement with the state’s Department of Transportation.

In a press release, Cuomo said that the state would distribute $70 million in federal funding for 68 paths. The projects, he said, were chosen through a “competitive solicitation process,” and are aimed to enhance alternative transportation, tourism, recreation and regional economic development.

“These projects will help communities become more walkable and bicycle-friendly,” Cuomo said, “as well as show off the natural beauty that exists in every corner of the state.”

Funding will also be allocated for trails at Jones Beach and in Long Beach and Island Park.

The county’s proposed Long Island Motor Parkway Trail plan is broken into eight connecting segments, beginning near the Queens border in Great Neck, and finishing in Old Bethpage. The entire trail will cost more than $25 million to build, Martino said, adding that the county would go in search of more grant money.

Its overall vision for the Motor Parkway Trail is to provide not only transportation between communities, but open space and employment centers as well.

Kroplick, who now lives in East Hills and is the Town of North Hempstead historian, published “The Long Island Motor Parkway” in 2008, with co-author Al Velocci, featuring more than 200 images of the parkway and the Vanderbilt Cup Races. His website,, also boasts an extensive history of the road.

A 1967 graduate of East Meadow High School, Kroplick sent a letter to the state DOT in June, supporting funding for the county project. The Long Island Motor Parkway Preservation Society comprises approximately 250 people who visit and maintain the path. “There’s … people who really want to preserve the history and the memories of the Motor Parkway, and try to really promote the historical significance of the road,” he said.

Kroplick owns the 1909 Alco-6 Black Beast Racer that won the 1909 and 1910 Vanderbilt Cup Races, having purchased it in 2008 in Brussels, Belgium.

East Meadow resident Bill Selsky, the president of the Long Island Bicycle Club, also spoke favorably of the proposed path, saying that any project that promotes safe biking is a good idea. His group of 200 bikers rides on Saturday and Sunday mornings, beginning at Westbury High School, on Post Avenue, and often heading north to Bayville or Huntington. While Selsky said he prefers riding on residential streets rather than bike paths, which can be restricting, he added that he hopes to see the Long Island Motor Parkway Trail come to fruition.

“The more the merrier,” he said. “Anything that encourages people to cycle is great.”

Views of the Motor Parkway looking west as seen from the Carman Avenue Motor Parkway Bridge in 1908.

Salisbury Park Drive looking east in the 1940s with the Motor Parkway concrete posts still standing. Courtesy of Al Velocci.


Nov 09 2014 Art Kleiner 9:13 AM

Let’s be sure accurate markers depicting the highway’s historical significance are erected along the route.  Too bad the state couldn’t devote some of that money to keeping the Grandstand site in Levittown as part of the overall plan.  Would have been the next section east of the Wantagh Parkway.

Nov 10 2014 Michael LaBarbera 9:54 AM

Footbridges (in the shape of the original bridges) would be fantastic along the original central railroad in Levittown parallel to LIMP section for bike riding as far as Deadman’s Curve and north into Bethpage State Park. I still like my idea of going across the original path on Merrick Avenue across the park (over the golf course) and to Salisbury Park Drive.

Nov 10 2014 Ted 4:27 PM

Sounds good to me Art and Michael, wishful thinking, anything is possible

Nov 14 2014 Tom 1:37 PM

I like Art’s and Michael’s comments also!

Nov 20 2014 Michael LaBarbera 3:33 PM

I’ve ridden my bike along the Central RR and LIMP eastward from Newbridge Road to Deadman’s Curve and north to Central Ave and eastward over that bridge. However, theres a lot of dismounting and crossing streets with no traffic signals and it can be kinda dangerous, as well as the path between the houses i saw some mean dogs running loose and lots of sharp stuff littered everywhere so it needs some work for sure.

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