Why is it that we never hear East Enders singing the Long Island Expressway’s praises? We marvel at simple things like sunsets, summer breezes and baby ducks, but not this 71-mile expanse of highway between Nassau and Suffolk counties.
During the summer months, some people even have the audacity to refer to it as the world’s longest parking lot. That is just wrong in so many ways.
Thankfully, I’m not the only East Ender who has a decent level of respect for this testament to American engineering. Amagansett’s Alec Baldwin agrees with me, or at the very least, his character on Friends does.
I’m referring, of course, to Season 8, Episode 18, “The One in Massapequa.” While playing Parker, the overenthusiastic boyfriend of Phoebe, Baldwin is quoted by Monica as saying that the LIE is a “concrete miracle.”
Running west to east, the LIE, otherwise known as I-495, flows from the Queens Midtown Tunnel to County Road 58 in Riverhead. Most East Enders can’t remember what it was like trying to make the trek off the Island before the completion of the LIE, so they take it for granted.
Only the old-timers remember what life was like pre-LIE, and they know that attempting to drive from Southampton to Manhattan was no small feat. Now, travel is relatively convenient thanks to the completed highway and its High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes between exits 31 (Cross Island Parkway) and 64 (Medford).
Constructed in stages over the course of three decades, with the first part opening in 1940, the LIE stands as a monument to be honored and cherished. A section of the historical highway between Long Island City and Flushing is actually where the old streetcar line used to be located. In 1972, the last two-mile stretch connecting Exit 71 to County Road 58 was completed.
Now, I-495 serves as the main vein from the East End to the rest of the world. Traffic permitting, I sometimes pull over to the side of the LIE, exit the vehicle and kiss the pavement. That is the best way I can think of to show my appreciation.
Alec is right: It truly is a “concrete miracle!”