2007-01-18 / Little Old Canarsie

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Little Old Filling In The Canarsie Shorefront

Just about the time they decided to fill in the Jamaica Bay shorefront in Canarsie with creek names like SandBay Creek and Steam Boat Creek, the city banned the taking of shellfish from the bay due to pollution from the many sewers emptying in it.

Some of the oyster planters who had small huts out on Ruffle Bar Island had no further use for them. One owner, John Schmelk (known as "Curly John") brought about three of them on flat scows and placed them on new foundations on East 87th Street between Avenue L and Avenue N. The bungalow nearest the creek had a foundation about four or five feet high. An old Canarsie native, Ray Ryder, lived in it for many years, even when the new grade of the street came and all filled in.

Then in the years of the late 1930's, a new highway was to come along the waterfront of Brooklyn into Queens, which was going to be named Circumferential Pkway (later called the Belt). Many homes and squatter shacks which were along Bay Ridge and Sheepshead Bay were taken over, and had to be torn down or purchased by someone, as they only needed the land for building the new parkway.

A couple of men interested in buying them and moving them in Canarsie went to Sheepshead Bay when they were put up for auction, and one man living on Avenue K near East 94th Street. Mr. Morgan had one moved and placed on a new foundation between East 94th Street and East 93rd Street. Another man, Mr. Lewis of Conklin Avenue, bought three of them and had them moved to Canarsie and put on new foundations on Glenwood Road and East 96th Street, just in the rear of the K of C building on Conklin Avenue. Some of these had an extension put on or reshingled and were nice looking - as if they were built new right here.

So, all together, there were seven homes that were not newly built here, but are part of old Canarsie. When the Belt Parkway opened on July 1, 1940, and the college bred engineers gave the names to be placed on it, such as in Canarsie, the right clover leaf called "West Bound" and around the circle the other clover leaf called "East Bound" beside the names (Circumferential). Many fenders were bent before getting on the right part, because the driver going to Coney Island did not know whether he had to go east or west, and came to a quick stop. If there was a more dimple sign, with an arrow saying "Coney Isle" or "Bay Ridge", he would have known he would be going right for either place. On the other entrance, the sign could have an arrow "To L.I." on it. Besides , if you asked the driver the name of the parkway, he couldn't tell you.

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