Today, marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of service on what would become known as the Flushing Line, the No. 7 line between the Queensboro Plaza and 103rd Street-Corona Plaza Stations.
When the line first opened it ran through primarily undeveloped land and farmland. William Jay Gaynor, the Mayor of New York City from 1909 to 1913, referred to this line as a “Cornfield” line. In fact, it was. What would become Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights between 82nd Street and Junction Boulevard was literally a trail through a cornfield.
But the whole point in building the No. 7 Line and other lines like it was to extend residential and commercial development beyond densely populated and developed downtown areas in each borough. And it worked. The development of the entire north shore of the Borough of Queens can be largely credited to the opening of the stations of this line to 103rd Street in 1917 and its further extension to Main Street in Flushing in 1928. Connections to bus lines from No. 7 line stations extend its reach all through Central, Northeast and Eastern Queens, as well as to parts of Brooklyn, the Bronx and Nassau County.
The use of the No. 7 Line for community development was further emphasized two years ago by its extension in 2015 to the 34th Street-Hudson Yards Station in Manhattan, contributing to the development of that rapidly growing area.
For all that it has accomplished, this line could have had an even greater impact. As I wrote in The Routes Not Taken, plans to extend the Flushing Line to Bayside, Little Neck and Whitestone were stopped due to political and financial considerations. These issues also slowed its extension to Flushing. Despite that, even the greatest proponents of building the Flushing Line in the early parts of the 20th Century could not have foreseen the impact that its opening would have on the communities of Queens.