John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: July, 2018

Alcohol and the Granite State

Live Free or Die: New Hampshire’s motto


Alcohol: Lyrics by Brad Paisley


I can make anybody pretty

I can make you believe any lie

I can make you pick a fight

With somebody twice your size


The New Hampshire Liquor Commission operates more than 75 Liquor & Wine Outlets spread throughout the state with the majority located below Route 9 that crosses west to east from Keene to Portsmouth and passes through Concord. This puts these outlets within easy range for those thirsty folks from Massachusetts seeking relief from the Commonwealth’s relatively high tax on booze. NH is so accommodating that they built two northbound and two southbound outlets at rest stops on Interstates 93 and 95, both, a Sunday’s afternoon drive for Bay Staters.


Well I’ve been known to cause a few breakups

And I’ve been known to cause a few births

I can make you new friends

Or get you fired from work


NH publishes a monthly magazine called Celebrate NH that notes, “Great Selection. Great Prices. No Taxes.” Not enough incentive? The front cover implores the curious: “Price List Inside – Check Out Our TAX – Free Lowest Prices in New England.”


And since the day I left Milwaukee

Lynchburg, Bordeaux, France

Been making the bars

Lots of big money

And helping white people dance


Celebrate NH provides a complete list of their inventory. They sell cocktails and cordials, mixed drinks and specialties, rum, tequila, vodka, America whiskey, bourbon, corn, rye, Tennessee, Canadian, Irish, Scotch and single malt. Take Scotch; the NH Outlets offer over 150 different kinds. There are 14 different types of Johnny Walker Scotch available. Prefer Irish, but Bushmills, Jameson or Tallmore Dew bore you? How about Flaming Leprechaun, Clontarf, Connemara, Knappogue Castle, The Dubliner or, my favorite, Writer’s Tears.


I got you in trouble in high school

And college now that was a ball

You had some of the best times

You’ll never remember with me

Alcohol, alcohol


And party drinks…You can buy Jagermeister brand Mini Meisters that promise: “Ten shots-to-go for your krew.” Your choice Ole Smoky Moonshine or Fishers Island Lemonade in cans. How about Widow Jane said to be “New York’s signature spirit?” Perhaps Rum Haven made with real coconut water or Mexican Moonshine Tequila. Black Box brand wine in a box has expanded their line to include boxed Tequila, Whiskey or Vodka. But if you really want to get loose; try Tooters Party Packs, twenty shot creations in tubes in four flavors: “On the Beach, Apple Tini, Ala-bama Slama” and “Kami-kazi.”


I got blamed at your wedding reception

For your best man’s embarrassing speech

And also for those naked pictures at the beach

I’ve influenced kings and world leaders

I helped Hemmingway write like he did

And I’ll bet you a drink or two that I can make you

Put that lampshade on your head


And the day I left Milwaukee

Lynchburg Bordeaux, France

Been makin the bars

 With lots of big money

And helping white people dance


I got you in trouble in high school

And college now that was a blast

You had some of the best times

You’ll never remember


Alcohol, alcohol



Always drink in moderation and never drink and drive.

Brooklyn Road Odysseys

Part Three: “The Times They Are a-Changin”


Robert Moses’ (RM) last hurrah was a masterpiece of engineering and design; the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.*


First proposed in 1927, RM’s powerful Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA) became actively involved in the mid-1950s with construction being approved in 1959. The bridge would connect Bay Ridge, Brooklyn with Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island. Two exits were designed for the Brooklyn side; one, a loop that would allow Queens and Long Island bound automobile traffic to use the eastbound Belt Parkway. These ramps would fly over the Fort Hamilton army base and were accepted without controversy.


This certainly was not the reaction to the main entrance and exit that would carry all commercial vehicles and cars toward Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn. Governor Nelson Rockefeller and the state legislature approved RM’s request for a route right through Bay Ridge along Seventh Avenue. This direct path displaced 7,500 residents living in 1,500 residences along a two-mile stretch. However, this was 1959 and RM’s will was still done as he willed it. Neither politicians nor the public stood in his way.


Almost twice as many Staten Island residents were displaced but they lived along the eight-mile route of the new Staten Island Exp. that connected the Verrazano Bridge to New Jersey. The tradeoff was worth it; a reasonable number of citizens were forced from their homes vs a bridge and highways to Brooklyn and New Jersey.**


RM proposed two new expressways and two parkways (cars only) to connect the Verrazano to the other two NJ bridges, the Bayonne Bridge and the Outerbridge Crossing,***  Only one would be built, the West Shore Expressways and short stretches of two others.


Construction took five years and the bridge opened on November 21, 1964. That same night my cousin Bill drove three of us over the bridge. As we approached the toll booth I asked Bill to see if the toll taker would give us a TBTA map. He did, and Bill handed it to me. I realized to my delight that the man had time-stamped the map as proof that we crossed on opening day.


*Although the bridge was named after the Italian explorer, Giovanni da Verrazzano, the official name only had one “Z.” It would take 69 years for the state legislature to add the missing Z.


**RM’s original name for this expressway was the Clove Lakes Exp. but he relented to allow the S.I. Borough President a victory that would shut him up.


***The Outerbridge Crossing was named after Eugenius H. Outerbridge and naming it Outerbridge Bridge would have been redundant.




Next on RM’s agenda was the construction of two cross-Manhattan expressways, the Mid-Manhattan Exp. from the Queens-Midtown Tunnel to the Lincoln Tunnel along 30th or 31st Streets and the Lower Manhattan Exp. with branches coming from the Williamsburg Bridge and Manhattan Bridge, joining together to reach the Holland Tunnel.


The design for midtown route was not actually along either of the two streets. Instead, buildings along the route would be razed to be replaced by new buildings that provided space for a two-level elevated highway making this undertaking highly improbable. Even then, land was too valuable in the middle of Manhattan to accept a major disruption. RM knew this, so he pressed ahead with the Lower Manhattan Exp. (LME) postponing the midtown road for another day. In theory it’s proposed route took it through less valuable and sought-after neighborhoods, the Lower East Side, Chinatown, Little Italy and Soho.


What RM didn’t for see was that a storm of protest of biblical proportions would erupt. These Manhattanites were not the docile residents of Bay Ridge, the Bronx or Maspeth. These were activists and radicals. It was no longer the 1950s, Manurable Bob Wagner was no longer mayor and the new boy on the block, John Lindsey, was going to do things his way with a stable of young Turks to back him up.


The 1960s had arrived and the protests and strikes carried the day. Lindsey and Co, were no fans of RM and the LME was shelved, then cancelled and de-mapped as time went by.


Without the Manhattan crosstown routes, other Brooklyn projects fell by the wayside. The Cross-Brooklyn Exp. and the Bushwick Exp. both designed to direct traffic to this new Manhattan crossings couldn’t be justified. This outcome spared citizens in Flatbush, East New York and Bushwick the disruptions that befell Williamsburg, Cobble Hill and Red Hook.


RM rule began to slip / slide away. Mayor Lindsey created the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to coordinate the subways, commuter railroads, buses, the tunnels and bridges in New York City into this single mega-agency. The MTA gobbled up the TBTA. RM remained chairman until 1981, but he did so without real power.


His final defeat came at the hands of his old partner, Governor Rockefeller, who cancelled RM’s last ambitious project, a bridge across Long Island Sound from Rye, NY to Oyster Bay, Long Island. Free of Lindsley’s reach, this was his alone to build, but Rocky caved in to howl of pain from the wealth of those who resided in both landings.


Long Island remains a dead end to this day.


As for Robert Moses, like Douglas MacArthur, old builders never die, they just fade away.

Brooklyn Road Odysseys

Part Two: The Moses Empire


While America slept, World War II raged in Europe, Robert Moses, (RM) opened the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair while completing about 75% of the Belt system plus the Grand Central Parkway and the Interborough Parkway. He also extended these roads into Nassau County by way of the Northern and Southern State Parkways and a separate network of parkways that serviced Jones Beach.


From the Northwest corner of Queens, the Triborough Bridge access highway connected with the Grand Central Parkway and the northern end of the Brooklyn-Queens Connecting Highway (soon to be re-christened the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, (BQE).)


The Connecting Highway only ran about a couple of miles before reaching a dead end at Northern Blvd. in Jackson Heights. A one-mile long gap to Queens Boulevard followed. At Queens Blvd, he constructed an elevated highway above the road that divided New Calgary Cemetery that headed south to a junction with the Midtown Tunnel Expressway and the entrance to the Kosciusko Bridge that crossed Newtown Creek into Brooklyn. The highway ended at Meeker Avenue in Greenpoint in a maze of streets. South of the bridge stood RM’s greatest challenge to completing the Belt; a series of high density neighborhoods. All work ceased until the war ended. Planning did not.


RM had to force his Connecting Highway through Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Clintonville, Fort Green, Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights, Red Hook, Gowanus and Sunset Park before it could reach the Belt Parkway in Bay Ridge. This route also had to connect to the Williamsburg Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.


Simultaneously, RM was busy with two other equally arduous projects, the Long Island Expressway (LIE) and the Cross-Bronx Expressway (CBX). Robert Caro in his biography of RM, “The Power Broker,” concentrated his reporting on RM’s arbitrary forced displacement of thousands of Bronx residents to push the CBX through densely populated areas on a straight line. For whatever reason, Caro chose to ignore the misery of the residents of Maspeth, Queens in the path of the LIE and all those in the way of the BQE.


Maspeth was a suburb of mostly one-family connected houses built just before and just after World War II. Unfortunately for some of these residents, their homes were in the path of where RM wanted the LIE to go. Worse yet, the expressway cut across Maspeth’s grid on a diagonal ripping out whole blocks at a time to include its service roads. Further east, the LIE was constructed along what had been Horace Harding Boulevard. Again, the old Blvd. couldn’t accommodate the new six-lane highway and two service roads so all the houses lining one side of the new highway had to go.


The tell-tale signs of Sherman’s march to the sea were the railroad rails bent into bow ties and the free-standing brick chimneys where factories and plantations once stood. The tell-tale signs of a RM built highway are the absence of buildings facing one or both sides of the highway.


Unlike Sherman, RM understood who he could screw and who’s asses should be kissed. The BQE is a classic case. South of the Kosciusko Bridge, Meeker Avenue only went about halfway to the Williamsburg Bridge. Another grid had to be crossed on a diagonal and Moses pushed an elevated highway through with a vengeance. Same M.O. south of this bridge. To bypass the Brooklyn Navy Yard, RM widened Park Avenue and built an elevated viaduct above this misnamed avenue at the same time the City of New York was tearing down elevated subway lines as being unsightly nuisances; go figure.


Upon reaching the Manhattan Bridge, the BQE ran through an old industrial area before reaching Brooklyn Heights. Now, boys and girls, the name Brooklyn Heights conjures wealth. Remember, Moonstruck, the Cher / Nicolas Cage film? Cher’s family town house was in Brooklyn Heights.


RM put the engineers to work and they produced a brilliant solution. They would build the highway at the very edge of the bluff and cantilever it over the road above the docks in three layers stacked one above the other. The bottom two layers would each support three lanes of traffic and the top layer, a pedestrian promenade overlooking the harbor and Downtown Manhattan. This created a spectacular view for strollers to enjoy. But, more importantly, for the millionaires whose homes lined the lots facing this view. Do I hear a nay? The yays have it.


The folks living south of Brooklyn Heights in Cobble Hill didn’t have this clout so all they got was a depressed highway, but they lost all the homes that once occupied that trench. To make the run south from the Gowanus Canal to Bay Ridge, RM selected Third Avenue to be the route. Like Park Avenue, this section became an elevated highway and Third Avenue was widened accordingly.


The Belt stood completed except for that annoying gap in Jackson Heights. Over the years, RM ate away at it, but it wasn’t until the early 1970s that the last section opened.


By then. God got even, and RM met his Waterloo. Still, by then he was an old man when this came to pass and, only the good die young.


(To be continued.)



Brooklyn Road Odysseys

Part One: The Moses Revolution


And Jehovah did command of Moses: “Speak to my people,” and Moses replied, “Shut up God! There’s a new builder in town and my will be done.”


And Robert Moses’ will was done throughout the state of New York from Buffalo to Montauk Point and from Lake Champlain to Totenville, Staten Island. My goal for these pieces is to provide some background to explain the utter frustration and insanity of having to drive from the town of Port Washington to various locations in Brooklyn and return. Over the last fifteen years, we have navigated RM’s creations to visit our daughter’s family in Park Slope, Sunset Park and currently, Clintonville.


Any story about traveling by automobile on Long Island or anywhere in New York State begins with the influence of Robert Moses (RM) on their design and routing. When it comes to highways, what exists and what could have existed all bear RM’s imprimatur. For over forty-five years, beginning in 1924 and ending in 1967, “almost anything RM wanted, RM got and whatever RM rejected was rejected.”


All of this is available in Robert Caro’s 1974 biography of RM, The Power Broke., But, if you are not up to reading 1162 pages of text, stay the course. RM knew how to get things done and politicians flocked to him because he let them shine as the prime movers of successful projects big and small. In return, these politicians allowed RM to accumulate vast power over all aspects of life in the Empire State especially NYC and Long Island. Parks, public housing projects and “so called” middle class houses like Peter Cooper Village, Stuyvesant Town, Riverton, Parkchester and Fresh Meadows.  RM built public beaches like Orchard Beach in the Bronx, Jacob Reis in Queens, Jones Beach and its twin on Fire Island that bears his name together with hydroelectric power plants at Niagara, gigantic swimming pools in every borough and parks from Riverside to Sunken Meadow State Park on Long Island.


Armed with the title of chairman of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, (TBTA), RM controlled the construction of six major bridges and two underwater tunnels. Separately, he built the Tappan Zee Bridge and the New York State Thruway.


RM touched every aspect of our lives. Along the way our grateful politicians named a beach, bridge, hydro-electric power plant and state park in his name.


RM’s hero was his mentor, Al Smith. RM never forgave FDR for not adequately supporting Smith’s run for president in 1928 and treated FDR like a rented mule when he succeeded Smith as New York’s governor. The historical reasoning is that RM’s slights prevented RM from becoming a bigger player in the development of the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System. To that I say: “Balderdash!” Everything the Federal engineers used to build this system, both good and bad was learned at the feet of RM.


RM’s first priorities were parks and he quickly realized that a sure way to create new parks was to create new roads to serve them. In the mid-1920s, Brooklyn and Queens had only five semi-highways, all with traffic lights. Brooklyn had Ocean Parkway running south from Prospect Park to Coney Island and Eastern Parkway heading east from Prospect Park before it faded out in Brownsville.


Queens had Northern Boulevard, little more than a four-lane street, Sunrise Highway no better, in the south, underdeveloped, Queens Blvd and Horace Harding Blvd. that began at Queens Blvd and headed east toward Nassau.


If you read “The Great Gatsby,” F. Scott Fitzgerald takes license when describing Northern Blvd. crossing the Carona coal cinder and slag dump where his hero met his fate. (Thanks to RM, that dump would become the sites of the Grand Central Parkway, 1939-40 and 1964-5 World Fairs.)


His first major divided highway project was a vast network of six different roads that connected into one endless loop that ran along the shorelines that cover most of Brooklyn and Queens and along the border between Queens and Nassau County. The original name described its routing: “The Circumferential Parkway.”  Fortunately, this tongue twister was shortened to the name that stuck, “The Belt Parkway.”


RM learned early on to seek financing in incremental amounts but don’t use the money to complete a single structure or section. For example, when it came to constructing the substantial and beautiful bath houses in Jones Beach, RM proposed building two but used the money to build the foundations for all six. If you start it, they will fund the amount needed to complete all six.


Likewise, the first sections of the Belt Parkway were constructed where they ran right along the shore in uncontested, undeveloped areas. The first sections to open in Brooklyn were along Bay Ridge and Gravesend Bay that included a park that ran the length with a spectacular view of the Narrows and the Outer Bay.


Another section ran along Jamaica Bay including Canarsie Park and Pier with a third section that began at the site of the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows then headed northeast to the newly finished Whitestone Bridge, where it turned easterly and headed through underdeveloped Whitestone to Fort Totten. Here it turned south along the side of Little Neck Bay, Alley Pond Park and Belmont Racetrack where it turned west and passed Idlewild, Aqueduct Raceway and Howard Beach where it joined the Brooklyn section at Jamaica Bay.


(To be continued.)