7. Ocean and Eastern Parkways

Ocean Parkway designed by Frederick Law Olmsted

Ocean Parkway, which runs along west-central Brooklyn, and Eastern Parkway, the world’s first parkway, were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who suggested its construction to Brooklyn park commissioners in 1866. Both were devised to connect Prospect Park with Coney Island and East New York, respectively. The duo suggested separating the parkways from service roads by medians. The New York State Legislature approved the parkways in 1869, later amending it in 1872. Both highways were part of a larger unsuccessful plan to create a parkway system connecting several parks within Brooklyn.

Construction began on Ocean Parkway in 1874, and by the following year, a segment was opened between Prospect Park and Kings Highway. By the end of 1876, the remaining section to Coney Island was completed. It was estimated that the entire highway cost about $1 million at the time, or nearly $25 million today. The first bike path in the U.S. was created in a pedestrian path split in 1894. Eastern Parkway, which begins at Grand Army Plaza, was built between 1870 and 1874, and Olmsted wanted it to be filled with “strikingly picturesque” greenery like elm trees. Along service roads, Olmsted envisioned having “first-class” residences along the road.