|Friday, June 13, 1997 :: History :: 5257 Views ::
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By 1908 William Howard owned 137 acres of land west of Hawtree Creek. The dredging had raised his land above the high water and more dredging would be on the way. Within the next decade the Shellbank Canal and East Hamilton Canal would be built and Hawtree Creek and Basin deepened. This was due to a government plan to build submarine pens within the sheltered creeks inside Jamaica Bay. The plan was eventually cancelled, but only after the dredging added more sand onto previously flood-prone marshes.
Bill Howard was now in a good position, even after the tragic loss of his hotel, the City of New York was debating various plans for Jamaica Bay area improvements and Howard stood to gain regardless of which competing plan was adopted.
The Bay Harbor Plan was the most ambitious. It called for construction of shipping ports, terminals, customs and warehouse facilities on the bay islands, the deepening of channels to support ocean going firefighters and the creation of a new port to relieve congestion in New York's inner harbor
In addition, this plan called for the construction of twin Cross Island Canals from Flushing to Jamaica Bay. This would allow ocean-going ships to travel from Long Island Sound to Jamaica Bay and back without having to circumnavigate all of Long Island. The twin canals were surveyed to run just east of today's Van Wyck Expressway.
The Tompkins Plan, in comparison, favored private and residential construction instead o af second port. These plans were proposed before the invention of the airplane. The Tompkins Plan meant more dredging and the bulk heading of waterfront property and encouragement of private real estate development. Howard couldn't lose by either of the two plans; he could build either homes or port facilities.
The Tompkins Plan was approved in 1912 (while Tompkins was NYC Commissioner of Docks, making the Cross Island canals a footnote to Queens history. This decision gave a green light to William Howard for home construction; Howard Estates would soon become a reality.
Developers flocked to the area after the Tompkins Plan was approved. E.E. Meacham & Sons advertised in the New York papers to sell lots at Ramblersville starting at $59! Signs were erected in Ramblersville and South Aqueduct announcing the development of "Marcella Park. " But the locals on the creek lived in Ramblersville and had no need to change their name to suit developers. It seemed that everyone now wanted a piece of the action, but Howard was already in place with the acreage in hand; none of the newcomers would catch him now. Home construction was about to begin in earnest on both sides of the railroad.
The first project for the Howard Estates Development Company was construction of Sand Beach and a private park for residents of Howard Beach Estates. Howard would build his beach and park (now Frank M. Charles Memorial Park) before he built his first home!