Missing the Northeast: The Boulevard

Introducing our new column — and new columnist: Missing the Northeast by Steve Wilson. Steve is a former Far Northeast resident who recently moved to New Jersey for work. And he realized something. The Northeast is awesome. Every month, Steve will write about one of the many things about our great region he misses since moving. And they’re often the things we take for granted.

When you grow up in the Northeast, learning to drive on the Boulevard is a rite of passage. I remember being 17, feeling like a king – after having a nervous breakdown over the possibility of being in the wrong lane – when I could cross over the Boulevard simply to get to my best friend’s house, instead of having my parents drive me.

The Boulevard is one of those things that, if you are completely unfamiliar with it, can seem daunting, sometimes even more than traditional highway driving. However, once you drive it a few times, whether to travel deeper south into the city or north to get to the Turnpike, it starts to feel almost second nature.

All in all, though, it probably doesn’t seem like something anybody would miss, let alone a topic worthy of a full column of type. However, I have to say that I miss Roosevelt Boulevard.

Just for some background, I grew up in the Far Northeast, almost right down the street from the Pepsi building and Steve’s Prince of Steaks. For work, I now live about an hour north in Franklin Park, N.J. The funny part is that the major road just down the street from my residence is…you guessed it…Route 1, the same strip of road that forms our glorious Boulevard.

The Boulevard vs. Route 1 in N.J.

Now, I don’t want to focus too greatly on the old cliché complaint that you can’t turn left in New Jersey because, frankly, that is only the case on major roads, such as Route 1. But there are a few major reasons why I would gladly traverse the Boulevard any day of the week instead of its New Jersey doppelganger.

First, although Route 1 in New Jersey seems more like a highway, there are pretty much just as many traffic lights, which is a common knock against the Boulevard.

Second, you can make U-turns at some points on the Boulevard (at least in the inner lanes), and “U-turns” in New Jersey usually involve some sort of jughandle-plus-left-turn equation.

Third, there is no wondrous site along Route 1 in Jersey like the Kraft (formerly Nabisco) building that emits the amazing smell of cookies while you’re waiting for the light at Comly Road.

The Memories

When it comes down to it, though, the Boulevard, to me, is just one of those areas that holds so many memories, simply because it houses so many places that meant a lot to me in my formative years.

I frequented the Palace Roller Skating Center many times in seventh and eighth grade when I was trying to figure out how to get girls to like me, which, with my lack of skating ability, proved counterproductive.

I vividly remember the first time I got stuck in the horrible intersection that is Grant Road and the Boulevard. I remember singing with Archbishop Ryan High School’s chorus for the lighting of a Christmas tree in front of the Pepsi building, with former Mayor John Street in attendance. I remember when my friends took me to Paddy Whacks for my 21st birthday.

It may not always be simple to navigate, especially the first time you try to cross over from an outer to an inner lane, but the Boulevard is definitely one of those things that you somehow grow to miss the farther away you get. And that is why I miss Roosevelt Boulevard.

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