Brooklyn Public Library

Mobile AppDownload our Mobile App

eNewsletterSubscribe to BPL eNews


Brooklyn takes to the Skies. Part I

Jun 23, 2011 12:37 PM | 1 comment


         Mrs. Virginia Mullen - Miss Brooklyn Aviation 1947

By 1945 the World War II was winding down, and the population of Brooklyn had swelled to nearly 3 million residents, many of whom were eager to travel.  In this atmosphere the business and civic community decided to gauge the public's feelings about travel, especially air travel, and to see if the time was right for a new centrally-located state-of-the art Air-Rail-Bus Terminal, that would whisk passengers to their designated plane, train, bus or ship. 

Map showing distance of proposed Brooklyn Airlines Terminal from the airports

"If God had intended men to fly, he'd make it easier to get to the airport"

This quote by George Winters pretty much sums up the popular sentiment of the day.   Getting to any of the major transportation departure points, especially the airport, was a test of endurance, requiring a Job-sized supply of patience. 

         First, most people had to take a trolley to the subway...

 Then get on the subway and take that to Manhattan...

      and then get to the airport, train station, bus-terminal...

 or dock. This roundabout...

loop-de-loop journey often took longer then the actual trip, leaving travellers exhausted.  

A year-long study was conducted in 1945 by the Bureau of Economic Research at Brooklyn College. The Bureau together with the Brooklyn Eagle polled more than 25,560 Brooklynites from all walks of life, income levels and professions.  Dr. Otto H. Ehrlich who led the study, along with a team of Brooklyn College students, analyzed the participants' responses and compiled them into a report as well as published articles in the Brooklyn Eagle.   

"We have traveled by air and find it a great convenience, but from Brooklyn it is most inconvenient and miserable to reach the airports."

As expected people overwhelmingly, at 94%, felt that a travel center was vital to the area and that they would save time and money alleviating the headache of traveling to Manhattan. In terms of population, Brooklyn would be the third largest city in the United States, and in no other small city in the country was getting to its transportation lines as difficult as it was for Brooklynites    

But the questionnaire also shed light on how the Borough's residents felt about other aspects of travel, and in particular, what would it take to get Brooklynites up in the air? 

Railroads were the first choice for people travelling on business. For leisure trips the automobile took the top spot, followed by railroads, airlines, steamships and buses. But people who had flown before overwhemingly chose air travel as their first choice. "I have traveled by air and nothing could induce me to give it up" wrote one participant.  Safety was a big concern for many people, and as airplane safety improved the public grew more confident. "The new planes now being built lead me to believe that safety in the air has been attained."  And as is the case with many inventions that are developed for military purposes, radar would soon be used for commercial travel. In fact, a physician suggested that "Planes be equipped with radar to detect the proximity of mountains and treetops."

                 Other inducements to fly were: 


             Parachutes for every passenger


  A motor under the plane to check the speed when falling



   Photo-illustration J.Koffi using Brooklyn Daily Eagle photograph  

              Lana Turner in a private cabin 

The responses reflected a population still sceptical, but slowly coming around to the safety and convenience of air travel. In a few short years the golden age of air travel would begin, and the borough's civic and business leaders wanted Brooklyn to be a part of it.  

In 1948 Brooklyn got its first airline booth located in the St. George Hotel in Brooklyn Heights.  Not exactly the grand terminal orginally imagined, but it was a beginning.

In Part II we'll take a look at the Brooklyn Air Terminal.  


7/12/2011 4:55:10 AM #

that's my mom!

greg mullin