Sometimes you can't see the forest for the street.
That's been the case for decades in Center Moriches, where a stand of trees off Montauk Highway and Ocean Avenue hides what is left of an old road called Hallocks Lane. Brookhaven Town officials believe the road dates to the 19th century, but it hasn't been a functioning street for at least 70 years.
There is no sign that a road was ever there — no pavement or curbs are evident in the small wooded area behind St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church. But the street — also called Hallack's Lane — appears in old records and the town's highway inventory.
That is about to change, as Brookhaven officials plan to formally wipe Hallocks Lane off the map. The land, owned jointly by the town and Suffolk County, will be preserved as open space, town officials said.
“Occasionally, you run into one of these vestiges of the past,” Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro said, adding state law allows municipalities to remove roads if they have not been used in at least six years. “I think we exceeded that by several orders of magnitude.”
So-called paper roads are not uncommon on Long Island. Last year, Islip Town deleted Arctic Avenue and Harding Street in Bohemia and added them to neighboring private property.
Hallocks Lane's existence came to light when Highway Department engineers did a routine review of records and found the street listed as part of the town highway inventory, Losquadro said. Records indicated the street had existed since the 1800s, he said.
The road likely was named after the Hallock family, who were prominent land owners about two centuries ago, town officials said. Hallocks Lane may have been part of an estate at one time, they said.
Aerial photographs taken by the town in 1947 show a dirt path believed to be Hallocks Lane. Photos taken in 1978 show the path had become more narrow, and by 2013, it had disappeared altogether.
“If this was utilized as a roadway at some point in our history, it would have been horse and buggy," Losquadro said. "Nature would have reclaimed it a half a century ago, at least.”
Suzanne McKeon, a member of the Center Moriches Chamber of Commerce, who has lived in the community since 1984, said she had no recollection of Hallocks Lane. She remembers the area behind the church only as a wooded parcel.
“All the kids used to cut through there," she said. "I don’t remember pavement. I knew there was a paper road, but I never saw anything that resembled a real road.”
Losquadro said officials were concernedthat online maps might inadvertently direct drivers to a road that doesn't exist. Google Maps and MapQuest don't show Hallocks Lane on their sites.
“It’s wonderful that we have so much history in the Town of Brookhaven, but occasionally we run into these situations where we become the victims of some haphazard planning,” Losquadro said. “Sometimes when you look at these things, it becomes quite an adventure.”