2012: Brooklyn Bridge Park, an 85-acre green space spanning several waterfront neighborhoods, might soon be home to a $40 million dollar velodrome, an arena for indoor track cycling. Philanthropist Joshua Rechnitz, an avid track cyclist, offered funding for the velodrome to the park as a gift, and opinions from officials and local residents are mixed. The New York Times reports:
Joan Zimmerman, president of the Fulton Ferry Landing Association, another community group, said she worried that the park was already being nibbled away by structures. “Putting this large of a building at one of the narrower necks of the park raises the question of what’s more important: green space or buildings?” she said.
Not everyone is against the proposed track. Joan L. Millman, a state assemblywoman who represents the area containing the park, said she supported it, in part because it would replace a rundown storage building near Pier 5 that she called an “eyesore.” But she confessed that, at first, she was not even sure what a velodrome was. “I had to go look it up,” she said.
1906: Madison Square Garden, long the center of New York sports activity, was home for many years to a velodrome that seated over 2,000 spectators and hosted a number of popular cycling races each season. Accidents in the high-speed events were common and garnered considerable press in local newspapers. The New York Sun breathlessly recounted an 11-man crash in a 1906 race:
The accident came when Folger, of the Root-Folger team, darted out from among the leaders in an attempt to steal a lap. Mat Downey was the first man to accept the challenge, and after a few circuits of the track he caught the leader just as they were sweeping around Dead Man’s Curve and the two men brushed each other and fell. In an instant the other 11 riders were upon them and 8 of them went down with a crash. A member of the French team rode clear over the prostrate riders and crashed headforemost into a box. It was remarkable that his skull was not crushed by the frightful impact.
An evidence of the effect upon the riders of the frightful strain put upon them by the constant vigilance of a six-day contest was shown at the time of the crash. While the men were still lying in a heap on the track, Pye, of the Clark-Pye team, who had escaped with slight injuries, leaped out of the bunch, and running wildly along the track, began to shout: “I win the race! I win the race! They’re all dead but me! I win!” He was eventually quieted and taken to his quarters.
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