1964 US Olympic Trials at Kissena Velodrome. From page 47 of “30 years of progress, 1934-1964 : Department of Parks : 300th anniversary of the City of New York : New York World’s Fair.” (1964). Via Internet Archive Book Images on Flickr
From the late 1890s through the 1920s, tens of thousands of New Yorkers turned out to witness the high drama of competitive bicycle speed racing. In New York, there were Velodromes (cycling tracks) at Coney Island, in the Bronx, and even at the original Madison Square Garden, where grueling six-day races called “Madisons” pushed riders to their limits. The sport fell prey to the Depression, and today there are just 26 Velodromes in the United States, including one in New York City, the Kissena Velodrome in Flushing’s Kissena Park, known to Velodrome enthusiasts as “the Track of Dreams.”
Riders warming up at Kissena Velodrome, May 2005. Via Seth Werkheiser on Flickr
Velodromes had steep banks, designed to send racers flying past each other at speeds upwards of 40mph. In these pre-NASCAR days, the sport was known for calamitous collisions. The Kissena Velodrome is a 400-meter outdoor cycling track. It was built by Robert Mosses in 1962 for the 1964 Olympic Trials. The mid-century track, once known as “big bumpy” due to its fractured surface, got an overhaul from the city in 2004, and these days it sports asphalt pavement finished with a special acrylic seal coat, landscaping and trees, bleachers, a custom-designed perimeter fence, regulation racing lines, and new drainage.
Despite repairs, the track is still suited to hobbyists rather than professional racers, since professional races take place on 200-meter tracks. That said, the Kissena Velodrome attracts riders from around the city and throughout the tri-state area. The track hosts weekly twilight races during the summer, a weekend series, and offers Star Track, a city-run youth cycling and mentorship program. You can find more information about Kissena’s upcoming events here.
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Neighborhoods : Flushing