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Kissena Corridor Park

Amerigo Vespucci Campo-Di-Boccie

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512) discovered the bay at Rio de Janeiro and the Plate river on the east coast of Brazil on a Portuguese expedition from 1501-1502 that convinced Vespucci that they were not sailing along the eastern coast of Asia as Christopher Columbus had believed, but rather had encountered a "New World" that had been previously unknown to them.

Vespucci, an Italian merchant and navigator, went to Seville, Spain, in 1491 while working for the Medici family. There he worked for Gianatto Berardi, who managed a ship-fitting business for the powerful family back in Florence. Vespucci helped Berardi fit ships for Columbus's second and third voyages, and he came to know Columbus personally. Vespucci became the manager of the business after Berardi died about 1496.

In 1505, back in Seville again, Vespucci was hired by the Spanish court to work in the Commercial House for the West Indies. By 1508 he had been promoted to chief navigator. In this position he maintained the official map of newly charted lands. This required the coordination and interpretation of information that the captains of Spanish voyages were required to provide upon their return. He held this position for the rest of his life.

The name "America" comes from the Latinization of "Amerigo." In 1507, the account of Vespucci's voyages were reprinted by M. Waldseemuller in France near the German border. Waldseemuller added an introduction, suggesting that the New World be named after Amerigo, and he put the name America on the continent of present-day South America on a large map of the world.

Boccie is the culmination of a long sports tradition. Various forms of games where players rolls balls toward a target have been documented back to 5000 BCE in Egypt. It was the Romans that first played a game with rules similar to the current game of boccie, using coconuts brought from Africa at first, and later balls carved of hard olive wood. The game was taken up by Roman statesmen under Emperor Augustus and eventually spread throughout Europe through the influence of the Roman Empire.

The game had its opponents as it became increasingly popular. Some feared that it was detracting from athletic activities that helped prepare men for service in the army. Thus in Spain the game was prohibited by Kings Carlos IV and V, and the Republic of Venice banned it in 1576. Additionally the Catholic Church denounced it as a form of gambling.

Despite barriers elsewhere, the English nobility embraced the game, which they developed into lawn bowling. Tradition holds that Sir Francis Drake, before setting sail to defeat the invading Spanish flotilla in 1588, insisted, "First we finish the game, then we'll deal with the Armada." The English colonists brought lawn bowling to America, transforming an open space at the tip of Manhattan into the Bowling Green.

The modern game of boccie developed in Italy during the 19th century, and now has well-defined regulations. Played on a court of crushed stone, rather than on the grass lawns used in the English game, players try to get their balls closest to a smaller ball, called a pallino, that serves as a marker. Players often try to knock an opponent's ball away from the pallino, with rules establishing when it is legal to do so. While the game is Italian in origin, it has quite become popular with other groups in New York as well.

This recreational space is part of Kissena Corridor Park, most of which was pieced together during the mid-1940s. The corridor connects many greenspaces in Queens, stretching between Flushing Meadows-Corona Park through Kissena Park to Cunningham Park. Among the various park uses connected by the corridor are ballfields, playgrounds, natural open space, gardens, a bicycle track, and these two boccie courts.

In addition to the boccie courts, this recreational space has three checker tables, a drinking fountain, and a couple of trees to provide shade. Council Member Julia Harrison provided $200,000 to create these boccie courts, which opened April 19, 1998. The addition of this recreational space reflects the changing needs of residents in this dynamic metropolis.

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