Thomas Jefferson Park
The Daily Plant : Wednesday, November 5, 2003
PARKIES PLAY KEY ROLE BEHIND THE SCENES AT NYC'S BIGGEST MARATHON
A record 34,662 participants ran in this year’s ING New York City Marathon, and the warm weather brought thousands of spectators to New York City’s parks. As the runners made their way from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to the finish line in Central Park they passed by dozens of New York City parks, cleaned, greened and, in some cases, decorated in preparation for the onslaught of runners and spectators.
On Staten Island, where the race began, Parks & Recreation provided a Wenger Wagon for the opening ceremonies. Geraldine Lawless, Staten Island’s Chief of Operations, described the beginning of the race as overwhelming. "I stood on the Wenger Wagon and saw all those people—it’s pretty amazing to see 30,000 people on the bridge, it’s a real sea of humanity."
As the runners proceeded into Brooklyn – where the Marathon’s longest borough stretch is run – they saw the parks at their cleanest and cheeriest. Brooklyn’s borough crews inspected and cleaned the entire marathon route on Saturday and Sunday morning. Spectators at each recreation center were provided with flags and banners, borrowed from the borough’s Special Events office. The borough’s shops distributed cheering posters to area recreation centers. Children at each recreation center also created banners of their own, depicting park and playground scenes and congratulating the runners.
In Queens, the runners passed Rafferty Triangle, Little Rafferty Triangle and Gordon Park. All were decorated to cheer the runners. "We filled the parks with 170 green and white balloons, 600 red, white, and blue streamers, and, in Rafferty Triangle, a huge Parks flag and streamers. We also spruced up all the seating areas and greenstreets to make everything more colorful," said Queen’s Deputy Chief of Operations Lee Henry. In the Bronx, where the runners pass through for only a few blocks, Tom Russo, Deputy Chief of Operations, noted, "at Deagan Rock park, there’s a small horticultural bed that we spruced up by adding some fall plantings. We also cleaned up a city-owned vacant lot."
Preparations were extensive in Manhattan, where runners hit the legendary "wall." Margaret Asaro Peeler, Deputy Chief of Operations said the entire borough pitched in to make everything, like the marathon runners, in great shape. "On Sunday morning, our riding manager did a drive-through of the route to make sure everything looked okay. "Kids in our after-school programs also made banners and hung them at Thomas Jefferson, St. Catherine’s and Tom Jeff," said Asaro-Peeler. At Thomas Jefferson Park, located directly on the marathon route, preparations were especially elaborate. "The runners go right by the center, so we have a lot of people coming here. We have to prep the building and get ready for battle," said Tony Rosa, Thomas Jefferson’s Recreation Center Manager. The recreation center also served as a NYPD police command station, an ING cheering zone, and a water stop, operated by the New York Road Runners club.
Preparations were most elaborate in Central Park, where the race finishes, and where every runner is met by friends and family. During the week prior to the race, the park’s West Drive is closed to construct the finish line, press gate and a pedestrian bridge. Snow fencing is also erected throughout the park, to keep pedestrians and spectators from crowding the running path. The trees along the route are also given a once over and pruned for safety. The biggest job though, comes after the marathon, when the Central Park Conservancy’s maintenance staff must clean up the refuse left behind from over 30,000 runners and an estimated 100,000 spectators. "Last year we removed 30 tons of garbage from the park," said Adam Kaufman, Central Park’s Director of Night and Weekend Operations. "We clean up everything from banana peels, to paper cups, to cases of water to Mylar blankets."
The Special Events staff played a key role in the Marathon, spearheaded by MJ Furman. They coordinated and managed all operation, with the Road Runners Club. This included overseeing all elements brought into park both to protect the park itself and to ensure public safety. Special Events also oversaw staffing of the Central Park portion of the race which included a large number of Parks Enforcement Patrol officers. On race day, the Special Event team staffed the event and were assigned to different areas of Central Park to troubleshoot. They made sure that points of exit and entry were clear, coordinated with UPS which did the runners’ baggage transport, and worked with the medical teams assigned to the last few miles of the race.
This year’s race was made even more exciting to Parks by ING’s "Run for Something Better" program, in which four of the marathon’s top female entrants to run on behalf of a park. The program, which was coordinated through the City Parks Foundation, will be featured in tomorrow’s Daily Plant, along with other exciting marathon news.
QUOTATION FOR THE DAY
"Here is the answer which I will give to President Roosevelt…
Give us the tools, and we will finish the job."
Sir Winston Spencer Churchill
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