Cross Island Parkway
Joe Michaels Mile
This path is named in honor of Joseph Michaels (1941-1987), a health activist and longtime resident of Queens. Michaels was the drummer for Jay and the Americans, a band that sung in the style of 1950s doo-wop groups. The band was best known for their 1964 hit “Come a Little Bit Closer,” a chart success that led to their inclusion on the Beatles first American tour that year.
In 1969, at the age of 27, Michaels suffered his first heart attack, and would have six more before deciding to do something to remedy the problem. Michaels worked along with Dr. Norbert Sanders, a former New York City Marathon winner, who Michaels called his “inspiration and coach.” With Dr. Norbert’s help, Michaels was able to lower his cholesterol from over 700 mg/dL to around 200 mg/dL and his weight from 220 lbs. to 150 lbs.
Michaels was able to accomplish this incredible feat through running. Through his involvement in the sport, Michaels went from having seven coronary bypass operations in twelve years to running a marathon every 12 months. After befriending a group of runners who trained on the Vanderbilt Parkway in Alley Pond Park in August of 1980, Michaels became one of the founding members and the first president of the Alley Pond Striders, now a 250 member running and walking group based out of the park. In 1985, he founded another organization, the Cardiac Runners. The group, whose goal it was to help others “run away from heart disease,” had members throughout the world who would come to run the New York City Marathon every November.
In addition to running marathons, Michaels raised money for charity and spread his message of cardiac fitness by participating in longer running events. He competed in a 581-mile ultra-marathon from Toronto to New York, and a 202-mile trek across Long Island that began in Montauk and ended on the ice in Nassau Coliseum during the intermission of a New York Islanders Game. These runs were remarkable achievements for any athlete, but were particularly amazing due to the fact that Michaels’ heart worked at only 30% capacity.
Michaels once told a reporter, "If I have to go, I'd rather do so while running, not while sitting in an armchair, I don't want to be rehabilitated for the purpose of looking out the window." Sadly, the prolific runner, health activist, and Queens resident succumbed to a heart attack in January of 1987 at the age of 45.
On April 24, 1988 this path along the shore of Little Neck Bay was named in honor of Joseph Michaels. The mile-long path runs out of Crocheron Park and in front of Ft. Totten Park, and features pin oak and honey locust trees that provide shade along the path as well as benches for exercisers to rest or enjoy the view of the bay and surrounding marshland.