Van Cortlandt Park

The Daily Plant : Friday, October 19, 2001


Photo by Malcolm (Cinema) Pinckney

The City’s bocce courts were filled to capacity last weekend when top players pulled out their bocce and paulino balls, donned their t-shirts, and took part in the seventh annual Citywide Bocce Tournament. On Saturday, October 13, 59 teams met on the manicured courts of Marine Park, Van Cortlandt Park, Juniper Valley Park, and South Beach in Staten Island. The next day, the winners from every borough met at the Staten Island Park not far from the Verrazano Bridge, across the water from the Coney Island fairgrounds.

South Beach was festooned with red, white, and green balloons to honor the mostly Italian bocce players. By way of complement, the sleeves of their tournament t-shirts were printed with American flags that formed a patriotic row down the court. Some players visited a face painting station to have Italian and American flags painted on either cheek. And from the edges of the court, spectators could hear two languages spoken. As the weather swung between sunshine and clouds, dedicated players competed for prizes and glory. Some were heard to hurl insults: "you’re a banana" or "you’re mozzarella, you’re cheese, you’re soft." Others were seen to embrace and lift their MVPs off the ground upon victory. Fernando (Pepsi) Rosa, from Bronx Recreation, called the games from his seat at the edge of the court.

For spectators, there were courtside seats as well as game tables, arts and crafts activities, and free tastes of Nutella chocolate. A background of Italian love songs played through the afternoon. At 1:00 p.m. Bario’s, a local Italian Restaurant, served up 60 tins of pasta, vegetables, and meat for scores of hungry players and their friends. By 8:00 p.m. the winners had been named. The team from Dyker Beach, Brooklyn walked away in first place. Juniper Valley Park claimed second place and the local team from South Beach took third place. Commissioner Henry J. (StarQuest) Stern presented them with their awards.

The game of bocce, which dates to Egypt in 5000 B.C., reached the United States via Italy in the 19th century. It was Mayor LaGuardia who directed the first court to be placed at Manhattan’s Thomas Jefferson Park in the late 1930s. In 1994, Mayor Giuliani proposed a citywide Bocce Tournament. That competition has grown into one of Parks’ most successful special events. This year participation reached an all-time high of 1,000 players and spectators. Congratulations to the Marketing, Central Recreation, and Staten Island Recreation Offices, which organized the event, and thanks to Nutella, Sportcraft, and the Broadway Proof, the event sponsors. Congratulations to the victors!


(Friday, October 21, 1988)


In the bright autumn sunshine at 164th Street and River Avenue in the Bronx yesterday morning, more than 100 schoolchildren and preschoolers joined Commissioner Stern to open a new recreation center at the refurbished Mullaly Park Skate House. Speaking at the ceremony and representing Bronx Borough president Fernando Ferrer, Robert F. Nolan said, "The credit for this wonderful project belongs entirely to Commissioner Stern and Acting Bronx Parks Commissioner James R. Ryan. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be here today."


"There is only one way to achieve happiness on this terrestrial ball,

And that is to have either a clear conscience, or none at all."

Ogden Nash (1902-1971)

Directions to Van Cortlandt Park

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