Macombs Dam Park

The Daily Plant : Thursday, August 28, 2003


Remember when you were a kid, and you used to run everywhere because it was fun, not because you were in a hurry? Remember when you used to jump up and down because you were excited, not because you were trying to burn calories? City Parks Foundation does. That’s what prompted them to found "Starting Blocks," a track and field program designed for children, aged 8-14 years old. The program harnesses the natural energy young children have for running, jumping, and throwing by teaching them the basics of track and field. In its second year, "Starting Blocks" held its annual end-of-the-summer championship meet on Wednesday, August 20. Over 200 children from around the city competed at the Astoria Park Track, showing off a summer’s worth of training.

This year’s Starting Blocks program took place in four parks: McCarren and Red Hook Parks in Brooklyn, Macombs Dam Park in the Bronx, and Astoria Park Track in Queens. Children met twice-weekly for 90-minute lessons in javelin and shot put throwing, jumping and hurdles, and running techniques for sprint and relay races. Each location was staffed with six coaches and lessons were taught in the cool morning hours, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday’s meet was the culmination of six weeks of training. Teams were formed from each of the participating boroughs and the meet was scored in the traditional manner, with the top three finishers of each race earning points for their team. The Bronx was the winning borough, followed by Queens and then Brooklyn. Every child that participated in the meet was rewarded with a tee shirt and a ribbon.

This year the Starting Blocks program increased from 80 participants to 310 participants with the success of this year’s track meet, organizers are hoping that next year’s program will have an even larger turn-out. Mike Silverman, City Parks Foundation’s Sports Director, cited the over-all accessibility of track and field as a reason for the program’s success. "Running, jumping and throwing are very basic, essential skills that most kids love to do and so we reach a very broad audience." Silverman also pointed out that Starting Blocks was a perfect fit for Parks & Recreation. "Track and field is one of the easiest sports for us to teach because we already have so many wonderful track facilities."

With new support from ING, and continued support from the Joelson Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Aviation Development Council, and the New York City Council, Starting Blocks has every reason to expand. Through its partnership with ING, Starting Blocks has already brought capital funding to parks. Through their "Run for Something Better" program, ING has promised to sponsor capital improvements to track and facilities throughout the city for the next three years. Of course, Starting Blocks is already improving parks by bringing up a new generation of athletes. Healthy habits start early in life, and today’s track and field trainees will be the habitual walkers and runners that continue to use our city’s parks. Said David Rivel, Executive Director of City Parks Foundation, "This year’s track program showed that there are hundred of kids in New York who are going to have some productive physical activity not just for the summer, but for the rest of their lives."


"The will to do, the soul to dare."

Sir Walter Scott


Directions to Macombs Dam Park

Was this information helpful?