Friday, August 1, 2008

PODCAST: Randall's Island and the 1936 Olympic trials

The smaller islands of the East River reveal fascinating secrets of the city's past, and Randall's and Ward's Islands are no exceptions.

Found out how these former potter's fields are related to the most important Olympics-related event New York City has ever seen. The cast includes a swashbuckling British engineer, Jesse Owens, Tony Bennett, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Fiorello LaGuardia, Robert Moses, and Pearl Jam!

Listen to it for free on iTunes or other podcasting services. Or you can download or listen to it HERE

The Olympic trials at Downing Stadium not only made Jesse Owens (seen below in the 100 meter) into an athletic superstar, but the black and Jewish American athletes who qualified that day became an embarassment to the Olympic host city, Berlin, and Nazi leader Adolph Hitler

From a stock picture in the 40s, when Randall's and Ward's were still seperate entity and the Little Hell Gate was still a existing body of water

Engineer and interogator John Montressor, who owned Randall's Island during British occupation

From a British print -- the treacherous Hell Gate pass, as seen from 'Great Barn Island' (later to be known as Ward's Island)

A picture of the Infant's Hospital on Randall's Island, 1935

The Triborough Bridge as seen from Astoria swimming pool, circa the bridge's date of birth -- 1936

From on old tactile sign on the island, indicating the placement of Downing Stadium

Downing Stadium, the later years

The spectacular new Icahn Stadium at night

Another angle, with downtown Manhattan at top

A current map of Randall's and Ward's.

NOTE: The islands are technically open to the public during the day, but be careful! Commenter Drew notes "Right now there is a whole lot of construction underway on Randall's Island...I really wouldn't go there on foot...Currently they are in the process of constructing astroturf soccer fields and also working on the Triborough Bridge...Icahn Stadium is up and running but getting there on foot from the footbridge is treacherous to say the least...Go by either car or bus to be safe as the other walkways are being worked on too...Personally, I wouldn't venture there after dark either..."

The easiest way to get there is to take the 4,5, or 6 train up to 125th Street, then transfer to the M35 bus.

The island's next huge event will be on August 31st -- The Nike+Human Race 10k race, followed by a concert by the All American Rejects at Icahn Stadium


  1. Karen Cohen, the president of the Randall's Island Sports Federation, is among those responsible for the resurgence of the island. See this 1994 NYT article on the collective efforts to revitalize the park.

  2. Hello,

    May I suggest a link related to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games?

    Our site:

    Title: Beijing Olympics

    Please let me know if you want a link back.
    Many thanks for your reply.

    Best Regards,


  3. My friends and I go to Randall's Island after dark all the time but not without sidearms. You probably think I'm joking. If so, you've never been there after dark. It's an adventure to say the least!

  4. Great post. I just spent the past couple days over there on the running trails. It has been cleaned up quite a bit and seems much safer now than it was in the past. I still wouldn't want to be there after dark though...