Strong Backs and Weak MindsThe Saga of the Coney Island Velodrome at the City Reliquary Museum

The City Reliquary is home to lesser-known historical oddities, trinkets and possibly the best collection of miniature Statue of Liberty souvenirs. This may be how the City Reliquary became known, but the museum also has a revolving exhibit space along with community events. Now through the end of the summer the exhibit, “Strong Backs and Weak Minds: The Saga of the Coney Island Velodrome” can be viewed.

Long before the days of NASCAR, the public was enthralled by an equally death-defying sport: Motor-Paced Cycling races, which were held at velodromes across the country. What New Yorkers may not know is that The Big Apple was once home to some of the most celebrated cycling venues in the world–Madison Square Garden being one. The Coney Island Velodrome opened July 19, 1930—at the height of cycling’s popularity in the U.S.—on the current site of Luna Park. The stadium held 10,000 spectators. This slice of New York City history was chronicled by Harry Schwartzman of the New York Bike Jumble.

Coney Island’s Velodrome reached the end of its days as World War II loomed. Once the war was over, the country’s fascination with cycling gave way to NASCAR. The Coney Island Velodrome was torn down in 1955 to make way for the Luna Park Housing cooperative, which still stands on that site today. However, New York City’s cycling legacy lives on in Flushing at The Kissena Velodrome, the last remaining velodrome in the city.