The Italian game of bocce has a surprisingly long history in New York. Its ancestor, lawn bowling, was played by Dutch colonists at Bowling Green, the city’s first park.
Mayor LaGuardia established the first official bocce courts in East Harlem’s Thomas Jefferson Park in 1934, when the neighborhood was mostly Italian.
By 1958, 27 parks across the city had bocce courts, including Washington Square Park, J. J. Walker Park on Hudson Street, and St. Mary’s Park in the South Bronx, where a group of guys play in the above Parks Department photo.
And though you don’t see so many old-timers gathering for a game anymore, it still has its fans; there’s still a citywide bocce tournament held every year.