After the Daily News published an embarrassing story on December 15, about the Bronx being the only borough not to have a public ice skating rink, the paper is now reporting that DPR officials have done an about face and are reportedly partnering with the 161st Street Business Improvement District (BID) to open a rink by Jan. 25. A small temporary rink would be installed either in front of Borough Hall on 161st St. or across the street at Joyce Kilmer Park.
This comes only a few weeks after the DPR said they didn't have the funds to staff it "even for a month," and a new spokeswoman for the agency even managing to call the idea of installing a rink in the long neglected Bronx, "ambitious." Ambitious? Not exactly.
This slight was all the more embarrassing for the City, as well as to this community because the elected officials had refused to advocate for the building of a permanent rink proposed as part of the Yankee stadium replacement park scheme. One of the alternative plans outlined in the FIES called for park facilities, including an ice rink, to be built on top of one of the parking garages. (Parking garage A, the one without the artificial turf) Instead of requiring the city to legitamently replace park land and facilities they allowed the Yankees to take for their new stadium, the clueless elected officials shirked their responsibilities and refused to stand up and fight for that neighborhood. As a result, that community actually wound up with a net loss of park space as part of the deal.
The DPR bowing to negative publicity from the News story is good news especially in light that the City had also repeatedly told the community that a rink was going to be built as part of the new Mill Pond Park tennis concession along the waterfront. However that promise has now quietly been downgraded to only an "option" for the concessionaire who wins that license as the City is no longer requiring a rink to be build there.
Area resident and former Bronx CB 4 board member Lukas Herbert thinks the ice rink is a good idea because the neighborhood has little to offer in the way of Winter recreational opportunities and the nearest rink is in Manhattan. He also noted that it makes financial sense because the BID is going to pay for most of it, and that Lou Gherig Plaza (one of the proposed sites) is for the most part a dead-zone in the Winter due to its new design.
"Its a good idea, that area could use some activity," Mr. Herbert said. "The BID is really interested in bringing people to 161st Street. A few weeks ago I was at the Yankees Metro North station and I noticed they had put up a sign that said "Please come eat, drink and shop on 161st St. Of course Parks put a huge scaffolding up in front of the sign, so that you'd barely notice it...."
The beloved ice rink in nearby Mullaly Park was abandoned by the parks department in the 70's. (The site was eventually converted for skate boarding and BMX use).
While the building of a small temporary rink would not come anywhere near to satisfying the Bronx's needs - nor would it count much towards erasing the city's neglect of its poorest borough - this project sounds like a welcome addition.
NY Daily News - December 15, 2009 - By Mike Jaccarino