Ice rink idea sounds good, if Trust warms up

When the Hudson River Park Trust presented plans for an ice-skating rink to Community Board 2, one might say it got a chilly reception from some community board members who voted against the rink by a narrow margin.

The first idea of a covered rink came before the Trust’s board without any community board review. This may have been a violation of the Hudson River Park Act, which requires a 30-day notice and public hearing to be held by the Trust when such additions are proposed. Some of the Trust’s own board members had problems with a new covered structure on the waterfront.

However, after pressure from Assemblymember Deborah Glick and park activists, the Trust postponed its board’s vote on the rink and decided to present a revised plan to C. B. 2 — this time for an uncovered rink.

The rink looks like a good idea, but we are not convinced that it must be done this year, given that a majority of C.B. 2 members are against it and it has not yet been presented to C.B. 1.

We are happy to see the rink’s roof gone, in that structures blocking river views shouldn’t be added to the park, spoiling its openness.

The rink would be funded with $2.3 million from the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the post-9/11 Downtown rebuilding and planning agency. The L.M.D.C. zone extends to Houston St., so the Spring St. site of the rink is just within the boundary. The southeast corner of Pier 40 has plentiful electricity, a benefit from when a prison barge berthed there, unlike Pier 25 to the south where the rink was proposed last year.

There is no ice-skating rink now in Lower Manhattan. A rink at the South St. Seaport was too small and was not successful. And a rink that was on the World Trade Center’s massive plaza for one winter years ago, obviously is not going to return. This park’s rink would serve Lower Manhattan as well as Greenwich Village, Union Sq., even the East Side. The Trust promises the facility, which would be for roller-skating in the warm weather, would be cheaper than Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers, which skaters will appreciate.

The rink would bring activity and children to the park, particularly in the winter when the park is underused. Already, in the park south of Canal St. several recreational uses have sprung up and are popular — a skateboard park, batting cages and basketball court, even a trapeze school. We don’t want the waterfront to become an attraction-lined boardwalk, but a rink is appropriate for a park.

The Trust has already cut too many corners with the rink, perhaps to meet Gov. George Pataki’s ambitious timetable to get a rink this winter. The Trust should present its newest version of the plan to Community Board 1, just to the south. Residents in Lower Manhattan would undoubtedly use the rink and should have some say in it, just as Board 1 has seen presentations on Pier 40 in the C.B. 2 area.

We encourage skeptics to have an open mind about the rink, think about lacing on some skates, taking a spin on the ice; or just enjoy watching the skaters, as many do at Wollman Rink or Rockefeller Center.

There’s plenty of passive recreation space in the park, from the Village section’s esplanade and lawns to the full pier and half pier at Christopher and Charles Sts. All in all, it seems to us that a rink could be a pretty cool use if the Trust gets their act together, slows down the process, and listens to the entire Downtown communities, including the community boards.

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