Ice-skating rink in park seems a pretty cool idea

When the Hudson River Park Trust presented plans for an ice-skating rink to its board of directors last month, one might say it got a chilly reception from community board members and park activists in attendance — or, conversely, that some people got pretty hot under the collar.

A significant addition to the park plan, and also at that time planned as a permanently covered house, the rink had undergone no public 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.

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 at Community Board 2’s Waterfront Committee meeting Monday night — this time for an uncovered rink.

First, the fact that the Trust presented the plan to the community board before voting is a good step, seemingly more in keeping with the Park Act. Whether the Trust has adhered to the letter of the law is for legal experts to determine.

Second, we’re 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, making it the perfect place to plug the rink in, so to speak.

There is no ice-skating rink in Lower Manhattan. A rink at the South St. Seaport no longer exists. And a rink that used to be at the World Trade Center obviously is no more. This rink would serve Lower Manhattan as well as Greenwich Village, Union Sq., probably even the East Side. The Trust promises the facility, which will be for roller-skating in the warm weather, will be cheaper than Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers, which skaters will appreciate.

The rink will bring activity and children to the park, particularly in the winter when the waterfront is underused. Already, in the park in Tribeca’s Board 1 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 Greenwich Village and Hudson Sq. waterfront to become an attraction-lined boardwalk, but a rink is surely appropriate for a park.

Although the rink won’t be ready for this winter’s ice-skating season, we encourage skeptical Villagers to eventually give it a try when it’s built, lace on some skates, take 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 is a pretty cool use.

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