Time to take a step back on ice rink

Two weeks ago when the Waterfront Committee of Community Board 2 voted in favor of an ice-skating rink in the Greenwich Village segment of Hudson River Park, the rink seemed like a good idea at the time — in concept. This page even endorsed the plan.

However, new developments have given pause for thought. Only three days later, the full board of Community Board 2 voted narrowly against the rink as proposed for a site at Spring St. along the park’s esplanade — actually, partially in the park’s esplanade. C.B. 2 suggested Pier 40 instead be considered as an alternative site.

Assemblymember Deborah Glick and other elected officials whose districts include the proposed rink’s location, including state Senator Martin Connor and Councilmember Christine Quinn, have blasted the process — or lack thereof — surrounding the rink. Friends of Hudson River Park is also against the plan. Yet, the Trust still plans to proceed with building the rink at Spring St. next month.

Initially, the rink had a permanent building over it. Now it’s no longer covered, which means, however, it can’t be used for ice-skating in warm weather. It of course could be used for rollerblading, but that’s what the bikeway is for. So, why the rush to get this $2.3 million rink built when the ice-skating season will be mostly over when it’s completed in March?

Basically, in what has become abundantly clear in the last two weeks — Governor Pataki wants this rink built — badly. It’s prominently listed on the chart of Lower Manhattan Development Corp. projects passed out whenever the governor talks about rebuilding Lower Manhattan. A rink is a feel-good quality of life amenity everyone can relate to. And it will make a great photo opportunity when finished, maybe even with President Bush at the governor’s side during the August Republican National Convention.

Is there any other location for the rink that does not compromise the esplanade space? For example, if there’s not enough electricity for the rink at Pier 25 in Tribeca — an explanation that has been given for pushing the pier north to Spring St. — why not stretch an electric cable from Pier 40, or elsewhere? If we can get electricity from northern Canada, can’t we get adequate juice to Pier 25? Is this even an option? No one knows — except the Trust — because there’s been so little discussion.

The Trust has already cut too many corners with the rink. Most certainly, it could be a tremendous use — but only if the Trust gets their act together, slows down the process and listens to the entire Downtown community, including the community boards.

In addition, Board 2’s overturning its Waterfront Committee’s resolution points to a disconnect and the fact that the committee, purged last winter of veteran members, may not be well balanced. A greater variety of opinions could ultimately help this committee — and the board — function better.