BY GABE HERMAN | With East River Park set to close for three-and-a-half years as part of the East Side Coastal Resiliency flood-protection project, the Parks Department will be renovating and adding green space to other nearby parks.
These planned changes, however, have been causing problems for some users of those other parks. Skateboarders in Tompkins Square Park, for example, have been fighting to keep their pavement, which Parks has proposed covering with artificial turf for youth sports leagues displaced from East River Park.
Ball-hockey players in Tanahey Playground, in the Two Bridges district, are also being affected by plans to install artificial turf there. This project similarly will accommodate displaced youth leagues. But it will be the end of Moffo Rink, which has been there since 1975 and hosts league and pickup hockey games.
The rink is 150 feet long by 85 feet wide, with 4-foot-high boards and hockey lines marked on the pavement. It has hosted games by local leagues Mofo Hockey and Blacktop Street Hockey.
Tanahey Playground is located between Cherry and Water Sts., and Catherine Slip and Market Slip. The Parks plan is to install a synthetic turf soccer field, replacing the hockey rink and a basketball court. Two other basketball courts in the park will stay and be resurfaced and also remain open for other activities like tai chi.
In addition, the park’s seating areas and dog run will be improved, more plantings and better lighting will be added, and the park will get a new paint job.
Some negotiations and work have been required to find a new space for the hockey players who will be displaced. Parks has been in touch with a group of hockey players who use the rink, according to a Parks Department spokesperson. She noted that Parks presented its plan publicly at community board meetings and open houses, and met with the hockey group in late June.
“After the meeting, we adjusted the [construction] schedule so that they would be able to complete the summer season as desired,” the spokesperson said. “Work will begin early fall.”
Discussions are ongoing, according to Parks, which said it will work with the hockey players to find another space for them.
The Community Board 3 Parks, Recreation, Waterfront and Resiliency Committee passed a resolution in July supporting the installation of the turf. The board noted that space was needed for the youth leagues that will be displaced from East River Park, and also that the plan has community support.
“Parks has done outreach to Knickerbocker Village, which directly surrounds the park and they are generally supportive of the improvements,” the resolution added.
Even though the 44-year-old rink’s fate seems to be sealed, there were four speakers who came to the C.B. 3 full-board meeting on July 23 to voice their opposition to the plan during the board’s public session.
One speaker noted there has been a game at the rink every Saturday morning going back 25 years, and that he has been playing there for more than 10 years. He said the Moffo hockey community has grown over time, and now hundreds of people play there each week.
“There’s no other blacktop rink in all of Manhattan,” he said, “but this has the hockey lines, hockey boards. It’s one of a kind.”
He noted that volunteer programs are held there to teach kids to play ball hockey and charity tournaments are held there every year.
A woman named Marcella said she was representing the women who play hockey there, and “young women who deserve the opportunity to play tomorrow.” She noted that studies show the positive impacts of sports for adult women and girls alike, including better grades in school and more positive body images.
“Ball hockey is alive and growing in the women’s community,” she said. “The demolishing of Moffo Rink, in the absence of a plan to commit to a concrete replacement, severely undermines our efforts and adds another barrier for women who are trying to compete in the sport.”
Another advocate said the Two Bridges rink is not only a space for people to stay active, but for people to feel welcome in the community and connect, including transplants to the city, he noted.
Some possible spots floated as replacements, such as Robert Moses Playground, at E. 42nd St. and First Ave., in East Midtown, or West Village locations, wouldn’t offer hockey boards or the same amount of space, according to another man who spoke. Losing Moffo would leave the hockey community without a Manhattan option for the next year or two, he said.
“There isn’t any other spot for us to go,” he said.
There was one speaker in favor of the Parks plan, however. A Knickerbocker Village Tenants Association member said her group does not care whether the space is for hockey or soccer, but just wants to make sure that, as promised, the sidewalks are upgraded, benches are painted, seating is added, plantings are installed, suitable fencing is put in around the new sports complex, and the area is locked at night.
With apologies to the hockey advocates, she said, “We just want to make sure that it’s a safe environment.”