For the past four decades, Figure Skating in Harlem and Ice Hockey in Harlem has worked to bring students from underserved New York City communities onto the ice while supporting them in the classroom. As the only organizations across all five boroughs to leverage ice-based sports to promote educational achievement, we support thousands of children as they develop into confident young adults, both on and off the ice.
Core to our belief is that all children should have access to youth sports and ice programming. Yet, for both economic and social reasons, this isn’t the case. Not only has it become increasingly difficult for all children to participate due to growing inequality, it’s also even more difficult to find access to ice rinks. As both of our programming have expanded and the number of students we serve grows, it’s become difficult to find state-of-the-art rink space and ice time to meet our needs. The coveted weekend morning hours, when students aren’t in school or don’t have other responsibilities in the evening, is when we desperately need skating time.
In a city like New York, where there is no shortage of basketball courts or open fields for baseball, track and everything else, there is an obvious lack of ice rinks accessible for our communities.
Which is why we’re incredibly excited about the new plans for the famous Wollman Rink in Central Park.
The City’s Park Department has selected Wollman Park Partners as the new recommended operator for Wollman Rink, who has already created a big, inclusive tent of community partnerships with local organizations to make the rink as inclusive and accessible as possible.
As two of Wollman Park Partners’ community partners, we will expand our youth programming to reach more kids and provide additional employment opportunities for our older participants and alumni. It also offers an opportunity for our students – who come from communities that time and again face social and economic barriers to the city’s wealth of cultural and sporting institutions – to finally experience all the benefits that more privileged communities readily touch.
As we emerge from a global pandemic, which had a profound impact on our students and their academic and professional growth, prioritizing inclusion and accessibility has never been more important. We must ensure all New Yorkers are aided in the City’s recovery so nobody is left behind and we set the next generation up for success.
As the rink’s potential new operator, Wollman Park Partners has pledged to promote diversity over profits, which allows us to help even more students because of their generosity and belief in New York.
We hope New Yorkers are excited about the upcoming winter skating season, where we look forward to getting back on the ice and creating lasting memories for youth and adults alike.
Sharon Cohen is the Founder and CEO of Figure Skating in Harlem. Todd Levy is the Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Ice Hockey in Harlem.