Here's a story from this week's Riverdale Review and Bronx Press.
By Brendan McHugh
There will be no ice-skating in the Bronx this winter.
After months of delays, the Department of Parks and Recreation says the electrical upgrade needed to operate a skating rink will not be completed in time to operate this season.
This puts a black eye on Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy, who partnered together to bring a full-size rink to the Bronx, Bloomberg said in his 2011 State of the City address at the beginning of this year.
"Parks has explored every possible means of bringing ice skating to the Bronx this winter. The engineering and capital construction issues involved with bringing the power needed for a skating rink make it necessary to forgo, for this season, what we had hoped would be a fun activity for all,” Bronx Parks Commissioner Hector Aponte.
The electrical hookup, needed for a rink of any size, will require the installation of an underground vault that will not be ready this winter.
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The conservancy had been discussing the rink’s logistics with Con Edison and Ice Rink Events as far back as summer 2010.
The initial plans for the borough’s only skating rink were delayed time and time again, and when it appeared too late for this year, the parks department attempted to save face by offering the community a temporary, smaller skating rink that would only run this season. However, this irked the community board, because the new, smaller rink did not have to go through a public hearing.
Last week, Community Board 8 overwhelmingly passed a resolution that stated they “deplore” the parks department’s decision “to circumvent the public-review process by installing a “mini” rink in Van Cortlandt Park.”
The “mini” rink would be a permit project, meaning it could have only operated for 29 days and would not have to go through an approval process.
The community board had scheduled and subsequently cancelled five public hearings to discuss the plans for the initial rink—a 15-year, seasonal skating rink that needs to go before the Franchise and Concessions Review Committee (FCRC).
Community Board 8 was also planning on holding a public forum on the rink in January; it is unclear if they will go forth with the hearing. Either way, the board will continue to monitor the full-size rink’s progress and, when the plans go before the city’s FCRC, will offer a recommendation to the committee.
The FCRC has the only vote on the project.
“In that process, we do have a say,” said Community Board 8 parks committee chairman Bob Bender. “We are notified before any proposal goes to the FCRC.”
“We do have an opportunity to give our opinion,” he added.
Aponte says the city will attempt to bring a rink to the area next year.
“We continue to work with the community, Con Edison, and Ice Rink Events to finalize plans to deliver a full-size rink in time for a full season of skating beginning next fall,” he said.
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, a stern critic of the way the parks department has handled the public’s requests for more information, said he hopes this new, longer delay will give the city a chance to complete this project hand in hand with the community.
“While I am disappointed that the Bronx will not have a skating rink this winter, this delay presents a golden opportunity to do this the right way,” he said. “I have consistently been supportive of the Bronx having an ice skating rink, but I have been critical of the closed and undemocratic process being used to implement it. Since we live in a democracy, a democratic process isn't asking too much."
Community board member Charles Moerdler said the delay of the project is a victory for the process, which was of a major concern for the board after the parks department continued to withhold information about the rink.
“That is an unfortunate thing for the community, but a good thing for the public process,” he said.
Shane Coppola, CEO of American Skating Entertainment Centers (ASEC), was irked that the city was going to allow Ice Rink Events to see how well the project works before making the long-term commitment.
Coppola also estimates that the fixed costs to build the rink is between $50,000 and $75,000, not including personnel, electricity, payment to the city and other variable costs. He also didn’t expect to see Ice Rink Events turn a profit in the 29-day rink.
“If you’re not open by Christmas, you're in trouble,” he said in a phone interview.