Rising Demand for a Bronx Ice Skating Rink

Van Cortlandt Park

Van Cortlandt Park (EddieC3)

By Alison Greaney

Van Cortlandt Park, encompassing 1,146 acres in the northwest Bronx, has long been a favorite outdoor destination for borough residents. It featured the country’s first public golf course and has the Bronx’s largest freshwater lake. Now the community is hoping that a new attraction will finally be built: an outdoor public ice skating rink. Construction was due to begin in November 2011. However, the plans have been repeatedly delayed.

Bronxites say they are excited to welcome this winter sport to the borough. The ice skating rink would be located on the now unused tennis courts in Van Cortlandt Park right near 242 Street and Broadway. Mayor Michael Bloomberg first announced the plan for the rink at his State of the City address. There are several city agencies and committees that must coordinate and give their approval in order to get the rink built.

People in the Bronx have anticipated the rink for years. In the borough, there aren’t many winter activities that are fun for all ages, and Bronxites say it is long overdue. There hasn’t been a large skating facility in the Bronx since the 1980s. Other boroughs in New York City have skating rinks, Bronxites say, why shouldn’t we?

Sports of winter: skating on Van Cortland Park Lake, New York City. (1894)

Sports of winter: skating on Van Cortland Park Lake, New York City, 1894. (NYPL)

“This neighborhood really doesn’t have a place anymore where kids can go with their friends to have fun for hours doing an actual activity,” says Doreen McMahon, a lifelong Bronx resident. “I welcome this ice skating rink with open arms.” McMahon recalls fond memories of her skating days with friends at the old rink on Broadway and 236 Street by the former Stella D’Oro cookie factory — its tantalizing aroma from treats in the over wafted into her nostrils as she glided along, with icy wind on her face. She says she is very hopeful for the installment of the new rink.

Cary Goodman, executive director of the 161 Street Business Improvement District, expresses his high expectations for the rink. “I’m delighted that Mayor Bloomberg decided to bring a rink to the Bronx. Hopefully, with the help from sponsors, it will be a free rink for people from all over the Bronx, and it will provide lessons and clinics for people to enjoy themselves,” Goodman says. “Now we’ll be able to bring developmental programs to kids to get them involved with skating.”

Mr. Goodman’s organization was the guiding force in the installment of a small ice skating rink in the former Concourse Plaza Hotel on 161st Street in the Bronx. However, it was no easy feat to get it started, he says. There were many bumps and difficulties but now there is a place for kids to get skating lessons in that neighborhood. It is a very small facility, so a similar venue at Van Cortlandt Park would be a welcome addition to the borough, he says.

Van Cortlandt Park (EddieC3)

Van Cortlandt Park (EddieC3)

Because of the rink’s proposed location, many local businesses could potentially benefit from the increased foot traffic. In the cold winter months, the area can become somewhat desolate after dark. The future ice skating rink will draw new customers for the strip of stores along Broadway and 242 Street.

Meghan Cawley, manager of a local steakhouse, likes the idea of a rink. “We welcome the skaters. It sounds like it will be a great activity for families,” she says. “The ice skating rink will be good for our neighborhood and hopefully good for our businesses.”

The benefits to the neighborhood and the local economy make the rink worth the effort, Bronx officials and residents say. “All it will take is cooperation amongst community groups, local businesses, and city officials,” Goodman says.

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