Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Empire Rink Supporters Fighting Closure

There's a report in the new City Limits on the rally held by Project Empire this past weekend to protest the closing of the Empire Roller Skating Rink. The group gathered outside the rink--which is slated to close and be converted to a storage facility next month--on Saturday to, in the words of the writer, "voice their pain and anger about the loss of such a vital recreation resource." City Council Members Charles Barron and Leticia James were among the speakers. According to the report:
Unlike many others, these politicians recognize and acknowledge that Empire Roller Rink is a cultural and historical landmark that should be preserved.

Members of the skating community had strong reactions to the anticipated closing of the rink in April. Many were brought to tears. Sophia Dawson, 19, member of the Brooklyn HYPE skate team I created, gathered with her fellow team members, aged 12 to 19. Breaking into tears, she shared, “It is not just skating … this is my family.” Spry, the program director of HYPE, expressed discontent with the new owner’s decision to build a storage facility. “How dare you come into our community and decide what we need without consulting us?” shouted Spry. “What the new owners need to understand is that we will not support you in the tearing down of a facility that means so much to us.”

I wonder where the children will go. Skating is therapeutic for children – it provides an outlet for them to escape the stress in their lives. If this rink is shut down they will end up in the lobbies of our buildings getting high, on the corners selling drugs. We need to invest in this building and make it a multi service recreation center that can be a safe haven for these kids to keep them off the street and out of trouble. A former Empire employee, Jackie, and other loyal skaters from Project Empire spoke passionately about what the closing of Empire means to them and verbally solicited stars like Oprah and Brooklyn native Jay Z to donate funds to the restoration of Empire Roller Skating Rink.
Another Brooklyn institution about to bite the dust, this one raising very legitimate questions about the lack of recreational opportunities for young people in many Brooklyn neighborhoods.

[Photo courtesy joshbousel/flickr]

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