Brooklynites fight to save hockey rink at local park from being demolished

Local hockey fans won’t let their beloved rink go without a fight.

Di Gilio Playground, at Avenue F and McDonald Avenue, which has included a hockey rink since the 1970s, is scheduled for an overhaul. However, the renovation plans – funded through an allocation secured by City Councilmember David Greenfield — do not include the rink, which is still utilized by hundreds of Brooklynites, according to users of the rink who are trying to save it.

Leading them is lifelong Brooklyn resident Andrew Lupo, who started a Facebook page, Brooklyn Roller Hockey, which has over 600 members seeking to preserve the rink which, he said, is due to be replaced with “a jungle gym for the kids.”

Although the league the rink once hosted no longer exists, Lupo states that there are countless locals who still play pick-up games there. “It’s been used every weekend for past seven years,” said Lupo, who contends that it holds a special significance. “It brings people together. It kept all of us off streets and playing sports. It’s important to us. It’s a staple of the community and it has shown over the years that it’s still being used. It is part of old time Brooklyn.

“He [Greenfield] says that it [a jungle gym] is what the neighborhood calls for,” Lupo noted. “We’re saying we use the park as well and that there are other spaces in the park that can be eliminated, such as the bleacher area.”

Community Board 14 recently approved the playground redesign. “The schematic design was presented to the committee in November and it excluded a hockey rink,” said Chairperson of CB 14 Alvin Berk. “The opinion among members was that the first obligation was to support local needs for expanded areas for parents with children. The hockey rink occupied so much space and was not used enough to justify the crowded conditions that would’ve ensued.”

“Together with the local community board, the councilman engaged in a long review of the best use of Di Gilio Playground,” added a spokesperson for Greenfield. “The results of that review proved that the hockey rink is rarely if ever used. The new design will include more play equipment for children, walking paths and a brand new adult fitness area. As a result, thousands of children, adults and seniors will make use of an empty space. That’s why this plan has the overwhelming support of the local community and the unanimous support of the community board.”

The city’s Parks Department concurred. “When redesigning Di Gilio Playground, NYC Parks carefully considered the various needs of the community,” said Spokesperson Maeri Ferguson. “We based our design in part on a lack of permit requests for and usage of the hockey rink, and we presented our design at a community board meeting. It was determined that the playground is overcrowded, and does not offer adequate play space for children.

“As an alternative [to the Di Gilio rink],” she added, “the nearby Rappaport Playground also features a hockey rink available for use.”

“This is simply not enough to accommodate the growing sport,” Lupo said. “With the Islanders coming to Brooklyn this year, they should be looking to expand the options.”

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