There are no plans on the drawing board yet but the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) is considering a major re-development of the famed Abe Stark Rink in Coney Island where ice skaters have dreamed of Olympic glory and hockey players have shot the puck for decades.
EDC officials confirmed that the 48-year-old ice rink is due for a makeover.
“We see tremendous potential in revitalizing the Abe Stark Rink to deliver more recreation options to the Coney Island community,” EDC spokesperson Ryan Birchmeier told this newspaper.
The agency has not issued a Request for Proposals (RFP), a first step in any re-development process.
But Councilmember Mark Treyger, who represents Coney Island, said he is concerned that once the process starts, EDC will move forward too quickly and that neighborhood residents won’t get a say in what is built at the site.
Abe Stark Rink is located between Surf Avenue and the Riegelmann Boardwalk between West 19th and West 20th streets
Treyger said his concerns were heightened recently when he spotted a flier on a Coney Island street from a Brazilian developer which listed various amenities to be built at the eight-acre Abe Stark site, including condos. The flier alarmed Coney Island residents, Treyger said, because the notice made it appear as if the developer already had a deal with EDC.
Community Board 13 was not informed of any development plans, Treyger said.
Treyger is demanding an explanation from the city. “The community deserves clarity,” he told this newspaper.
The councilmember has asked EDC to hold a public meeting to discuss the future of the Abe Stark site. “I want to hear specifically from the people who live in Coney Island. They must be front and center in this process,” he said.
Under a 2009 zoning change for Coney Island crafted by then-Councilmember Domenic Recchia, any redevelopment of the Abe Stark Rink would have to include an ice rink. But the question of what would surround the rink is up in the air.
The zoning change, which was finalized by the City Council during the Bloomberg administration, envisioned an upgraded amusement area near the Boardwalk with hotels, restaurants and 5,000 units of affordable housing.
Treyger said he would like to see the city build a recreation complex at the site similar to the Aviator Sports facility operating on the former site of Floyd Bennett Field. Aviator, a 30-acre complex, offers everything from ice hockey to golf to lacrosse.
An EDC official said the city is leaning toward expanding the recreational space at Abe Stark and adding community space to the site.
In response to Treyger’s concerns, Birchmeier said Coney Island residents will certainly have input. “We are excited to move this project forward, which will begin with several community meetings to gather input from Coney Island residents that will help shape the future of this community asset,” he said.
Abe Stark Rink, which opened in 1970, is named after Abe Stark (1894-1972) who served three terms as Brooklyn borough president in the 1950s and 1960s, and was known by the nickname “Mr. Brooklyn,” according to the New York City Parks Department’s website.
A tailor by trade, Stark gained fame even before he entered politics. He bought advertising space in Ebbets Field, the stadium where the Brooklyn Dodgers played, and his ad, which was located next to the right-field scoreboard, offered a free suit to any ballplayer who hit the sign during an at-bat.
Today, Abe Stark Rink is used by scores of hockey teams, both children and adult squads, and draws large crowds of ice skaters at public skating sessions held on weekends.
The rink is currently closed for the summer season and is expected to re-open in the fall.