More than 1,000 people have signed an online petition urging the city to rethink a redesign of the Lasker Pool and rink in the northern section of the park. The $150 million project reimagines the entire Northeast section of the park, attempting to better connect various natural areas and upgrade the current pool and ice rink. The groundbreaking is planned for spring 2021.
But the petitioners worry that the new pool and rink will be too small for the growing population that lives near that section of the park, and result in fewer people being able to play hockey in the winter. “I’m at Harlem Meer almost every single day and love the prospect of an upgrade but a good friend shared concerns about the details,” wrote Kim Watkins in a message sharing the petition on Twitter. “Shrinking the pool is NOT acceptable! That’s not equity. Uptown families need MORE space not less.”
The petition says that the pool will be shrunk to less than two-thirds of the current size and removes the wading pool for kids. In the winter, the ice area in the winter will shrink from two rinks to one.
Any plan that downsizes the ice skating facilities at Lasker will penalize all of the Central Park ice hockey players, their opponents and their fans. The only two other locations for competitive ice hockey in Manhattan — Chelsea Piers and Riverbank State Park — are currently operating at or near full capacity with no plans to expand once Lasker closes. Removing the ice hockey location at Lasker in Central Park slashes ice hockey and ice skating as affordable recreational amenities for present and future generations to enjoy in New York City’s most well-known park.”
But the Central Park Conservancy, which is footing two-thirds of the bill for the project, says that the petitioners have some numbers wrong — and that the logistics of upgrading a very outdated facility make it impossible to keep the current dimensions. The conservancy responded to the petition in a point-by-point explanation below:
- The existing facility is failing and cannot be renovated. It must be replaced.
- Ever since Lasker was constructed, chronic flooding—a result of diverting the historic watercourse into a culvert—has had a devastating impact on the site and the facility.
- The rink infrastructure is failing, and the refrigerant it uses is banned—it can no longer be manufactured or imported as of January 2020; the rink will not be viable in the near-term when the refrigerant runs out.
- The pool bottom is failing, and the pool leaks chronically and excessively. The heaving of the pool bottom during the process of freezing it for skating has compromised its integrity. It is beyond repair.
- A pool as large as the existing one cannot be constructed with as building as small
The existing facility does not comply with current code and operational requirements for support space and amenities (toilets, showers, staff space, etc.), nor with current federal accessibility standards or local sustainability standards required of new public buildings. A new facility is required to comply with current codes and standards—including NYC Building Code, NYC Health Code, ADA, and NYC Energy Code, among others—which requires more space.
- We have designed the largest possible pool and rink that can meet current requirements and function on the site
The new facility is designed to provide the largest possible pool and rink that can fit on the site given (1) current code and operational requirements, and (2) the need to restore the disrupted connection between the Loch and Meer, which has caused flooding of the facility ever since it was constructed.
- The new pool and rink will be more than 75% the size of the existing (not less than two-thirds, as rumored)
It will still be larger than an Olympic size pool, and one of the largest public pools in the city. It will continue to be one of the few pools in the city to accommodate 50-meter lap swimming.
- The existing facility is one pool that converts to a rink (not a “Pool and Rinks Complex”)
- The existing facility was designed as a single sheet of ice. The current operator uses fixed partitions to divide it into two areas for concurrent uses, diminishing the recreational skating experience.
- Like the existing facility, the new design includes one sheet of ice. Unlike the existing, it will provide a full-size rink for recreational skating, which will also be able to accommodate regulation hockey (the existing rink provides for neither).
- The new rink can also be divided using deployable partitions to accommodate concurrent programming.
- The wading pool will be replaced by a splash pad, expanding water play opportunities for young children
- A splash pad is being provided instead of a wading pool because the Parks Department, like many municipalities, has moved away from providing wading pools due to increasing health and safety concerns and requirements, and has begun converting existing wading pools to splash pads.
- Splash pads have the benefit of significantly expanding the season of use (because they don’t require lifeguards), serving a much broader age-range, and being universally accessible.
- Children learning to swim may use the main pool with an adult, as does Parks Aquatics staff for their Learn-to-Swim programs.
The conservancy also sent the following statement.
“The project is designed to improve the quality of life for the millions of Park users who will benefit from this major redevelopment in the Park’s north end by repairing the damaged historic landscape and restoring the disrupted stream course between the North Woods and the Harlem Meer, which has caused flooding of the current facility ever since it was constructed in the 1960s. The failing facility must be completely replaced, as it is beyond repair. The new facility has been designed to provide the largest pool/rink possible on the site while complying with today’s codes and restoring the natural water flow between the Loch and Meer. Unlike the existing facility, the new facility will be open and accessible to the local community year-round.”
The Parks Department also sent the following response: “The most important aspect of this transformative project will be our ability to create a place that provides the millions who visit, especially the surrounding community, with a world-class facility that is more welcoming and can better serve all who come to the Harlem Meer for generations to come.”
As a Harlem resident, I think this is a wonderful project. The Conservancy team has gone to great lengths to meet a variety of community interests, including birders, general park users, and naturalists within the historic and landmarked perimeters of the Park.
Bitch Bitch Bitch
This looks and sounds like a terrific renovation, done with thoughts for the long run and care for the community. The Conservancy has been doing an amazing job of revitalizing one of the great public spaces of our city, for the benefit of all.
The pool at 100th and Amsterdam is tiny and could badly use some similar thought and energy. It’s in a large and sparsely filled and run-down playground, and there also isn’t an issue with flooding, I imagine. Maybe the petitioners could instead ask the Parks Department to expand that pool and/or create a small rink in the area for younger skaters and ice hockey players.
“A pool as large as the existing one cannot be constructed with as building as small”
The existing facility does not comply with current code and operational requirements for support space and amenities (toilets, showers, staff space, etc.)…then change the code, because Lasker pool as it is has more than enough toilets, showers, etc.
You can’t partition a single sheet of ice to allow a hockey game to occur at the same time as anything else. At least not when the kids are more than 8 years old. Hockey pucks don’t stay in the ice. They are lifted off the ice and fly through the air. Hockey rinks are surrounded with plexiglass so nobody gets hit with a puck. Even the existing Lasker has a chain link fence. You can’t have hockey happening simultaneously with anything. So there will be many fewer games for children and for the adults who play at night.
Obviously if there is less total ice area partitioning the rink to allow concurrent programs still won’t allow as many people to skate at once. Most kids who play hockey have well-off parents who will find another place for them to play. Not so for Ice Hockey in Harlem and North Stars special hockey. I fear these programs will be squeezed out in favor of others that bring in more money.
My son practically grew up playing hockey at Lasker. I can say from my experience that a reduction to one rink will devastate the youth and adult programs that use the rinks there. It is true that neither rink is regulation, but one regulation rink simply won’t be able to accommodate even a fraction of the activity that takes place there now. Having one rink means that there can only be two teams on the ice at a time for games. Two rinks means four teams can play.
Perhaps more important is the impact on the number of kids who can practice if one rink is eliminated. The two rinks can accommodate at least four teams or even more for practices. It’s not ideal, but there is simply not enough ice in the city for programs like Ice Hockey In Harlem, the special needs programs, Central Park Hockey, etc. Lasker performs a invaluable service by exposing kids who ordinarily wouldn’t be able play hockey because of economic reasons as well as functions as a feeder for youth programs all over the city when its players age out. There is not a program in the city that doesn’t have former Lasker kids on their rosters. There must be a better way.
Turn the space into a parking lot for all the cars that cannot park on Central Park West due to the bike lane.
I have been going to Lasker pool for 40 years my grandson, fourth generation is 8 years old has been enjoying this site all his life don’t take away our joy of swimming by downsizing please!!!!!!!
To have a modern larger-than-olympic sized pool in the summer and regulation size skating rink in the winter nearby is more than most residents in this city have. And people complain. Gees.
This current generic oval Design should be rejected and replaced by a more natural design that will have greater rec and sport usage and capacity. The current Design severely disrupts Olmsted’s intended public use and participation in nature at the Park/Meer/Ravine.
The Design also adds several brand new costly islands developments in around the currently peaceful Meer, it’s not just replacing the old facility.
A more complimentary and “natural” lake-like looking Rockaquarium-type design will enable both recreational and 50 meter lap swimming, as well as a regulation rec/hockey/figure skating to occur concurrently, and per person capacity would be greater. Example: https://lakesideseahawks.org/about/
The Central Park Conservancy design team is ignoring a free flowing natural lake-like design pool/rink design option, and instead is choosing a Walt Disney World looking generic oval eyesore to replace the current eyesore.
Also and importantly, their argument for splash-pads is not forthcoming, these splash pads are already existing at the Meer and all around the Park and the City. Splash pads do not encourage one to learn how to swim. The Design replaces the shallow learning pool for splash pads because they want to save money with less Lifeguards.
The cost of Lifeguards are a small investment for local community members children to LEARN HOW TO SWIM. You can’t learn how to swim in a splash pad – or ice it over in the winter!
Please attend the Public Design Commission meeting at City Hall on the 3rd floor on Tuesday, February the 18th at 10:30am to help stop this current design until the Conservancy address these huge design mistake. A mistake that will take up a large portion of one of the most quiet corner of our Park.
It’s important to rebuild this highly used facility with as small environmental footprint as possible, and with a more aesthetically natural appearance, while maintaining it’s important capacity to serve recreational and sports enthusiastic alike.
Why has no one suggested the obvious: Open The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir to recreational swimming? I’m confident she would approve.
You’re welcome. My consulting invoice is in the mail.