A beloved roller rink known as the beating heart of New York City’s skate community shuttered suddenly this week, after it was no longer able to operate out of the Salvation Army gymnasium where it has hosted biweekly skate sessions for more than a decade.
Brooklyn Skates announced its sudden closure via Instagram on Wednesday, imploring followers to help it find a new location to call home.
“Unfortunately the rumors are true,” the post read. “We're unable to keep using the space in Bed-Stuy for our skate nights.”
The skate sessions had been on a hiatus for the month of August and were slated to restart on Wednesday. But skate instructor Edward Jacobs, 58, told Gothamist the Salvation Army decided not to let the roller-skaters return, opting instead to expand the hours of a youth basketball league they’d shared the space with for the past two years.
Jacobs said the Salvation Army had resurfaced the floor six months ago — its first time doing so in more than a decade — and he’d heard basketball players complaining that the skaters who used the space twice a week were scuffing the new wax.
“They used to tell me, ‘Don’t set the chairs up, you’re not skating tonight,’” he said.
In a statement to Gothamist, the Salvation Army said it was ending skate nights at the Bed-Stuy space to make room for other programming.
"Across the 18 community centers we operate in the five boroughs, we offer after-school programs, cooling and heating centers, senior programs, basketball and other sports, music and art classes, ESL classes, food pantry and feeding programs, and other critical services," the statement read. "To better meet the needs of the local community and ensure the wellbeing and safety of all our clients and staff, the Salvation Army will no longer run skate nights at our Bed-Stuy gymnasium, but will continue to serve the community through other programs and services."
Roller-skaters first started using the Bed-Stuy gym, originally called Crazy Legs Skate Club, after its founding by the late skating icon Lezly Ziering in 2008 — the year after Empire Roller Skating Center shut down in Crown Heights. In recent years it catered to an older, more experienced crowd of skaters, but the pandemic saw an upswing in interest in the sport, and many younger skaters who were new to roller-skating became regulars at the venue.
A petition put out on Tuesday calling on people to help find Brooklyn Skates a new home garnered nearly 500 signatures overnight. Nasilele Holland, 41, started the petition after hearing the news from an assistant manager at the rink. Since she started skating earlier this year, she said the rink has become like her home. She’d go twice a week, and stay until midnight, when the disco ball stopped spinning and the fluorescent lights blinked back on.
“It’s like you gotta sweep me out of here with a broom,” Holland said. “I feel like I haven’t felt that type of community since I was a child.”
She added, “I’m devastated, honestly. I’ve stopped myself from crying a few times.”
Edwards said he’s already on the hunt for a new place to set up shop, and that he’d been talking to realtors and had a few leads.
“People are gonna be hurt, same thing when all the rinks closed,” said Edwards, a near lifelong skater who watched all of his favorite haunts shutter in the early 2000s, from Empire in Crown Heights, to the Roxy in Chelsea, and Hot Skates in the Bronx. “Everybody’s hurt and all you can do is just get over it.”
This story has been updated to include comment from the Salvation Army.