by Kate Racovolis and Carly MacLeod
The Bryant Park ice skating rink, Citi Pond, opened on Friday, October 28, with hundreds of New Yorkers and tourists lining up for opening day of its seventh annual season. The only ice skating rink in Manhattan that is free to the public remains so due to a collaboration of Citi Pond, The Bryant Park Corporation and Upsilon Ventures, who fund, develop and produce the event from start to finish. The park also features attractions for non-skating visitors, with over 125 vendors in kiosks selling everything from jewelry and crepes to pickles and puppets.
Sar Inbar, director of business development at the property development firm Upsilon Ventures, wouldn't divulge how much it costs to keep the rink running from October to February, but he says its underwriters will do whatever it takes to keep the ice skating rink free in the years to come.
"Bryant Park is a cherished winter wonderland," Inbar said. "For us, the magic is in the public-private partnership, in the way you can activate a space that is free for the community," while raising awareness of his company, Upsilon Ventures.
On opening night the crowd was initially thin compared to previous years, when as many as 1,000 people have attended, according to City Pond representative Karlie Kayser. The Zamboni resurfaced the ice with precision, and after some thirty minutes watching the grooming, the crowd was ready for some action.
Introduced by the boisterous and professionally-conducted drumroll of Hillside Elemtary School's "Drums of Thunder" performance, the "Haydenettes," the U.S. National synchronized skating champions, sailed on to the ice in unison. Entering the rink with nothing but the sound of the blades under their shoes slicing the ice, they executed perfect arabesques, which distracted the audience from the increasing cold.
Jessica Rosario, 31, brought her daughter and niece from the Bronx to be among the first to get their skates on and make some of the first tracks at Byrant Park. "We came last year and the girls love it, it's fun," Rosario said. "The crowd is not that bad today. Last year was crazy when we came in February on the second last day. It was packed." Rosario also said that the free admission is a bonus, because the public can visit as many times as they like in a year, and "that's why it's so popular."
But the early snow just a day later set a different tone. While Frank Sinatra's voice still rang throughout the park, the slush and chilly temperature kept the usual crowd away from the newly-opened rink. Workers at the winter kiosks, like Donna Farkas, who is back at Bryant Park for the third year selling handmade jewelry, felt the effects of the unseasonal weather. Gesturing to her empty kiosk, Farkas said "This is not normal for October, certainly not snow. Normally on an October Saturday, I'm very busy." Farkas planned to close her shop early that evening.
Emily O'Connell, a New Yorker, who is preparing to move to California next week planned her weekend around visiting her favorite places in New York to take pictures. "This is my last hoorah," O'Connell said. "The weather won't change any of my plans."
U.S. National Champion synchronized ice skaters the "Haydenettes" took center stage at Byrant Park's Citi Pond on opening night. Photo: Kate Racovolis