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Roller skating and roller blading in Times Square in NYC
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Let me tell you—roller skaters need more space in NYC

There aren’t enough smooth surfaces and roller rinks for NYC’s roller skaters.

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver

"Let Me Tell You" is a series of columns from our expert editors about NYC living, including the best things to do, where to eat and drink, and what to see at the theater. They publish each Tuesday so you’re hearing from us each week.

We all had our ways of getting through the pandemic. Sourdough starters. Animal Crossing. Repainting the walls. Watching the garbage fire that was Tiger King.

But for me, roller skating was the best escape.

There was no better feeling than tying on my brand-new blue suede roller skates and taking my first—uneasy—strides forward. The great outdoors was mine to roll on. I hadn’t glided on skates since my elementary school’s skate nights at Sparkles, exactly what you’d imagine as the epitome of a roller rink in the ’90s.

But unlike bikes, getting back on roller skates after almost three decades is not as easy as relying on muscle memory.

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Stopping and starting, turning and hopping over cracks in the cement are skills that need to be relearned and practiced until one gets over the fear of falling. After all, one crack could send me careening, and one pebble could cause a world of pain.

Still, every spring, my excitement to get out on the pavement kicks in around April 1. But there’s one issue: finding where to skate.

Using in-line skates and roller skating—a pastime championed by Black culture throughout the Civil Rights era and beyond—is allowed at select skate parks throughout the city. There are nearly 40 skate parks across the five boroughs, and NYC Parks offers weekly indoor rolling skating at St. John’s Recreation Center in Brooklyn.

There are also free, outdoor roller disco nights like upcoming ones at the Blake Hobbs and Anne Loftus playgrounds as well as a superhero skate party at Watson Gleason Playground for kids this spring. Everyone knows about the Skater’s Circle at the northeast corner of Sheep Meadow in Central Park, too. 

Shaye’s roller skates
Photograph: Shaye Weaver for Time Out New York | Shaye’s roller skates

But I’ve only counted a couple of permanent roller skating rinks around the city (Staten Island’s RollerJam USA and Pier 2, for example), with just a few summer-only pop-ups around town, including at LeFrak Center at Lakeside Prospect Park.

You probably remember the big Roller Boogie Palace at Rockefeller Center and how Central Park’s Wollman Rink turned into a rink two summers ago.

These pop-ups have been particularly exciting to skaters looking to take their hobby out on the town because when it comes down to it, there need to be even more spaces for roller skating in NYC.

In my case, I typically scope out my Queens neighborhood’s volleyball court to see if it’s empty because it’s the only smooth surface I feel comfortable rolling on. There aren’t too many cracks, and my wheels don’t shudder because the pavement’s as smooth as butter. The secret is out; multiple times, I’ve been randomly joined by strangers on skates and we share a knowing nod as they join me on the court.

But the nearest skate park is full of young men and boys on skateboards, leaving little room for my measured moves. If the skate park and the volleyball court are full, I look to empty basketball and soccer courts, but they are extremely bumpy and cracked. Sometimes I use the bike/skate lane at the park, but for a beginner, the outdoors can be like a minefield.

Even outdoor wheels (the softer the wheel, the better for outdoor skating) can’t stop a beginner from spilling.

Frustratingly, most of the city’s roller skating rinks closed between 2005 and 2007, according to, which identifies decent skating spots and notes the quality of the skate.

(For example, for the paths in Astoria Park, it says: “The park is hilly and I suspect busy with baby carriages, small children, etc., during the daytime, so be careful and considerate if you skate here at that time.”)

This kind of insider knowledge is appreciated and shared among skaters, but I wish it weren’t necessary. 

Roller skaters deserve more space: more skating rinks, more smooth trails and lanes and special roller skating hours. Plus, it’d be pretty awesome to see NYC provide venues for this historically Black sport to thrive and be celebrated.

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