Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood doesn't need yet another visual signifier of rapid-fire gentrification, but it's about to get one anyway: McCarren Park Pool is all set to open as an ice-skating rink in winter.
That will make it one of the few ice-skating venues throughout Brooklyn, at a 35-acre park that has in recent years served as a venue for sunny indie-rock shows and the Williamsburg Film Festival. This is where we insert some miserably overplayed joke about Brooklyn hipsters digging out vintage ice skates from their parents' storage units, right?
As The New York Times reports, the rink will open next month, and its accommodations aren't too shabby:
Now the space is about to take on a new identity, as a venue for winter recreation. On Nov. 15, the plaza will become northern Brooklyn’s first ice-skating rink on parks land and one of only a handful of rinks in the borough. The rink is not huge, but with 7,200 square feet of space, it will accommodate more than 300 skaters.
McCarren Park Pool reopened in 2012 after a $50 million renovation and years of neglect, and a quick glance at its history serves as a nifty microcosm for the astonishing gentrification of Williamsburg since the lost days of the 1980s and early 1990s (as the Times has reminded us again and again and again and again). In brief, the pool wasn't such a sunny place to hang out around the time it finally closed down in 1984; last year, when it reopened, Capital New York took a look back at the days "when a stroll along the Williamsburg waterfront was more likely to turn up a dead body than a hibiscus-flavored donut." Here's how one longtime resident recalled the era:
Jenifer Badamo, who has lived in Williamsburg for 40 years, said her parents wouldn’t allow her to use the pool in the early '80s.
“It was a horror show,” she said.
When she was a girl, she recalls, pool-bound teenagers threw punches and stole bikes as they walked to and from the L and G trains.
Another old-timer recalled gang wars in the neighborhood:
In the '50s and '60s, Kapsouras said, gang wars occasionally erupted between teenage residents of the North and South sides of Williamsburg.
“The South side had The Hellburners, The Lords, and The Mighty Midgets,” he said. “On the North side you had The Continentals, The Young Dukes, and The Turbans. When I was a kid, I’d see them running down Bedford Avenue at each other with bats and canes. And if somebody didn’t have a weapon, they’d rip the antenna off a car and use that.”
For a more vivid glimpse of how the neighborhood looked precisely 30 years, try the 1983 film Vigilante, which, as Brooklyn Vegan noted in 2007, includes a chase scene at the then-abandoned McCarren Park Pool:
For comparison, here's the pool in 2012: