New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is term-limited, meaning his successor will be picked this November in an off-year election and sworn in in 2022. That means for the next year or so, de Blasio is mostly unencumbered by public opinion.
This weekend, he found out there were still some encumbrances, however — even when it came to canceling Donald Trump.
After generating a whole raft of headlines by voiding contracts with the Trump organization in a much-publicized move, including closing the iconic ice-skating rinks in Central Park run by Trump’s company, Mayor de Blasio and his administration retreated on Sunday after an outcry over lost jobs and recreational space. The rinks will be open for another six weeks.
Beyond that? The courts will end up deciding.
Ice skaters in the Manhattan area are well aware of the rinks in Central Park. If you’re a youth hockey player, a figure skater, or the kind of person who might theoretically break a fibula on a first date where the other party thought skating might be “romantic,” it’s the kind of place where you can forget about your worries for a few hours. (Unless you worry about your fibula.)
On Saturday, the New York Post reported the de Blasio administration was closing the park’s two rinks — Wollman Rink and Lasker Rink — because they’re run by the Trump Organization.
“Trump has been impeached from operating the ice rink,” a de Blasio spokesman said Jan. 31, according to the New York Post, as he announced the concession terminations for four Trump Organization-owned properties: The rinks, the Central Park Carousel and the Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point in the Bronx. The move was to have been effective Feb. 26.
At least in the case of the rinks, they usually operate until early April, meaning this would have shaved roughly a month and a half off of the season. Also, no more jobs for the people who worked there.
“Despite our appeals to the City to allow us to continue operations through the duration of the skating season — which would not only save the jobs of nearly 250 individuals who work or otherwise provide services Wollman and Lasker Rinks, but also allow us to continue to provide the numerous public skating sessions and skating and hockey programs that we host on a daily basis — the City rejected our efforts,” the Trump Organization said in a statement, according to the Post.
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Caught in the middle of the political tug-o-war between de Blasio and Trump were those who actually used the rink — including figure skater Serena Sabet, who started a petition to keep the skating venue open.
“I was so upset. I’ve literally skated here since I was 3 years old. …. We know everyone here, it’s like a second family,” the 18-year-old Sabet told the Post. “This is our senior year. So many things have already been ruined.”
Kids these days. You coop them up at home with no socialization for as long as possible because you’re trying to keep them safe (and because teachers unions are being intractable, but shh), and then you ask them to make one little sacrifice so that the de Blasio administration can deliver a sick burn like “Trump has been impeached from operating the ice rink,” and all of a sudden they get emotional.
And then there were figure skating teachers like Marc Weitzman, who’s been at the Wollman Rink for 12 years.
“I understand politics, I get it, but I think in this particular situation who ends up getting hurt are the children and all of us that teach here,” Weitzman told the Post.
Eventually, de Blasio realized the collateral damage from this tiff and reversed course — kind of.
“New York City kids deserve all the time on the ice they can get this year. The Wollman and Lasker rinks will stay open under current management for the few weeks left in this season,” City Hall Press Secretary Bill Neidhardt announced Sunday.
“But make no mistake, we will not be doing business with the Trump Organization going forward. Inciting an insurrection will never be forgotten or forgiven.”
It’s unclear how that’ll work. According to The New York Times, the Trump organization plans to sue the city for breach of contract while the city contends the Jan. 6 Capitol incursion was its justification.
“Mr. de Blasio has said the city had the right to cancel the contracts because the violence in Washington qualified as criminal activity,” The Times reported.
Even still, Eric Trump thanked Blasio for letting the rinks remain open.
.@NYCMayor Mr. Mayor – Thank You for keeping Wollman and Lasker Rinks open — you’ve just made countless NYC families (along w our 250 employees) incredibly happy. This is a bright moment for New York and please know we appreciate it. I look forward to saying “thanks” in person.
— Eric Trump (@EricTrump) February 21, 2021
Now, I know what a lot of you might be thinking: Bill de Blasio thought people would elect him president? The guy who thought it would be good publicity to close an outdoor skating rink, a venue for exercise, fresh air and bonhomie, all in the middle of the pandemic, all because it was run by the Trump Organization?
I’d posit this isn’t about closing the rinks on the pretense of the Capitol incursion, however. It’s trying to erase Donald Trump’s legacy in a way much deeper than that.
Wollman Rink, a longtime fixture at the south end of Central Park, had been in disrepair for years and the city of New York was only making it worse when it started renovations on it 41 years ago.
From The New York Times in 1986: “Reconstruction of Wollman, closed in 1980 for what was supposed to be a $9.1 million, two-and-a-half-year rehabilitation, has been trouble-ridden from the beginning. The project was delayed repeatedly by errors in design and planning, and last year it was halted because of leaks in its new refrigeration system.
“After a $200,000 study, a consulting concern hired by the city said it could not pinpoint the cause of the leaks. City officials then decided to start over, using an old technology,” The Times reported.
“So far, the city has spent $12 million on Wollman, and it expects to spend $2 million more before repairs are finished.”
In May of 1986, Trump took over construction from the city under an agreement with then-Mayor Edward Koch.
“I don’t want my name attached to losers,” Trump said, according to The Times. “So far, the Wollman Rink has been one of the great losers. I’ll make it a winner.”
He did. Trump originally promised to fix the problems in six months. According to Bloomberg, he finished it two months ahead of schedule and well under budget.
And now, de Blasio wants to take it away under the pretense of punishing Trump for the events of Jan. 6. That’s doesn’t quite feel like what this is about, though. This is a battle between the city incompetently run by de Blasio and the ice-skating rink Donald Trump rebuilt to prove how incompetently the city was being run in decades past.
The kids, the employees — if their interests had to be sacrificed to make a point, so be it.
Thirty-five years after Donald Trump made a laughingstock out of Gotham officialdom, they’d finally come to repay the favor.
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