We will be rebuilding the facility to better integrate into the landscape, offer new and enhanced outdoor activities, and increase access for communities around the north end of Central Park.
Our reimagining of the existing rink and pool will be the capstone project of the Central Park Conservancy’s 40-year campaign to restore Central Park. The new, fully accessible facility will be built in the spirit of Central Park’s original design and will provide:
- Year-round programming and expanded recreational opportunities at the Harlem Meer, with increased access to nature
- Enhanced swimming and skating, including a full-scale ice rink, an additional new skating experience on the Meer, a larger than Olympic-size pool, and a new outdoor spray pad
- A facility that serves a broader cross section of Park users, with year-round access to restrooms and amenities and more community programming
- A boardwalk through freshwater marsh plantings at the edge of the water body, which will serve as an ice ribbon for skating in the winter, evoking the feeling of skating on the Meer
- Unhindered access across the north end of the Park—by reconnecting the watercourse that runs through the Ravine so it flows freely into the Harlem Meer and re-establishing the pedestrian path that once ran alongside it
Construction is scheduled to begin in 2021.
A new landscape 40 years in the making
Central Park was designed as an idealized rural landscape, one that would provide New Yorkers an escape from the pace and pressures of city life. Park designers intended for visitors to move seamlessly through a diverse and beautiful sequence of naturalistic settings.
The massive Lasker Rink and Pool facility, completed in 1966, undermines this intention; not only does the building obstruct one of the most stunning views in the Park, but it also acts as a barrier—blocking the connection and community access between the Meer landscape and the rest of the Park, and disrupting the flow of water from the Loch to the Harlem Meer. Serious flaws in the engineering have plagued the existing facility since its construction. The Conservancy has committed to a complete redevelopment, replacing the entire facility with a new one that engages the surrounding landscape and supports a broader vision of Park use.
Since the project was announced in the summer of 2018, the Conservancy has engaged the community extensively through a series of workshops, meetings, and site tours. The purpose of these events has been to involve a broad cross section of the community that uses the Park.
The events were attended by general Park users who live around the Park’s north end, in neighborhoods such as Harlem, East Harlem, Manhattan Valley, and Morningside Heights, as well as regular lap swimmers and summer camps that use the pool; hockey coaches and parents who use the rink; and other specific user groups such as birders, runners, and bicyclists. In addition to these general community meetings, we met with and conducted site tours for community-based organizations.
- August 2, 2018 | Community Launch event and site tours (Dana Discovery Center)
- August 8, 2018 | Community Launch event and site tours (Dana Discovery Center)
- August 29, 2018 |In-Park User Engagement (Lasker Pool and Harlem Meer)
- September 3, 2018 | In-Park User Engagement (Lasker Pool and Harlem Meer)
- September 4, 2018 |In-Park User Engagement (Lasker Pool and Harlem Meer)
- October 13, 2018 | Community Workshop (former CPC Office, 1 East 104 St)
- November 13, 2018 | Community Workshop (Dana Discovery Center)
- October 11, 2018 | In-Park User Engagement (Harlem Meer)
- October 16, 2018 | In-Park User Engagement (Harlem Meer)
- November 19, 2018 | In-Park User Engagement (Harlem Meer)
- November 20, 2018 | In-Park User Engagement (Harlem Meer)
- June 15, 2019 | Community Meeting (Cathedral School at St. John the Divine)
- July 18, 2019 | Community Meeting (Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy)
- August 14, 2019 | Presentation for Taft Houses Tenant Association Executive Committee (Taft Houses)
- August 20, 2019 | Community Site Tours (Lasker site and Ravine)
- August 29, 2019 | Community Site Tours (Lasker site and Ravine)
- August 30, 2019 | Community Site Tours (Lasker site and Ravine)
- September 12, 2019 | Community Meeting (Dana Discovery Center)
- October 7, 2019 |Woodlands Advisory Meeting (Dana Discovery Center)
We began the formal public review process in the fall of 2019 and received resolutions of support from all six of the community boards that surround Central Park. Links to their respective resolutions are below, as well as approval dates and votes tallies.
Full Board Approval
CB5 (Midtown) Landmarks
33 - 0 - 1
CB7 (Upper West Side) Parks & Environment
35 - 0 - 1 - 1
CB8 (Upper East Side) Parks & Waterfront
38 - 1 - 3 - 1
CB9 (Morningside/W. Harlem) Landmarks & Parks
37- 0 - 0
CB10 (Harlem) Parks Committee
30 - 2 - 0
CB11 (E. Harlem) Environment, Parks & Open Space
27 - 0 - 0
This project has received overwhelming support from all involved—from Park users to community boards and community-based organizations. The project also received overwhelmingly favorable support from members of the public representing the Park’s diverse community of users at hearings of the Landmarks Preservation Commission on December 10, 2019 (report), and the Public Design Commission on January 21, 2020 (video).
Public Design Commission Approval — March 30, 2020
The Conservancy is pleased the Public Design Commission took an important step toward restoring equity of access to the Park by unanimously approving the design for a significantly more integrated, accessible, and sustainable pool and rink facility.
Our public parks have a profound impact on the mental and physical health of our City, and this project will help expand the Park’s many benefits to an even larger community. The new design restores the landscape and impaired natural systems and provides a year-round outdoor center that will benefit the collective long-term health of northern Manhattan residents, and all New Yorkers, who look to the Park as a place of sanctuary and wellbeing.
Q: Why can’t you just renovate the existing facility?
The existing facility is failing and cannot be renovated. It is beyond repair and must be replaced. Ever since Lasker was constructed in 1966, it has been plagued by chronic flooding—a result of diverting the historic watercourse into a culvert—which has had a devastating impact on the site and the facility. The rink infrastructure is failing, and the refrigerant it uses is now banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and can no longer be manufactured or imported as of January 2020. The rink will not be viable in the near-term when the refrigerant runs out. The pool bottom is also failing, and the pool leaks chronically and excessively. The heaving of the pool bottom during the process of freezing it for skating has compromised its integrity.
Q: If you must build a new facility, why can’t it just be the same size as the current one?
The existing facility is too big for the site. For more than 50 years, it has been a barrier to broader access to Central Park for the communities at the north end, and it disrupted connection between the Loch and Meer, which has caused flooding of the facility ever since it was constructed.
The new facility is designed to provide the largest possible pool and rink that can fit on the site while re-establishing the broken connection between the Harlem Meer and North Woods as well as complying with current environmental standards and regulatory codes, including NYC Building Code, NYC Health Code, ADA, and NYC Energy Code, among others.
Q: How big will the facility be?
The new pool and rink will be more than 75% of the existing facility’s size. It will still be larger than an Olympic-size pool and will remain the eighth largest pool in New York City—making it one of a handful of City pools that can accommodate 50-meter lap swimming.
Q: Will the new design support existing uses like lap swimming, recreational skating, and hockey programming?
Yes. The new pool will accommodate the same uses as the existing pool, including recreational and lap swimming, and a regulation-size rink will support a robust skating and hockey program. In addition, the new facility will be open year-round to support community-focused programming during the spring and fall.
Q: How will hockey be accommodated at the new facility?
The existing facility was originally designed as a single sheet of ice in the 1960s. The current operator uses fixed partitions to divide it into two narrow, non-regulation rinks for concurrent uses, diminishing the recreational skating experience. Like the existing facility, the new design includes one sheet of ice. However, unlike the existing facility, it will provide a full-size rink for recreational skating, which will also be able to accommodate regulation hockey (the existing configuration provides for neither). The new rink can also be divided using deployable partitions to accommodate concurrent programming.
Q: Can the rink be divided for multiple uses, such as for various age groups that play hockey?
Deployable partitions can be used to divide the rink for multiple uses, such as for learn-to-skate programs, youth hockey for younger kids, figure skating, and recreational skating. While it will not be wide enough to accommodate two concurrent adult or older youth hockey practices or games, a regulation-size rink will be able to support tournaments and championships for youth and adult hockey leagues.
Q: Why are you eliminating the kids’ pool and replacing it with a splash pad?
A splash pad is being provided instead of a wading pool because NYC Parks, like many municipalities, will no longer construct wading pools due to increasing health and safety concerns and requirements. The new splash pad will expand the season of use, serve a much broader age range, and will be universally accessible. Additionally, the new pool has been designed as a zero-entry pool (access from one end will gradually slope into the water), making it more accessible and usable for children and adults of all ages and abilities.
Q: Will the skating rink be made of real or synthetic ice?
The skating rink will be a traditional rink with real ice; synthetic ice will be added to the boardwalk for periods during the winter to allow it to be used for skating along the Meer.
Q: Did you reach out to the community before finalizing the new design?
Since the project was announced in the summer of 2018, the Central Park Conservancy has engaged the community extensively through a series of workshops, meetings, and site tours. We’ve also met with and conducted site tours for various constituent groups, as well as engaged Park patrons through interviews and site tours. Members of surrounding communities participated in one or more of these events, meetings, tours, and interviews. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. We began the formal public review process in the fall of 2019 and received resolutions of support from all six of the community boards surrounding the Park.
Q: What are the current dimensions of the existing facility? What are the dimensions proposed under the new design?
The existing pool/rink is 220 feet by 190 feet. The new facility will take the shape of an elongated oval, at 280 feet by 120 feet. The surface area/capacity of the proposed pool/rink is just over 75% that of the existing pool (26,400 square feet, compared with 34,700 square feet).
The existing rink is divided by the current operator into two narrow, non-regulation rinks (each 198 feet by 68 feet). The new facility will provide a full-size, NHL regulation rink (200 feet by 85 feet) that can support tournaments and/or championships, and serve as a showcase venue for the community.
Q: How many people use the facility now? How many people do you expect will be able to use it in the future?
Based on concession and visitor data provided by NYC Parks, the current facility serves approximately 220,000 patrons while it’s open seasonally in the winter and summer months. Rink and pool attendance is expected to remain comparable to existing use. In addition, the new facility will be open year-round and serve a broader cross section of Park users who will have access to the building and its amenities except in pool season, when most of the facility will be restricted to pool users due to health code requirements.
Q: What kinds of programming can we expect if the facility will now be open year-round?
Development of year-round programming will take place over the course of the three-year construction period, and in dialogue with the surrounding community. Some potential uses suggested to date for the pool basin between seasons include soccer, kickball, roller skating, tennis, and flex space for local schools. In addition, the building that supports the pool and skating rink will be open year-round to the public, and available to support public programs such as a launch location for tours and nature walks, school field trips, and more.
Q: When is construction expected to start and how long is it expected to take?
Construction is expected to begin in late spring of 2021 and be completed by summer 2024.
Q. What areas will be closed while the facility is under construction?
The existing facility and nearby Harlem Meer shoreline will be closed during construction. The majority of the Meer landscape, the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, and the nearby playgrounds will all remain open.
Q: Who runs the facility now?
The public pool is operated by the City’s NYC Parks during the summer season (late June–early September), and the ice rink is operated by a concessionaire during the winter months (November–mid-March). The current operator is the Trump Organization, under a concession contract with the City of New York that expires in April 2021.
Q: Why is the Central Park Conservancy overseeing the design of a public facility?
The Conservancy is a philanthropic organization founded in 1980 to restore Central Park in partnership with the City of New York. Since 1998, we have had an agreement with NYC Parks to operate and maintain the Park on behalf of the public. To date, we have raised and invested nearly $1 billion in the restoration and care of the Park and in helping other parks. The Conservancy has executed an extensive program of design and construction work throughout the Park’s 843 acres, grounded in a deep and abiding appreciation of the original vision and fundamental purpose as a reprieve from the City for all.
The existing facility—as a public pool in the summer and rink concession in the winter—is currently maintained by NYC Parks and the concessionaire. NYC Parks asked the Conservancy to partner on a project to address the failing facility and obsolete infrastructure, which would require massive investment even to keep it operational in the near-term; only a complete re-envisioning would resolve the inherent and systemic problems. In partnering with the City, the Conservancy committed to raising $100 million for the project: $60 million toward design and construction, and a $40 million capital reserve for long-term maintenance.
Q: Are there other facilities that can be used during the construction period?
While the facility is under construction, swimmers can use one of many nearby NYC public pools, including: Thomas Jefferson Pool (East Harlem), Marcus Garvey Pool (Central Harlem), Sheltering Arms Pool (Manhattanville/West Harlem), Wagner Pool (East Harlem), Jackie Robinson Pool (North Harlem), Highbridge Pool (Washington Heights), and John Jay Pool (Upper East Side). Swimmers also have the option to use the Riverbank State Pool (https://parks.ny.gov/parks/93) (West Harlem).
The Park’s other skating facility, Wollman Rink, remains open for ice skating in winter. Hockey players should consult their organization or league regarding plans for the coming seasons.
Key Links and Documents
Press Release: Central Park Conservancy Unveils Design to Build New Pool and Rink and Complete the Restoration of The Park’s North End Through $150 Million Project with NYC (link)
Blog Post: New Pool and Rink to Expand Recreational Opportunities (link)
New York Times: $110 Million to Fix Central Park Section Far From ‘Billionaire’s Row’ (link)
Architect’s Newspaper: Long-neglected North End of Central Park will get a $150 million revamp (link)
Curbed: Central Park’s $150M revamp includes new pool and ice rink, landscape fixes (link)
amNY Metro: Central Park’s $150M redesign focuses on north end improvements (link)
Stay Connected and Informed
Want to learn more about the project or share your experiences in the north end of Central Park? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, we’d love to hear from you! Please provide your name, address, and/or organizational affiliation, and we’ll include you on restoration updates and invitations to upcoming community meetings and project-related events.
Insider’s Look: Restoring Central Park’s North End
Restoring Central Park is a collaborative effort. Our team of historians, planners, landscape architects, and architects work in partnership with the public to preserve the Park’s original ideals while enhancing the experience for today’s visitors.Learn More