End of an Empire
April 25, 2007 10:23 AM   Subscribe

End of an Empire Sadly (for me, anyway) the Empire Rollerdrome, last roller rink in New York City, closed its doors for good this weekend after nearly 70 years in business. Although it had a checkered history of sex, drugs, and hip hop, the Empire was in recent years a much-loved family and community center in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. DJ Julio (who kept the crowd rolling at the Roxy for decades until they too closed earlier this year) maintains a fabulous archive of material about all of NYC's bygone rinks. If you want to see what you've been missing, check out the Central Park Dance Skaters.
posted by sonofslim (18 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Bonus for more-insiders: this gallery of photos from the Roxy's last night contains a few of me getting my standing-in-the-background on, but I'm not saying which.
posted by sonofslim at 10:23 AM on April 25, 2007

What a shame. Dorchester's Chez Vous, 75 years old and the last rink in Boston, is still hanging on despite some recent troubles.
posted by otio at 11:30 AM on April 25, 2007

I went to a birthday party there a couple years ago, what a crazy mix of people. A thing of beauty. I think I broke my assbone, though.
posted by The Straightener at 12:23 PM on April 25, 2007

Man. I swear, I shed a tear whenever I hear about a great place shutting down. In New York, it's been happening with more frequency lately.

I found this video - "skating against time" - sorting through the Julio links. Thanks.
posted by phaedon at 12:31 PM on April 25, 2007

I love Julio's archive. This is a fine post; thank you.
posted by serazin at 12:36 PM on April 25, 2007

Great post! I enjoyed reading about how the Central Park Dance Skaters had to organize themselves to fight for the right to hold their gatherings. I hadn't been aware of that history.
posted by jason's_planet at 1:27 PM on April 25, 2007

Where do NY roller derby teams have their matches now?
posted by drezdn at 1:33 PM on April 25, 2007

Drezdn, for practice they're renting warehouse space in Queens. Unfortunately, for insurance purposes, us non-derby skaters aren't allowed anywhere near it. Last I heard, Long Island University was letting the league use their gymnasium for bouts.
posted by sonofslim at 1:44 PM on April 25, 2007

Oh, damn.

This Rapture video was shot there last year.

I'm glad I got to check it out at least once.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 2:13 PM on April 25, 2007

As kids, we used to all hang out at our local rink religiously on the weekends. In, what, about 1991, rollerblades came out. And a sign appeared on the door of the rink, declaring NO ROLLERBLADES.

It closed about 6 months later. It's now an Assemblies of God church.
posted by Jimbob at 2:21 PM on April 25, 2007

Does the church allow inlines?
posted by sonofslim at 3:18 PM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Too sad. There aren't any roller rinks left in Chicago either.

Rollerblades will just never be as cool as rollerskates.
posted by Jess the Mess at 3:27 PM on April 25, 2007

I can't believe all these rinks are closing. NYC just lost the Roxy, as well as a place in the Bronx.

My speculation is that it's partly because the people who frequented these places were mostly black and Latino. The powers that be in NYC don't much care about protecting the recreational activities of dark-skinned outer-borough residents.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 3:42 PM on April 25, 2007

There aren't any roller rinks left in Chicago either.

There used to be a popular rink on the south side (hosted a lot of raves in the '90s) I'd be surprised if it closed. Route 66, I think it was called?
posted by phaedon at 3:53 PM on April 25, 2007

The powers that be in NYC don't much care about protecting the recreational activities of anyone, particularly of young people.

Recreational spaces tend to lower the property values and as I've been told over and over again, it's all good as long as the property values keep going up.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:21 PM on April 25, 2007

I go occasionally when i visit STL...wednesday morning skate is usually almost empty...

Almost nothing beats the feel of rollerskating around with your eyes closed and knowing that you wont hit anyone...

Sorry new yorkers...
posted by schyler523 at 5:58 PM on April 25, 2007

lupus_yonderboy: That's probably true. But the crowd at the Roxy when I went skating there last fall was all-ages.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 10:36 PM on April 25, 2007

The Roxy only hosted skating once a week, and the crowd on Wednesdays showed the kind of age/race/everything-else diversity that you want to believe exists in NY until you move here and realize that for the most part, everyone still sits at their own tables in the cafeteria. The other 6 nights a week it was still a dance club and very young, very gay, and very black and latino.

From what I've heard, the Roxy was simply worth more as condos than a night club. The skate community had made a home there, but the loss of recreational space for us was just collateral damage.

The Skate Key (in the Bronx) and the Empire had problems with crime and violence in the last few years. The Skate Key had something like 20 shootings and stabbings in the 3 or 4 years before it closed and had a ton of raids and sanctions by the police. There was a shooting outside the Empire in January, around the same time they had to drop their insurance for a handful of other reasons.

In neither case was it as simple as apathy from the City, but it definitely raised some eyebrows when they announced the $40 million renovation to the ice rink in Prospect Park would be supported in part by public funds. At the same time, there was an attempt to get the Empire registered as a landmark; the official reply was basically "sorry, the sale is a done deal." For reference, The ice rink is probably a 10 minute walk from the Empire.
posted by sonofslim at 6:13 AM on April 26, 2007

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