NEW YORK (CBS 2) — A clash-on-ice is intensifying between parents in Harlem, with a figure skating group accusing the state of giving young girls the cold shoulder in favor of boys’ hockey.

Riverbank State Park was bustling early Sunday, with ice time a precious commodity that has some skaters crying foul.

Figure Skating in Harlem – a private non-profit for girls – is demanding that the state allow them more time to practice, reports CBS 2’s Demetra Ganias.

“It’s a shame we have to turn girls away because there’s not enough ice time,” the group’s founder, Sharon Cohen, said.

The girls pay to practice three school nights each week, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., but they say boys’ hockey – including affluent private schools – are hogging the prime hours.

“They’re not paying attention to girls because it’s 15 percent girls’ ice, figure skating and 85 percent hockey – that’s a huge disparity,” parent Denise Tutt said. “Just because they’re playing hockey, it doesn’t mean they get all the ice.”

Despite the pleas for more ice time, the State Parks Department told CBS 2 that the ice skating group, with 4.5 hours each week, has more ice time than any other private permit holder.

Private hockey teams get no more than four hours of ice time, and they pay as well.

Supporters of public hockey waved their signs on Sunday as well.

Daniella Phillips said Riverbank Hockey allows her son and daughter to play. She said the skaters may deserve more time, but that it’s unfair to cut the allotment for the public hockey teams.

“Don’t take it away from an organization that serves all genders, local families, that doesn’t have any funding,” she said.

“For anyone to get more ice, they’d have to take it away from somebody else,” Lewis Burgess, a volunteer with Riverbank Youth Ice Hockey, said.

The Harlem skaters insisted that it’s a fight for what they feel is rightfully theirs.

“This is a neighborhood facility that was meant to serve our girls,” Cohen said.

The group is waiting to sit down with Parks Department officials again in the coming weeks.

The state said it has offered Figure Skating in Harlem more ice time in the morning, before school. The group turned the offer down, however, saying it will cost too much since the group has to pay for added security services.

Comments (37)
  1. Trina says:

    ffong and Gabriella FYI

    According to the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau, the Executive Director’s compensation for 2008-2009 was $104,500 plus $9,467 in benefits. This salary was 17% of total revenue. Revenue was $656,322 in 2008-2009.

  2. Randy says:

    It is doubtful that the shrill complaining, fervent negative protesting and thoughtless playing of the race, residence and gender card will get more ice for deserving girls. What does the leadership of this group imagine they are doing by attacking the government institution that provides them the resources they want or angering those who could be their allies?

    The person or persons who thought up this primitive strategy and implemented it made a terrible mistake. The record of it all cannot be taken back and the attack will not be forgotten by the State officials with decision power. Too bad. A more thoughtful and intelligent approach could have yielded good results instead of producing a lingering bad taste in one’s mouth.

  3. Ramsey says:

    It is too bad that Figure Skating in Harlem has taken this unbecoming approach. It is wholly unrepresentative of the figure skating clubs in the US.

  4. ffong says:

    Riverbank’s Ice Hockey’s own leader was quoted saying that more than 65% of Riverbank ice hockey comes from outside the neighborhood. Online it seems one affluent private school kid who goes to Horace Mann is in fact the goalie of Riverbank ice hockey! So yes, there is definitely overlap between these seemingly “separate” ice hockey organizations.

    And as Aces pointed out – for the kids who skate on both teams, is it fair that a single hockey kid can get double or triple the hours of ice time by playing on several teams, but a figure skater only has access to those limited 4.5 hours maximum?

    Bottom line – where’s the transparency of all of this? I urge Riverbank ice hockey to release their rosters and the neighborhoods that their kids are from.

    And who runs Riverbank Hockey? What is this Riverbank Hockey Parents Association? Smells fishy… Any person willing to dig deeper underneath this surface of poisonous lies spewed by Riverbank Hockey will know the truth.

    Let the evidence speak for itself!

  5. gabriella says:

    I think it is unfair that Figure skating in Harlem will not allow children who do not live in Harlem to join. Figure skating should be run like the hockey- a public program for the entire NY community not just for the Harlem Community. And why does figure skating in Harlem not allow boys while hockey is coed.
    I would like to be a part of the figure skating in harlem but when I called they told me NO so I joined the hockey program and figure skate at Wollman rink. Riverbank is the only programs offering figure skating at prime time where they have the entire rink. The freeskate figure skating programs at Wollman are before school.
    Also FSIH charges 375.00 for their program. That would be 37,500.00 for their 100 girls plus the fundraiser at Wollman rink which generates thousands of dollars. Where does all this money go- what is Sharon Cohen salary? I hear it is 100,000- nice for running a nonprofit!

    1. ffong says:

      Gabriella – Figure Skating in Harlem DOES let kids outside of Harlem to join, many of the current girls live in other neighborhoods as well as the Bronx. However, because of this limited ice time and limited resources, there is a waiting list of hundreds of girls for the program! With such a large wait list – Figure Skating in Harlem has to give priority to girls from the Harlem neighborhood first, as Harlem is the original community the nonprofit was meant to serve. If only they had more ice time, they can take on additional girls like yourself into the program. Also – boy ARE allowed to join, it just works out that boys are not as interested in figure skating as girls are.

      To your comment about funds – Figure Skating in Harlem is a small non-profit! Your salary number, which I doubt is true, is still considered modest for the CEO/Executive Director of most nonprofits. The nonprofit’s annual budget goes towards paying staff salaries, purchasing equipment for figure skating and educational materials, and running the program in general. You have NO IDEA how much these things cost!

  6. David Goldstein says:

    Harlem kids are only interested in basketball not ice skating or hockey.

  7. Harlem Resident says:

    I think we should recruit more girls to play Ice Hockey. I play ice hockey and I would love to have more girls on the team. At the same time I would love if Ice Skating in Harlem would play fair, open their program to boys.

    I agree with the girls, we should have equality. So I propose that girls get ice time by joining the ice hockey programs and the girls should allow boys in their program. That would be fair.

    1. ffong says:

      Figure Skating in Harlem lets boys join the program – it is open to all children in the New York area to apply. However, because of the limited ice time they have, they are currently facing a waitlist of hundreds of kids. If Riverbank would allocate more ice time to figure skating, then the program can accommodate more boys and more kids from other neighborhoods other than Harlem.

  8. Ms. Chocolate says:

    People with children who utilize the skating facility , Thats who cares… And people with a heart.. Grow one..

  9. ffong says:

    Is it fair that out of the 28 hours of peak ice time at Riverbank (after-school and weekends) Figure Skating only gets 4.5 hours while hockey gets 23.5 hours? That’s a mere 16%!

    How is this major imbalance fair?

    Even if you take away gender, race and social class, the inequity between the two sports is ridiculous. Figure skating and ice hockey should share these 28 hours of peak ice-time EQUALLY! It’s not like Figure Skating in Harlem can’t pay. They will pay the same as everyone else if only ice time is allocated to them!

  10. Fiona says:

    Although Riverbank is a state park, it was built to compensate the Harlem community because NO OTHER COMMUNITY WANTED TO TAKE ON A SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT. The Harlem community should get first access to those facilities!

    Yes there are a few ice rinks in NY area. But why should Harlem girls have to travel outside of their community for ice time, when the closest rink to them is Riverbank? Why don’t you ask where the hockey kids live and what rinks might be more accessible for them. If they live on the upper sides of Manhattan (east & west), wouldn’t Queens be a more logical choice for them? It is simply ridiculous to expect the Harlem girls to schlep all over greater New York when Riverbank is right there.

    Regarding the morning time slots – why doesn’t Riverbank hockey take those morning time slots instead? why does Riverbank have to push the non-peak times on Figure Skating in Harlem?

    Riverbank ice hockey needs to release their rosters so we can see for sure that those kids ARE actually from the neighborhood and ARE NOT ON ANY OTHER PRIVATE HOCKEY TEAM. Also – Riverbank ice hockey doesn’t pay for their ice time – whats up with that???

  11. Hockey Dad says:

    As a parent involved with Riverbank Hockey and a middle-class (or lower at this point in NYC) resident of the area around the park, I can tell you that there are plenty of kids from the neighborhood who play in the program. The affluent private school kids tend to play at Chelsea Piers and other more expensive programs. So thus these class warfare accusations are false. I could see if that was the point. Remember as well that this is a state park, and thus all New York State residents are rightfully welcome. They pay taxes, too. I’m sure others are not complaining when we city folk use Harriman or other state parks. Channel 2 News did not get all sides of the story either. Like I said previously, why doesn’t this organization protest at Lasker, which is in a city, not state, park? They also protested on the last day of our program when most of the kids and families have departed in order to guarantee a weak turnout on our part. The gender discrimination issue simply does not fly either. I also would like to know if a poor kid of, say, rural Sullivan County can participate in Figure Skating In Harlem. No one has a monopoly on economic struggles.

    1. Paula says:

      In response to your comment on a poor kid from rural Sullivan County, Figure Skating in Harlem can barely support the girls of our community. If there was enough time for the members of the program to skate, the program would be able to support immeasurable growth, including students of different genders, financial backgrounds, and from other neighborhoods. Keep in mind that the program is only 15 years old as well.

      1. Hockey Dad says:

        There also is a figure skating program at Riverbank with no affiliation to Figure Skating In Harlem. It is open to all and extraordinarily reasonable in its cost. Why is this not mentioned? Moreover, hockey serves far more kids than figure skating per ice time session. There can be 60 kids playing hockey at a cross ice session, whereas there is no way to accommodate that many in a figure skating session. Therefore hockey serves more members of the community at a given time. Including Riverbank Hockey with the private schools also continues to be misleading. There is not affiliation. It is coincidence that some kids play on both, and, frankly, it’s rather healthy that kids from different communities get to participate with each other and break down barriers instead of demonizing each other.

      2. Aces says:

        Barriers? It is Riverbank that is creating barriers by not letting figure skaters share the 28 hours of peak ice time. How is 4.5 hours (16%) vs. 23.5 hours (84%) fair? Figure skating is just as beneficial and legitimate a sport as ice hockey – you can’t say that hockey serves more kids better. Besides, Figure Skating in Harlem does have 60 girls on the ice at the same time too.

        As for the kids who skate on both teams – is it reasonable then that a single hockey kid can get double or triple the hours of ice time by playing on several teams, but a figure skater only has access to those limited 4.5 hours maximum?

        Having several “teams” is a hoax and disguise so that the SAME ice hockey kids can hoard more ice time without looking guilty of being greedy.

        Riverbank Hockey parents and players are looking like 5-year old babies who still haven’t learned how to share. Instead, they throw dirt on a nonprofit program meant to serve at-risk children in the community for playing the race/gender/money card??? 4.5 hours figure skating vs. 23.5 hours ice hockey simply isn’t fair, they dont NEED to play the gender/race/money card.

        SHAME ON YOU!!!

  12. Fiona says:

    I wonder how much overlap is there between the rosters of the private school hockey teams and the Riverbank ice hockey team. Yes Riverbank ice hockey is public, but if a bunch of those kids are also on private school hockey teams, then they are hoarding A LOT more time than they advertise!

    Who’s misleading now?

  13. Respectful Dad says:

    I’m a parent who happened to chance upon the rally when I took my two kids to the public skate session at Riverbank yesterday, and I gotta say – the Figure Skating kids were very inspiring and kept positive, while the Hockey Boys group were acting quite immature… I saw a lot the the parents themselves being very disrespectful and yelling rude phrases to the group, and some even telling their kids to boo the girls! If this is the kind of role model and standard behavior they are setting for their own kids, then as a parent myself, I do not support the hockey group. Their boys were acting like snotty little brats the entire time, and the parents themselves were not great examples at all. Very disappointing to see adults acting more childish than their own kids.

  14. Aces says:

    Any educated person should go in and do some research for themselves. We should do a little more digging into the rosters of the kids who play in both public hockey and private hockey, and find out where those public hockey kids live and go to school, and we will know the truth. Will Riverbank Ice Hockey be willing to be more transparent and provide this kind of information to the public?

    Let the evidence speak for itself!

  15. gyuu says:

    who cares

  16. Hockey Dad says:

    This is an absurd contention. Riverbank hockey serves both genders and all races, while Figure Skating in Harlem, by their own admission, is discriminatory based on gender (all girls) and race (in their own words at the protest, African-American and Hispanic). The figure skaters receive more ice than any other private organization (Riverbank Hockey is public, so it does not count in the misleading ice time statistics), so their statement that hockey receives favoritism is specious and fraudulent. There are many kids from the surrounding area participating in Riverbank hockey, and the program is terrific for them. Figure Skating in Harlem ought to protest at the rinks in Central Park before sabotaging a highly worthwhile program. Shame on them for playing the race and gender cards as well. They are planting the insidious seeds of community distrust and resentment in Harlem.

    1. ToeLoop says:

      As a former FSH volunteer instructor, I’ll say this-why should the girls protest at any other rink?? The program’s at Riverbank, has been for the past 16 years and NOT at Lasker or Wollman. Equal Time For Equal Ice.

  17. Mikaili says:

    The figure skaters get less than an hour each school day, yet they place well in competitions. I’ve never heard an Olympian talk about practicing a little bit.

  18. Harold says:

    They already have more than equal time, they have MORE time than the hockey players. Talk about having your cake and eating it too. Just because they are girls doesn’t mean they get favoritism. That’s what feminists wanted when they preached equality.

    1. Sharon says:

      Get your facts straight. FSH girls have 4.5 hours per week. HOCKEY has 23.5 hours per week. Who has more???

      1. ToeLoop says:

        Hi, Sharon! To Harold: The Bottom Line: Equal Ice Time For All. It’s a public, state-run rink, NOT a private one.

  19. unitedhybrid says:

    If the hockey team has LESS ice time than they do, why are they complaining? They were offered a choice: To elect to have more ice time in the morning. But wait… It’s more expensive? They gave them that option. Either get funding for your own rink, go find another or just quit complaining. I support figure skating as well as hockey. But when you’re complaining about something that makes no sense and you WERE given an option for more rink time, then the joke’s on you. Boo-freakin’-hoo!

    By the way, Barbara K, it says that they are given MORE time than any other organization. That does include hockey. You might want to reread this and figure in how 4.5 hours of figure skating somehow is less than 4 hours of hockey. If you want to be a moron, don’t post.

    1. Sharon says:

      I repeat…FSH girls have access to 4.5 hours per week. boys hockey has 23.5…who has more?????? LEARN THE FACTS

      1. ilvedanny05 says:

        Where do you get those numbers from?

      2. ffong says:

        Check the Riverbank schedule. Of the 28 peak hours (after-school and weekends) allotted to organizations (ie. not public general skating), 4.5 hours goes to figure skating and 23.5 hours goes to ice hockey. That’s 16% vs. 84%.

  20. Rodin says:

    Give ’em ice cream.

  21. keith says:

    Simple solution get another ice rink built will fix problem.

    1. Sharon says:

      do you care to build and pay for it???

  22. Dot says:

    Those Harlem girls should be doing their homework and skating once a week

    1. Karen says:

      Please take the time to learn about Figure Skating in Harlem before making such a comment. Figure Skating in Harlem in the country’s ONLY educational figure skating after-school program. These girls do their homework, receive tutoring, and must maintain certain grades before they are even allowed on the ice!

      1. Toeloop says:

        @Karen-thank you. @Dot-next season why don’t you stop by the rink when FSH is in session. You’ll see an amazing program in action!

  23. Barbara K says:

    How great that girls are interested in figure skating. It’s a beautiful sport, and artistic versus violent. I never heard anyone joke that they went to a fight and a figure skating competition broke out.

    Please give figure skating equal time!

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