|Big Bob Productions & Friends Presents
Empire Tuesday Night
BRANCH BROOK PARK
Roller Skating Center
7th Avenue & Clifton Avenue
Starting Tuesday, May 1, 2007
9:00 PM - 1:00 AM
Ladies $6.00 / Men $9.00
Must be 21 or older w/ID
Music By world's legendary skating DJ
The CPDSA is proud to announce
That we have been invited to
participate in the
First Annual Dance Parade
To be held on May 19, 2007
This date coincides with the annual Aids Day Parade when we are preempted from the Park.
So, this is an opportunity for us
not only to be participants in an historic event,
it also gives us a chance to skate on that weekend.
To sign up please go to:
On their home page, click on:JOIN THE PARADE!
On that page, under DANCE WITH US - fill out your name & e-mail address
Scroll down to Type of dance: - hit the arrow, scroll to & select:
"Roller Disco" - next, go to - Dancing with: - hit the arrow, scroll to & select
Roller Disco: Central Park Dance Skaters
It sounds complicated, but it is quite easy
We must register ahead of time in order to share in funds
for float building and other financial support.
Enroll now to get us a good spot in the parade.
You must be registered if you want to skate with us.
|ON Tuesday night, a blurry mass of people could be seen flying and shimmying around the 150-foot-long
“miracle maple” rink of the Empire Roller Skating Center in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The bass thumped and
the lights were dimmed. Boys wearing baggy jeans and Yankee caps in every color of the rainbow whizzed along
the curves. Gamine girls in halter tops and dangling earrings careened backward on the straightaways.
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Beneath their fun was a heartsick reminder that it would all come to an end in just a few days.
Empire, as the beloved 66-year-old roller rink is known, sits on Empire Boulevard east of Bedford Avenue on a
bleak strip of gas stations, Laundromats and storefront churches. A single-story brick building painted canary
yellow and lime green on the outside and decorated with neon palm trees and kitschy murals of dragons and
volcanoes inside, it will hold its last day of skating today.
When news of its closing, which followed months of “will it or won’t it?” speculation, was confirmed last month,
the announcement rocked the city’s sprawling roller skating community, a mixed-age crowd that revels in a
wholesome good time. After the Skate Key rink in Mott Haven in the Bronx shut its doors last year and the
Roxy on West 18th Street in Manhattan, a legendary gay nightclub with skating every Wednesday night,
closed last month, Empire was the city’s only remaining indoor wooden-floor rink. Its distinction was bolstered
by its history as a place where generations of Brooklynites have skated since it opened in 1941 in a former
Ebbets Field garage.
The rink, which could accommodate 2,500 skaters, was often so crowded that “if you fell, you couldn't’t fall,”
said Chester Fried, a former competitive roller skater who grew up skating at Empire.
Attendance dropped in the 1950s with the arrival of television, but it bounced back in the 1970s with the
creation of roller disco, said to have originated at Empire. The rink’s traditional organ was replaced with a
booming sound system over which a D.J. played the likes of Donna Summer and Stephanie Mills.
In recent years, as young people discovered the thrills of dance skating and speed skating, Empire became a
favorite of the hip-hop generation. Young men routinely transformed the rink into something of a human
autobahn, linking arms to create a centipede of bodies zipping around the rink.
For many of them, it provided a safe alternative to the wildness of the streets. “I would be in jail if it weren’t for
this place,” said Darryl Tyler, a 31-year-old, bucktoothed chef from Bedford-Stuyvesant, who was wearing
diamond stud earrings. He had been going there for long so long, he added, “I practically skated out of my
Although Empire’s building is unremarkable, some regulars tried to save it by having it considered for
landmark status, and last month, 200 skaters gathered for a rally outside the rink. But by the time the rink’s
fans mobilized, its closing was a done deal. The building had been sold for $4.5 million and was to become a
Resigned to Empire’s fate, thousands of people have been circling the maple floor during the past few weeks,
including many who had skated there for decades. On Tuesday, Kevon Johnson, a 46-year-old communications
supervisor, showed up early to get in when the rink opened at 9 p.m., along with scores of others waiting in a
line that snaked down the street. Tying on his custom $800 skates, a high-end pair with black leather boots and
Snyder plates, Mr. Johnson recalled when he started going to Empire in 1977 as a teenager.
TOO poor to afford his own skates, he rented pair No. 877 every night. Then, in 1978, Mr. Johnson’s
godfather, Marcellus Williams, a skate-dancing choreographer who was known as the poet laureate of Empire,
bought him his own pair.
“They were royal blue suede with blue wheels, a blue stopper and blue laces,” Mr. Johnson said with a smile.
“When the D.J. saw me, he yelled out, ‘Oh, I see some new skates out there!’ I was in heaven.”
During those years, celebrities like Cher and Ben Vereen made appearances, along with virtuosos on wheels
known by their skating nicknames: Pat the Cat. Virgo Black. Ultra Freak. Puerto Rican Mike. Miss Mean
Wheels. Roller Rocker Kid.
“From seeing Slinky do a spin and Rap do the first 360, those were the two things I wanted to do,” said Mr.
Johnson. “Now I can do a 360 real well. In fact, I can do a 540 and I’m working on a 720.”
As the clock ticked past midnight on Tuesday, many skaters took a moment to mull their options once Empire
closed. Some planned to trek out to rinks in New Jersey and Long Island. Some murmured about a new rink
that may open as soon as next month in Richmond Valley on Staten Island. Others simply skated, enjoying
their last rapturous turns on Empire’s floor. n