For senior Jacey Hootstein, who has been skating since first grade, being on the ice has not only been a wonderful way to enjoy fresh air and connect with friends, but it’s also been a passion. She has dedicated many, many hours to lessons and competing regionally on a junior level, winning medals along the way.
It was on the afternoon of Friday, February 19, that she and two friends with whom she had been skating for ten years heard the crushing news: The City, in a battle with the Trump Organization, was planning to abruptly shut down both Wollman and Lasker ice rinks six weeks prior to the season’s end and the conclusion of their 20-year contract — in just two days’ time. The trio jumped into action immediately. As Jacey describes it: “It was about 4 pm, and we were in shock, but also we wanted to see what we could do to stop it. So we emailed the Mayor and started calling New York Representatives, but with practically no chance for a response in time, we had to find another way.”
That other way was a petition. Jacey drafted it, her friends who attend Spence and Calhoun, weighed in, and by 5:30 they had uploaded it to change.org. Turning to social media, they shared the link on Instagram and engaged their friends and families to do the same via Twitter chats and Facebook groups. “By the time we went to bed, we had 800 signatures!” Jacey shares. “On Saturday at 6:45 am, I arrived at Wollman for my skating academy lesson, which I thought could be the last, and we were up to 900. As the day went on, some people there for public skating time who were also devastated by the news had printed out a QR code so that others at the rink could sign the petition,” Jacey explains.
The Word Continues to Get Out
What came next was media attention, as one parent contacted The New York Post and another CBS local news. New Yorkers were quickly learning about the pending closures, including many for whom losing the chance to enjoy skating outdoors during the pandemic was especially disappointing. Jacey appeared in a CBS segment; and by Sunday evening, the petition had 6,660 signatures.
Thinking it was the last day, Wollman, home away from home for so many, held its end-of-year celebration early for all the kids who skate there. Just as the party came to an end, Jacey says, “We got the news that the Mayor decided to keep the rinks open. We were all crying with joy — and three teenage girls had made it happen — we did it!”
Jacey continues, “It feels so great because without any adult direction, the three of us made a real difference, leading to the reversal of the Mayor’s decision, helping over 250 people who work at the rinks to keep their jobs, 2,400 kids who take lessons and play hockey, and countless other people continue to use and enjoy the facilities.”
The activism launched by Jacey and her friends Serena and Mya caught the attention of additional news outlets, which covered the story with a new happy ending the following day.
All-around Top Athlete
Jacey, who came to Dwight in sixth grade, takes skating lessons four times a week before school because she’s also been an impressive three-season athlete after school. Last year, she was Captain of the Varsity Girls Soccer, Basketball, and Softball teams!
A student-athlete for whom school is also a priority, Jacey looks forward to continuing her passion for skating in college; all schools she applied to have a skating team. No matter where she goes next, Jacey will carry with her the immense gratification that comes from using her voice to effect change — and the joy that skating brings for a lifetime!