Saturday, August 29, 2009


In 1994 the Division of Parks, Public Grounds & Recreation in the borough of Glen Rock, NJ, a wealthy, white, suburb of New York City with a population of 11,232, made a decision to replace two basketball courts in the town’s Wilde Memorial Park with a street hockey rink. While the motivations for this decision are unclear—a town official insisted that in the mid 1990s, there was a surge in interest in hockey among the youth in the town, and pointed out that one basketball court remains—the decision raised eyebrows. Glen Rock—which is 88 percent White Non-Hispanic—borders Paterson, an older, poorer city that is 13 percent White Non-Hispanic. The basketball courts were heavily used by African-Americans from Paterson. For many kids growing up in Glen Rock, these basketball courts afforded the only opportunity to encounter and interact with people from Paterson. They were an example of how the Open City can pop up when and where you least expect it.

As might be expected, when the basketball courts were replaced with the hockey rink, people from Paterson stopped coming to Glen Rock. It is well known that hockey is played primarily by whites and basketball primarily by African-Americans (The golfer Tiger Woods once observed that "Hockey is a sport for white men. Basketball is a sport for black men. Golf is a sport for white men dressed like black pimps.") In fact while 79 percent of NBA players are African-American, only 2 percent of NHL players are. Moreover hockey—like golf—is often criticized for being elitist: the equipment required to play it—skates, sticks, pads, goals—is expensive, and unlike basketball, one typically needs a car to transport it.

“Hockey Rink” is in the Arsenal of Exclusion because it is a sort of public exclusionary amenity. As with a golf course, a developer or town who builds one can count on it attracting one population over another.

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