Staten Island’s Roller Rink Celebrated Its Last Dance

Before 9 p.m. on Saturday, crowds of people lined up in a parking lot opposite a Sonic Drive-In, making their way into a large white building in the suburban neighborhood of Tottenville, Staten Island. It was a chilly May evening, but emotions ran warm inside as a roller rink, Roller Jam USA, hosted its final night of skating.

Patrons swapped shoes for skates as some found seats at the corners of the full benches while others leaned against lockers, carefully lacing up. Some skaters took small steps to the rink, shuffling their arms for balance, while others occupied the bar.

“When I knew that it was the last night, I was like, I have to come,” said Keishonda Cruws of New Jersey, who grew up coming to the rink.

She remembered: “Somebody pulled me down here a few years ago, and I sprained my tailbone. I’ve fallen a lot, but that’s a part of it. Everybody falls.”

Over its 17 years of operation, Roller Jam USA has had its own share of pitfalls, but it has also shown resilience. In 2012, the rink was renovated after Hurricane Sandy, and the pandemic forced a temporary shutdown in 2020. After the rink reopened in 2021, it was at a smaller capacity.

But ultimately the reason for closing would be more typical: a rent increase in a lease renewal. Joe Costa, the owner, shared the news in a video on Instagram last month, taking many of his longtime customers by surprise.

“The amount of rent that I was going to have to pay in order to renew my lease was just an amount where it was financially impossible,” Mr. Costa said in an interview.

Roller Jam USA first opened in July 2007 after Mr. Costa and his brother Tommy had already seen some success running tanning salons throughout Staten Island. The brothers wanted to start a business that could bring families and people of all ages together. Tommy would eventually go on to work in real estate, leaving Mr. Costa, his wife and their three children to run the skating rink.

On its last night, three large disco balls hovered over the rink while the playlist offered up funk, disco, new wave and R&B.

“There was this fun that I had when I grew up and incredible memories of skating as a teenager,” Mr. Costa, 60, said. “I wanted to do something for the kids on Staten Island and give them a place where they can actually communicate and not just be on their phones.”

Roller Jam USA opened just as two longstanding New York City roller-skating rinks permanently closed: the Roxy in Manhattan and Empire Skates in Brooklyn. New York now has roller rink pop-ups, such as DiscOasis and Showfields, and the outdoor Pier 2 Roller Rink in Brooklyn.

But the Staten Island establishment has been the only year-round roller-skating rink in the city, and judging from the crowds on closing night, many people would feel the loss.

Mr. Costa was making sure customers found their perfect size skates. He has taken off only 10 weekends in his 17 years of running the business, he said, and lives less than a six-minute drive from the rink. He’s not sure what’s next for him, but he’s happy with what they have been able to create over the years.

“I appreciate any person that came through our doors,” Mr. Costa said. “Every single one of them is like family, and my job was to make sure how they were going to have an amazing time for the love of skating.”

For four young women who met through the New York City roller-skating scene over the years, Roller Jam USA was more than just a fun night out, it was a place to build community.

“It’ll be sad to let this go,” said Melody Olivera, 31, as she rested her arms on the shoulders of her friends in the middle of the skating rink. “It’s places like these that help build lifelong friendships among diverse backgrounds, ages, religions and everything.”

David Hunter, 55

Employee at pizzeria and party rental business


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How would you describe your style of skating?

I’m a freestyle skater. I do a little of figure skating, jam skating, shuffle skating, and I mix it up.

What do you remember about the roller-skating rink culture when you were younger?

The face-to-face socializing where you get to know people. I can say hi to a lot of people and they know me, or we don’t know our names. It’s just the style of this community.

Emanuel Rollins, 32

Amazon delivery person

Where are you coming from?

I actually used to live here when I was younger. I moved about three years ago. Especially as a kid that would get in trouble a lot, I would come here a lot and just feel the freedom. It’s a relief and a place to do something good.

Did you travel from Las Vegas just for tonight?

I bought a last-minute ticket to be out here for three days. It’s the last night I had to be here.

What’s your favorite song to skate to?

Any James Brown song because he’s the father of soul, and I feel like I have a lot of soul, especially when I’m skating.

Juliana Binner, 18, and Justin Ziegler, 21

Works at a car garage; works at a pipe company

Do you guys come here a lot?

JZ: No, this is actually our first and last night here.

JB: It’s the last night they’re open and we couldn’t miss it.

What does being the first and last time mean for you?

JZ: It feels special, and I think it’ll make this date night unforgettable. And we like to roller-skate as many chances as we can get.

Is there a song you like to skate to?

JB: “Get Down” by DJ Quik.

JZ: Yeah, that’s the vibe.

Janette Mcgilligan 55



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Did you come to Roller Jam USA a lot?

Yeah, I started back in 2007 when they opened, but I moved to Florida in 2015, but I always come back and visit here. Skating here has allowed me to be my authentic self.

What does this closure mean for you?

It’s heartbreaking. This is like where people come and they can express themselves and enjoy an atmosphere that’s not in the real world, which is so heavy. These places are needed because so many people get stuck indoors and on their phones, and Covid made people fearful to go out.

Evan Runfola, 25

Construction worker

How did you get into skating?

My dad and my mom both did it when they were young, and then my dad used to work at a rink in Brick, N.J., and he would take me.

Would you come here a lot?

Oh yeah, every Saturday night. I actually used to work here too. I worked on the floor and would get paid to skate. It’s home.

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