Sign up for our Newsletter

A skater laces up at the Greenport American Legion. Credit: Grant Parpan

Recently, a 71-year-old man walked into the Greenport American Legion. He hadn’t roller skated in four decades, but he dusted off his old skates and hit the floor at the East End rink.

Afterward he told the rink’s general manager, Mindy Ryan, that he’d be back again one day. She believes it.

“People are finding us, having fun and coming back every week,” Ryan says. “[Some people] remember all the stuff from back in the 60s, 70s and 80s … Young people want to try it because they never had before, and they have a ball.”

This spring, after more than a year of pandemic restrictions, Ryan says people on Long Island were eager to get back out — and show off their new moves.

“At that time, there still wasn’t a lot to do,” Ryan says. “Adults were like, ‘The roller skating rink is open, and we’re going because I can’t stay in the house anymore.’ People were anxious to get back to it. Post-COVID, we’ve developed more of a following because people picked up skating or got back into it and found us.”

It’s something of a phenomenon across the country.

TikTokers posted videos of themselves taking to the streets, dancing to music that used to play regularly onMTV’s Total Request Live.

Skates themselves were hard to come by during the pandemic — even Vogue reported on a shortage. To this day, Ryan, who sells skates in Greenport American Legion’s pro shop, can only get a certain amount at a time (and she can’t say how many).

It’s happening further West, too. At LeFrak Center at Lakeside in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, attendance is up 20 to 30 percent.

“Roller skating is a natural connection between music and movement, and that seems to have resonated with audiences in the last year or so,” said Itai Shoffman, the principal at Upsilon Ventures, which oversees roller skating at LeFrak Center at Lakeside. 

That’s arguably most evident on Friday nights in the spring, summer and fall, when LeFrak Center plays host to Lola Star’s Dreamland Roller Disco, a glitzy, colorful experience limited to the 21-and-over crowd. Theme nights include everything from Britney Spears to Purple Rain, and there’s a costume contest. People are encouraged to dress to stand out. The nights attract people of all ages and backgrounds.

Greenport’s vintage rink sign on reopening day in 2018. Credit: Grant Parpan

The truth is skating has been deeply linked to hip-hop culture for decades. The 2018 documentary United Skates dug into how roller skating influenced the Civil Rights movement and hip-hop. When other clubs refused to sign on Black acts, including Queen Latifah, they performed at roller rinks. And diversity is on full display on Monday nights in Brooklyn.

“We have a huge Caribbean demographic next to where we are located,” Shoffman says. “We have a lot of diversity. We’ve seen people want to get into the roller rink regardless of their background. Lola is theatrical and flamboyant. It’s an evening of color in terms of what you wear. It’s a thing. That’s different.”

The vibe at Greenport American Legion is a bit different than the one you’ll find at Lola’s or even Long Island mainstay United Skates in Massapequa. It’s more low-key. There’s not always a DJ, and the staff takes requests and makes playlists themselves. It’s $10 to skate with free rentals (compared to $18.50 in Massapequa). The staff says hello to everyone and can tell immediately if it’s a person’s first time at the rink. If they see a person struggling with their old skates, they’ll offer a free adjustment.

“We want you to have a good time. You’re going to have a better time if your skates are working,” Ryan says.

Now, people are coming from east and west to see what’s brewing in Greenport. One of those people is Samantha Duane of East Hampton. Duane roller-skated as a child and got back into it 15 years ago at the age of 20. She used to play roller derby, but retired in 2013-14. Now she skates for fun and fitness, and Greenport has provided the perfect outlet. She’s even started holding clinics at the rink for beginners of all ages.

“It’s a nice community of all ages and walks of life,” Duane says. “You find that with roller skating, and it always brings me back to why I love it, it’s a connective thread that introduces people you never would have met otherwise.”

The experience at Greenport American Legion is lower-maintenance than it may be elsewhere, but it has some frills. During the pandemic, Ryan had a 30-inch disco ball installed. On adult skate nights, the lights go down, the spotlights go up, and people can see sparkling stars on the ceiling. And, like at Lola’s Dreamland, people dress up.

“There are definitely people who express themselves,” Ryan says. “It’s all spectrums.”

Moms from Shelter Island have come in leg warmers. The rink skated in the Maritime Festival parade this year, and someone dressed up as a mermaid. Tube socks and fishnets are Duane’s go-to’s. It’s hard to find local shops with fun skating accessories (or roller skates in general, as the shortage continues), so she hits up Etsy. Ryan got her skates in Brooklyn and says her shop typically has at least one pair of skates in every size, despite the shortage. And Shoffman says Five Strides Skate Shop in Brooklyn is one of the only spots to find skates further west. 

Duane hopes that changes as skating continues to find its footing on Long Island and beyond.

“I want it to be a takeover,” she says. “I hope that it’s something people legit start doing at a young age and continue doing it. We have a huge community of skateboarders and surfers out here. Why can’t there be a community of roller skaters? I want people to skate, move and be happy.”

A roller skater makes her way down Dront Street during the Maritime Festival parade. Credit: Jeremy Garretson

Greenport American Legion

When to go: Adult skate night, 21+, Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Address: 102 3rd St., Greenport


LeFrak Center at Lakeside in Brooklyn

When to go: Lola Star’s Dreamland Disco, 21+, Fridays through Oct. 22 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Address: 171 East Dr., Brooklyn

Phone: 718-462-0010


Where Else To Go for Adult Skates on Long Island

United Skates, Massapequa

Arguably the best-known spot to roller skate on Long Island, United Skates of America draws people of all ages from the outer boroughs and out East. It hosts three adult nights: Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. A DJ and neon lights are there to amp up the crowd, but they rarely need help getting in the mood. Attendees say they love going and showing off their moves while also learning a thing or two from others. And there’s plenty of space to try out tricks or learn to skate on the spacious wooden floor.

Address: 1276 Hicksville Rd.

Phone: 516-795-5474


Gr8skates, Shirley

This newly-minted spot opened in September and is already giving adults a new reason to take a night out. Fridays and Saturdays are for the 21+ crowd. When the skate begins, the house lights go down, the neon lights go up and a DJ takes their place on the ones and twos. One recent theme night was all-80’s music. But on other nights, songs from the 70s and 90s or R&B have blared through the speakers.

Address: 30 The Green, Shirley

Phone:  631-729-6055