MIDTOWN — Days after two ice skaters were wounded and one possibly paralyzed in a shooting Saturday night at Bryant Park, some skaters shunned Manhattan's only free-admission rink, preferring to pay an admissions fee elsewhere to skate without fear, they said.
"When there's a shooting, you just want to stay away," said Midtown resident Craig Donaldson, who joined a friend at Wollman Rink in Central Park on Wednesday, where adults pay $11.25 for entry. "We were actually supposed to skate at Bryant Park the Saturday of the shooting. When we heard about it, we immediately went here."
Donaldson said he plans to "wait a month or two" before returning to Bryant Park, to "let it blow over."
College sophomore Yasmine Achibat, 19, and her friend, Nadia Amrani, 18, also said they avoided Bryant Park's rink Wednesday, instead visiting Wollman.
"I was going to say, 'Let's skate at Bryant Park,' but then I heard about the shooting," said Achibat, who lives in Astoria. "I don't think I'll feel safe at Bryant Park. It's so busy there. It seems easier to sneak something in."
The Bryant Park Corporation and the rink and Winter Village operator, Upsilon Ventures, said they assigned additional security guards to the park, calling it "a very safe and family-friendly environment."
Three NYPD officers plus three more security guards have been added to the 21-person security staff patrolling the park, Bryant Park Corporation president Dan Biederman said.
Adonis Mera, 14, was caught in the crossfire during the Nov. 9 shooting, which was sparked after Corey Dunton, 16, demanded a winter coat from skater Javier Contreras, 20, who refused to turn it over, police said. Dunton opened fire at the rink just after 11 p.m., striking Contreras in the leg and hitting Mera in the back, police said.
Dunton was ordered held without bail Monday night after being arraigned on charges of attempted murder, assault, criminal possession of a weapon and reckless endangerment.
Mera's mother, Arisleny Martinez, said Wednesday her son still can't move his legs but is now talking.
"I don't know when he'll go home," she said while leaving her home in East Harlem to visit her son on Wednesday, adding his spririts are low. "He needs to get better."
Wally Rubin, chairman of Community Board 5, which includes Bryant Park, emphasized that the shooting was one of the only violent crimes in the park in more than 20 years.
"It's really important not to overreact," Rubin said. "Their record of success is just stellar."
Nevertheless, Biederman said that park's staff members and board of directors "are turning things over in our heads. We reviewed all this with the board of directors, we're very pleased with the reaction of the rink operator, and we don't think it will change the image of Bryant Park long term."
Security guard Mike Morales, 35, who was working the night of the shooting, said the park feels like it did before the violence.
"Everything's back to normal," he said Tuesday. "I just want to see everyone come back here and have a good time — make a memory they'll have for the rest of their lives."