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Figure Skaters Call For Equal Time At Harlem Ice Rink

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- A clash-on-ice is intensifying between parents in Harlem, with a figure skating group accusing the state of giving young girls the cold shoulder in favor of boys' hockey.

Riverbank State Park was bustling early Sunday, with ice time a precious commodity that has some skaters crying foul.

Figure Skating in Harlem – a private non-profit for girls – is demanding that the state allow them more time to practice, reports CBS 2's Demetra Ganias.

"It's a shame we have to turn girls away because there's not enough ice time," the group's founder, Sharon Cohen, said.

The girls pay to practice three school nights each week, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., but they say boys' hockey – including affluent private schools – are hogging the prime hours.

"They're not paying attention to girls because it's 15 percent girls' ice, figure skating and 85 percent hockey – that's a huge disparity," parent Denise Tutt said. "Just because they're playing hockey, it doesn't mean they get all the ice."

Despite the pleas for more ice time, the State Parks Department told CBS 2 that the ice skating group, with 4.5 hours each week, has more ice time than any other private permit holder.

Private hockey teams get no more than four hours of ice time, and they pay as well.

Supporters of public hockey waved their signs on Sunday as well.

Daniella Phillips said Riverbank Hockey allows her son and daughter to play. She said the skaters may deserve more time, but that it's unfair to cut the allotment for the public hockey teams.

"Don't take it away from an organization that serves all genders, local families, that doesn't have any funding," she said.

"For anyone to get more ice, they'd have to take it away from somebody else," Lewis Burgess, a volunteer with Riverbank Youth Ice Hockey, said.

The Harlem skaters insisted that it's a fight for what they feel is rightfully theirs.

"This is a neighborhood facility that was meant to serve our girls," Cohen said.

The group is waiting to sit down with Parks Department officials again in the coming weeks.

The state said it has offered Figure Skating in Harlem more ice time in the morning, before school. The group turned the offer down, however, saying it will cost too much since the group has to pay for added security services.

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