Skip to main content
This website uses a variety of cookies, which you consent to if you continue to use this site. You can read our Privacy Policy for details about how these cookies are used, and to grant or withdraw your consent for certain types of cookies.

Ice Rink or Pool? On a 78-Degree Winter Day, It Was Hard to Tell

February 22, 2018

February 21, 2018

Elizabeth A. Harris, The New York Times

As the temperature climbed to 72 degrees at noon on Wednesday, the Rink at Bryant Park was covered by vast patches of water about an inch deep. The temperature reached 78 degrees in Manhattan in the afternoon. CreditJulia Gillard for The New York Times

By late morning on Wednesday, it was a clear winter day in New York City. Not a cloud in the bright blue sky. A perfect time to head outside and go ice skating.

Except that by lunch time, the temperature had already blown past the day’s record high. As the lunch crowd settled into their green folding chairs with their sandwiches and iced teas in Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan, it was 72 degrees outside. It was also February.

The previous record for Feb. 21 was set in 1930, when Central Park reached 68 degrees. CreditJulia Gillard for The New York Times

Behind them, the ice skating rink at Bryant Park had become, essentially, a very large kiddie pool, covered by vast patches of water about an inch deep. Skaters described it as a “pool,” a “water park,” or “just terrible.” But they laced up their skates and went out on the “ice” nonetheless, where little wakes of water formed behind their blades.

“It’s like skating in a puddle,” said a girl who gave her name only as Marjona, 14.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s environmental information center, the previous record for Feb. 21 was set in 1930, when the temperature in Central Park reached 68 degrees. By 5 p.m. on Wednesday, the National Weather Service said it was 78 degrees in Manhattan.

Ming Fei, 18, grew up ice skating in Shenzhen, China, and now, as a student at Parsons School of Design, she likes to come to Bryant Park to skate with a friend. On Wednesday, they cut their outing short because there was so much water on the ice.

The skating rink crew at Bryant Park worked up a sweat trying to keep the melting ice frozen. CreditJulia Gillard for The New York Times

“I saw it like this once in China — it was because the cooler system was broken,” Ms. Fei said as she loaded her figure skates into a bag. “They didn’t allow people to go on the ice.”

The Rink at Bryant Park is a seasonal attraction — that season traditionally being winter — built behind the flagship building of The New York Public Library, on top of what becomes a lush lawn in the warmer months. This year, the rink is scheduled to stay open through March 4, but on Wednesday, the tent where visitors rent skates already seemed overcome by the weather. Little beads of sweat collected on foreheads as children gingerly pulled off their skates, and the snowflake décor felt confused.

“I was just thinking they should have the air on, but I guess they probably don’t equip this thing with air conditioning,” said Liz Hay, who was visiting from Boston with her husband and son. “It’s a good thing I have extra clothing because if I fall down, it’s going to be like taking a bath.”


Bryant Park’s other amenities were popular among those who chose not to skate. CreditJulia Gillard for The New York Times

Indeed, the lagoon effect on the ice that day made falling a bit more foreboding, beyond the usual threat of a sore behind. At least one iPhone dropped to the ice with a dreaded sloshing sound.

Some who had come to Bryant Park to skate took one look at the puddles and changed their plans, like Alli Keleman who brought her daughter, Emma, and seven of her friends from Staten Island as part of Emma’s birthday celebration.

“They decided they don’t want to go swimming,” Ms. Keleman said. “So we’re looking at Madame Tussauds now, might go to the wax museum.”

Crowds in Times Square took in the warm weather. CreditJulia Gillard for The New York Times

But plenty of skaters, from wobblers to experts, were undeterred, like the guy in green shorts and the woman in a neon yellow tank top. Lisa Forman wrung a small waterfall from her son’s sock in the shoe-changing area and declared their skate a great success. “It was fun!” she said. “A totally different experience.”

 “I felt like my shoes were going to overflow!” added her delighted son, Jacob Prezant, 7, as his sister Emma and her friend Mackenzie, both 9, looked on.

After several spins around the rink in her Ray-Bans and thin checkered shirt, Ms. Hay from Boston declared the water skating “a little tricky.” But she and her family were still at it, snapping pictures and smiling despite her son’s drenched jeans, determined to enjoy the weather before the temperature was expected to drop into the 40s on Thursday.

“It feels good to be in a T-shirt,” said her husband, George. “A little sun feels good on your skin no matter what you’re doing.”