3 min read

Icicles Hang at Precarious Heights

Menace awaits on every architectural angle, every surface where sun-warmed slush slaloms its way off a precipice.
An icicle drips from the fanged, grimacing, toothy maw of a winged stone monster.
An icicle dangling from a gargoyle on the tomb of John Matthews, the 19th-century Soda Fountain King of NYC, in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery

A titan of industry lies dead on a bearskin rug. A log settles in the fireplace. A puddle of water mingles with blood, spreading slowly across the floor. It’s a mystery to hone your wits, for the crime was committed with the perfect weapon: an icicle.

For us New Yorkers, the icicle is no abstract, locked-room conundrum to puzzle out, but an existential threat. An internet search for “NYC icicle danger” returns more results from personal injury firms than local news sources. If you have been injured by falling ice, talk to a reputable Manhattan lawyer. CALL NOW. Our team of experienced attorneys can assess your case. We help you seek justice and receive MAXIMUM compensation!

Menace awaits on every architectural angle, every surface where sun-warmed slush slaloms its way off a precipice. Shedding heat in its headlong rush, it is arrested in motion as its temperature again drops below freezing. Death hangs pendulously.

Look up at the sculptural ice forms taking shape around you, the gelid spikes stretching like stalactites down from the corners of buildings or even from the ceiling of subway station tunnels. Gravity and weather are the co-authors of a delicate and dangerous art form. Carefully choreograph your dance of avoidance. Marvel at the shapes, but beware: there could be an icicle dangling like a sword of Damocles somewhere above.

A crowd of people in winter coats look upward expectantly.
Waiting for icicles to drop on a busy Midtown street, March 7, 1940. (via New York Times Archive)
  • The Icicle was the name of a colossal ice yacht—a sailing craft that rides over the ice on metal runners—that cruised the frozen Hudson River in the 19th century, even beating a train in an 1871 race from Poughkeepsie to Ossining. It measured over 67 feet long and is still considered the biggest ice yacht ever constructed.
  • In the summertime of old, New Yorkers would have ice delivered in horse-drawn carts. The going rate in 1900 was about 50 cents per 100 pounds—a 100% increase from the previous year, thanks to the machinations of Big Ice. When refrigeration came in, contract killer Abe ‘Kid Twist’ Reles still found use for his “silent and practically bloodless” ice pick. Reles eventually took a tumble from a five-story building just before he was due to testify against the notorious head of Murder, Inc., Albert Anastasia (who also knew his way around the sharp end of a pick).
  • Some icicle highlights from the New York Times archive:
People who wanted to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday morning were not allowed to do so. Some of them fumed and talked about the rights of American citizens, but the bridge policemen were unbending. ... They pointed to the cables, and men and women who weren't shortsighted saw that on the big steel ropes hung sparkling icicles of all sizes. (2 Jan 1887)
Warmth Brings Joy To the Bronx Zoo, Icicle Is Not Insane: The mystery of Icicle, the latest addition to the bear colony was explained yesterday, much to the satisfaction of ... zoo officials. ... Yesterday a letter came from one of the trappers in Alaska who had sent Icicle here. It told of how the bear, while he was in the custody of the trappers had been taught to dance and to go through a weird evolution on his hind legs. “Don't be uneasy if the bear acts a little strange at times,” the letter ran. “He was taught to do so.” (22 Feb 1909)
As the temperature rose from its midnight low of 35, pieces of ice, some weighing between five and ten pounds, began to fall from high buildings. ... During the noon lunch hour, one large piece of ice crashed through the plate glass window of a cafeteria at Lexington Avenue and Forty-third Street, but none of the patrons was injured. (18 Jan, 1941)