A White Christmas in New York City (if You Squint a Little)


It has been more than 680 days since Central Park was dusted with more than one inch of snow, the longest, un-snowiest stretch in New York City since snowfall records began here in 1869. It hasn’t snowed on Christmas in 14 years.

And yet, if you knew where to look for it, there was snow to be found this holiday.

It swirled on Mulberry Street inside scores of snow globes in a gift shop window. It fluttered near Union Square, shot from nozzle mounted on a building’s third floor. At Lincoln Center, 60 pounds of ersatz snow gently wafted atop still more snowflakes — well, dancers dressed like snowflakes — waltzing onstage.

In a season so far free of actual snow falling from the actual sky, New Yorkers did White Christmas as they do things best: their way.

At Paragon Sports, a shop near Union Square where skis and snowboards were stacked high, Zach Blank, the chief executive officer, took matters into his own hands. He had soapsuds sprayed from the building into the street last week.

“It has been unfortunate that it hasn’t snowed in New York City for the last year and a half,” Mr. Blank said. “Yes, it is soap bubbles, but it is really magical to have people walk by and wonder what’s going on and say, ‘Oh, wait, is it snowing?’”

There is snow in Ashley Hod’s apartment, too. A dancer in the New York City Ballet’s “Nutcracker,” she inadvertently brings home artificial snowflakes after each performance. A storm of cut paper snow falls over the dancers at every show, the squall created by a dozen people working in the rafters. “It’s in my purse, my backpack, it will come out of my sneakers, and it is coated all over the women’s dressing room,” said Ms. Hod, 28. “It just always follows you.”

The wonderment of ballerinas in a blizzard has a slight downside: Unlike real snow, paper snow never melts. “But it is most funny and special when you see a flake in June or July,” Ms. Hod said.

In Yonkers, at Chilly Willy and Cool Carl’s Premium Ice Service, where decorative ice luges shaped like Santa’s sleigh start at $175, the owner, Chilly Willy, a.k.a. Will D’Ariano, said he had snow aplenty — but it will cost you.

“If somebody with a lot of money comes and they want a white Christmas, they pay the piper the price, we get them all the snow they want,” said Chilly Willy, who runs the company with his son, Chilly Willy Jr., a.ka. Will D’Ariano Jr. (Cool Carl retired.) “It’s never no white Christmas.”

There’s a semblance of frost in and around the city if you really hunt for it: under a school of fresh fish for sale at Dahing Seafood Market in Chinatown, inside the Bronx warehouses of Snow Fresh Foods (“an industry leader in frozen potatoes,” according to the company) and — if you’re really imaginative — inside the dermatology offices of Dr. Marvin Snow, in Borough Park, Brooklyn.

For many, the situation was an unnerving reminder of the toll of global warming, a planet dramatically changed from childhoods full of snow days. And it’s not just New York. Only about 1 percent of people in the contiguous United States saw a white Christmas this year, according to the National Weather Service.

Charlotte Robbins, 37, recalled her father taking her sledding in the Bronx, when their sledding hill was Webster Avenue itself. This year, on the day before Christmas Eve, she stood inside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, N.J., in line at Big SNOW, an indoor ski slope. She was taking her children and niece skiing for the first time.

“This generation, they haven’t really experienced it, it’s a bit sad,” said Ms. Robbins, who works in information technology. “I am praying that people change their ways,” she added. “God created the earth for us. We have to take care of it.”

On Fifth Avenue and 18th Street, Kevin Edwards played a plaintive “Let It Snow” on his saxophone on Christmas Eve. Mr. Edwards, 62, who works as a chef in the New York court system, has spent December weekends busking there for fun for the past decade he said — even when the weather outside was frightful.

But this year, despite the 44- degree afternoon, the street he played to was nearly empty — the city is missing much more than snow, he said. “We are missing love, we are missing peace, we are missing so much,” Mr. Edwards said before he launched into his final riff: “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.” He added: “I try to help.”

A woman walked past, applauding.

Amelia Nierenberg and Kirsten Luce contributed reporting.



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