Rockefeller Center this ain’t, and that has its pros and cons.
To start with the pros, your odds of catching COVID at The William Vale — which is now offering rooftop “glice” skating (I’ll get into it) — are much lower than they would be in Midtown. I’m no scientist, but I don’t think every entrance leading toward Rockefeller Center and its owl-displacing tree is manned, as the Vale’s is, with an employee taking visitors’ temperatures and ensuring they’re wearing masks. Plus, the Vale is limiting the number of reservations it will take for this seasonal offering of outdoor, rooftop skating. I certainly felt safe, even with my general fear of heights, ascending to the 23rd floor in the Vale’s sanitizer-equipped elevator.
A similar pro: fewer tourists. For those of us who have spent the past half-year in our bunkers, we may have forgotten that, indeed, tourists are still trickling into the city, but Christmastime infamously brings the flood. Hard as it is to miss the behemoth hotel that is the Vale — a celebrated architectural feat, or a neighborhood eyesore, depending on your vantage — it certainly, at 111 North 12th Street in Williamsburg, draws less of a crowd than Rockefeller Center in December.
And that crowd comes for two major reasons: the view and the ice skating. At Rockefeller Center, the view is the sky-high tree; at the William Vale, it’s the skyline. And that is likely the largest pro that will draw in a crowd there for one reason: the ‘gram. A simple search of #williamvale on Instagram reveals hundreds of gorgeously staged rooftop pics of happy couples or cocktail drinkers posing before the Manhattan cityscape. The view really is stunning, humbling, and well worth the hourly fee of $20 ($12 for kids) the hotel charges guests to come up, snap a pic, and ice skate — sorry, glice skate.
The views delight, the skating does not. This is not entirely the Vale’s fault: ice — shocker! — is very heavy, meaning the hotel could not just put an enormous block of it twenty stories up and expect the floors below to support it. That’s my impression; again, I’m no scientist.
So, enter glice, which I’d assume is a portmanteau of “glide” and “ice.” The helpful (and mask-wearing) attendant told us this synthetic material was not really ice but could still be quite slippery. She was correct: children were falling left and right, which, in a way, felt very reminiscent of my early memories skating at Rockefeller Center. The problem with skating on glice is it’s rather hard to gain momentum. The left-and-right swish-of-the-ankle method I’m accustomed to on ice skates (is that how I’m supposed to do it, Tonya Harding?) did not translate to glice skating. After about 10 minutes of hugging the side railings for dear life I learned that the smoother way to maneuver the glice was to embrace the “step and flick.” You take a step forward, and instead of swishing your ankle leftward and right, you flick the ball of your foot backward, in a straight line, to give yourself a little push. Or, that’s what I found worked for me.
Construction was underway off to one side; it looked like the men were erecting some rink-side cabana. I imagine that, if folks get tired of trying to skate, or, heaven forbid, the views, they can retire to one of these individual enclosures and enjoy a rooftop beverage. It did put me in the mood to kick back and order a whiskey on the rocks. If you do, doubtless you’ll want to specify that it comes with ice, not…well, you know.