By many accounts, the 1870s were a rough time to be a New Yorker. Graft and corruption were rampant, children were drinking discount whiskey in Bowery dives and everyone had syphilis. The Parks Department website, though, paints a different picture: Winter was a snowy wonderland where women buttoned into petticoats glided three abreast across the frozen lake in Central Park. A young rake puffs what appears to be a cigar as he prepares to execute a flawless triple Salchow. Life was good. Life was perfect.

Yesterday we received an email from reader Sam Rosen, who's wondering whether it was permissible to skate on the city's lakes. And with good reason!

Yesterday the most amazing thing happened. I went to LeFrak to get a skate in but it was too crowded. When I left I noticed someone skating around near the edge of the lake. To my enjoyment, I realized the lake was completely frozen over.

I was quickly told by police and park department workers that it was illegal to skate on the frozen lake despite no signs posted to the contrary. (There is a sign that says "danger thin ice" but to me that essentially is "skate at your own risk.")

I went to the Parks Department website and don't see anything stating it's illegal to skate on the frozen ponds. In fact, the parks department history tells of using lakes in the winter as ice skating wonderlands.

Rosen also makes it look really fun:

Lake Skating from Gothamist on Vimeo.

So while you might be tempted to don your tightest skating bustle, a Parks Department spokesperson was quick to tell us that skating on the lakes, while tempting, is still damn illegal.

During the winter months, children and adults enjoy exploring the snowy terrain in city parks, but while ponds and lakes may appear frozen, venturing onto them is extremely dangerous and can cause potentially fatal accidents. Please exercise the same caution walking on park pathways as you would on sidewalks during icy weather—walk carefully.

Ice Safety Tips
• Never go on frozen waters (unless clearly marked otherwise with official signs).
• Parents and caregivers should make sure children are never unattended near ice.
• If you hear cracking, lie down immediately to try to distribute your weight.
• If you witness someone falling through ice, never attempt to make a rescue by yourself: call 911 and notify the proper authorities. Be sure to give the exact location and an account of the incident.

Phil Abramson, the Department's director of media relations, also points out that there aren't actually any official signs in the park system declaring conditions safe for skaters, so forget that first bullet point. The fine for breaking the rule is $50.

Long story short, if you want to skate, you'll have to do it in a slow, halting circle with the rest of the wobbling hoi polloi.