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New York City is full of peculiar window washing ny
phenomena—rickety fire escapes; 100-year-old subway tunnels; air conditioners propped perilously into window frames—that can strike fear into the heart of even the toughest city denizen. But should they? Every month, writer Ashley Fetters will be exploring—and debunking—these New York-specific fears, letting you know what you should actually worry about, and what anxieties you can simply let slip away — window washing new york
Twenty-eight floors up in the new One World Trade Center, just a matter of months after the magazine I worked for had moved in, I stood transfixed alongside a few colleagues as a pair of window washers on a hanging platform sprayed and soaped our floor-to-ceiling window. As they finished up, one pressed a switch, and with a terrifying lurch and a collective involuntary noise from us, the peanut gallery, the stage descended down to the next floor.
“Shockingly analog,” one coworker muttered as the window cleaners disappeared from view — simonswindows.com
If there’s a No. 1 source of secondhand anxiety for New Yorkers, it’s the unmistakable sight of skyscraper window washers, out in the open air, doing their jobs while suspended hundreds of feet above ground by a system of cables. On a day with even a slight breeze, it’s hard not to imagine a worst-case scenario. How often does the unthinkable … actually happen? And how is it prevented?
Window-washing is, statistically and practically speaking, much safer now than it was at the dawn of the age of skyscrapers, thanks to more sophisticated technology and practices. There are a variety of rigging systems that enable window washers to do their jobs, but the apparatus most commonly seen climbing the sides of New York’s skyscrapers is the scaffold (a long, rectangular platform that sits flush against the outside of the building) hanging down from a boom or a system of davits on the building’s roof. (On occasion, though, you might see a bosun chair, or boatswain’s chair, in use; it’s designed to carry just one person and looks sort of like a stationary bike, but suspended from a rooftop.)
As one window washer explained to The New Yorker in 2013, the side of a skyscraper makes a surprisingly peaceful workplace: Up there, away from the noisy cars and people at street level, “It’s just you and your partner. You can discuss anything, you can talk to yourself, no one’s gonna yell at you.”