The mere ability to access one's rooftop in New York City is a cause to be celebrated. Especially in the sweltering summer months, the ability to escape a cramped hot apartment and look out upon the town from a breezy perch, get some sun, or maybe have a cocktail with some friends, is a privilege for which many would fight tooth and nail. But this is America where bigger is better, so inevitably some innovator was destined to come along and figure out how to wring more use out of rooftops than simple relaxation.
Take 550 Vanderbilt Avenue in Brooklyn near the Barclays Center, for example. As reported in Grubstreet, this luxury condo property will feature not some simple garden, but a legitimate farm on its roof come next year. Apparently, unit owners will be able to rent plots filled with soil “suitable for high-altitude farming” at the start of harvesting season and grow in them what they so choose. And lest one think that this is simply a passing folly of several wealthy Brooklynites, serious horticulturists like Ian Rothman, co-owner of celebrated Prospect Heights restaurant Olmsted, has already claimed several plots to “grow hot peppers for their aji-dulce sauce.”
And this is but one example of rooftop ambition. There are myriad ways that those who can afford it are maximizing the use of their rooftop spaces. One may feel inclined wonder where the limit lies.
Home Is Where Everything Is
One frequent aim of luxury is stylish convenience – taking something that is usually accessed outside of the home, and incorporating it therein in a sleek and alluring way. Condo and co-op properties have long featured amenities like gyms and pools, but it's fairly recent that these features have been moving upward--even roof-ward..
Green roofs and gyms are not outrageous concepts in multi-family living, but rarely do you see the two combined into one uber-amenity. This is the case at 689 Myrtle Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant – a.k.a. The Chocolate Factory. According to Thomas Thibodeaux, the chief financial officer of New Bedford Management Group, the rooftop gym features glass walls looking out to the green roof, which in turn looks out onto Brooklyn, offering panoramic views of the city and a place to work out while reducing the property's carbon footprint. Quite the hat trick as far as perks of living go.
And what of that age-old question, “Take in a film or soak in the Jacuzzi?” According to Michael J. Larkin, PE, a partner with the New York City-based RAND Engineering & Architecture, DPC, one enterprising client would have that debate no longer, as they had both a hot tub and a movie screen installed on the roof of the penthouse at 129 Duane Street. This would hypothetically allow the owner to watch the Entourage gang lounge about in a hot tub while the owner themselves did the same, thereby achieving the closest thing to a universally shared dream.
Case in Point: One Vandam
Up to this point, the roofs in questions have been at the apex of their respective buildings. But some properties are zoned such that there are lower-level roofs over parts of the building that jut out from the main structure. And why not take advantage of these protrusions to create a vibrant communal space that will be the envy of passerby?
The Manhattan-based firm BKSK Architects has two such projects, One Vandam (at 180 Avenue of the Americas in SoHo) and the still-under-construction 1 Great Jones Alley. “Both properties offer a rooftop garden with direct access from the lobby,” explains Harry Kendall, a partner with BKSK. “We're not talking top-of-the-building, but a second floor roof from which a smaller footprint tower rises.”
At One Vandam, which has only recently become occupied, BKSK opted to make the lobby “a complex and alluring public area that extends from the first floor to a first floor garden, then to a second floor garden,” according to Kendall. “It was the best formula for generating the most value from the floor area.”
Kendall himself recently spoke to a resident of One Vandam who was extremely optimistic about the potential for the second-floor roof. “Of course, everyone wishes the weather were warmer, but the excitement is there,” Kendall relates. “It's clear that they'll be using the roof for a series of building-wide events. They've already held an Easter egg hunt, and they're imagining quarterly, season-specific events. Any newer building gradually establishes a sense of community, and this roof space has kick started that at One Vandam.”
Pools come in various shapes and sizes, but rarely do they come on roofs, barring cases of extreme affluence.
“At 260 Park Avenue South, one of the penthouse apartments has a pool, belonging to an individual unit owner,” says Larkin. “It's a long narrow pool with a hot tub at one end, with an adjacent deck and an electronic pool cover that extends out.”
And while that pool is reserved for the owners in questions (and hopefully, some friends on occasion), other properties actually offer a roof pool as a common element. A March 22nd piece in Mansion Global refers to the American Copper Buildings, luxury towers in Midtown East that will feature a connecting sky bridge – the first of its kind in the city in 80 years – as well as a 75-foot lap pool suspended 300 feet off the ground.
All of these bells and whistles may draw the eyes of owners with deep pockets, but sometimes maybe a standard roof is all one needs – especially if said roof looks off into the ocean, like it will at 90-unit condo property One Sixteen in Rockaway, as reported in Curbed last month. Or perhaps not: maybe the future of roof decks involves working out in the gym, taking a dip in a pool to cool down, and screening a film with your neighbors--all in that one roof, still. It remains to be seen if or when the roof bubble will burst.
Mike Odenthal is a staff writer at The Cooperator.