Arlo Midtown Rooftop. Photo © JF

Rooftops in New York City have a unique and storied history. From the early days of the city’s development, when flat rooftops were used for practical purposes such as drying laundry or storing firewood, to the present day, when they are often transformed into lush gardens, recreational spaces, and even luxury penthouse apartments, rooftops have played a vital role in the city’s culture and daily life.

One of the most iconic uses of rooftops in NYC is as a place for socializing and entertainment. In the 1920s and 30s, rooftop gardens and speakeasies were all the rage, with many buildings in the city boasting their own rooftop oases. These spaces offered a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city streets, and were a popular spot for people to gather, dance, and enjoy a drink. Some famous examples of rooftop gardens from this era include the Rooftop Garden at the Rockefeller Center and the Top of the Sixes, which was located atop the 66th floor of the Chrysler Building.

Today, many rooftop spaces in the city have been transformed into luxury amenities for residents and guests of high-rise buildings. Many new developments feature rooftop swimming pools, lounges, and even outdoor kitchens, offering residents a private escape from the busy streets below. Many of these rooftop spaces also offer stunning views of the city, making them a popular spot for events such as weddings and corporate parties.

Aside from entertainment and luxury amenities, rooftops in NYC also play a vital role in the city’s efforts to become more sustainable and eco-friendly. Many buildings in the city now feature green roofs, which are covered in vegetation and help to reduce the urban heat island effect, improve air quality, and reduce stormwater runoff. These green roofs also provide important habitats for local wildlife, and can help to improve the overall health and well-being of city residents.

However, not all rooftops in NYC are accessible to the public. Many rooftops are privately owned and only accessible to residents or guests of the building. Some are open to the public for events or tours, but these are usually limited and require advanced reservations. There are also several rooftop bars, restaurants and observation decks that are open to the public and offer beautiful views of the city.

In recent years, there has also been a growing movement to convert unused rooftop spaces into community gardens. These gardens provide a much-needed green space in densely populated areas of the city and offer a variety of benefits, including improved air and water quality, reduced heat island effect, and increased biodiversity. They also offer a place for local residents to come together and build community, and can provide a source of fresh produce for low-income families.

In conclusion, rooftops in NYC have played a vital role in the city’s history and continue to shape its culture and daily life. From the glamorous rooftop gardens of the 1920s to the sustainable green roofs of today, these spaces offer a unique perspective on the city and provide a range of benefits for residents and visitors alike. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious escape or a community garden to call your own, the rooftops of NYC have something to offer for everyone.

Jean Ferreira at Arlo Midtown Rooftop. Photo © JF