Visiting New York's exclusive rooftop gardens

Mon Apr 18, 2011 6:42am EDT
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By Nick Zieminski

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Eagle-eyed Manhattan pedestrians may spy them high above the street: lush, tree-lined gardens, whose defiant greenery interrupts an urban panorama of concrete and glass.

Tourists will never see them up close. Few New Yorkers will. Those who notice these airy playgrounds, some just a few floors above the sidewalk, may wonder how it would feel to step out of one's living room into a private green space without giving up the perks of urban living.

A new book, "Rooftop Gardens: The Terraces, Conservatories and Balconies of New York" satisfies that curiosity with a photographic tour of 28 such exclusive oases.

Co-authors, and best friends, Denise LeFrak Calicchio and Roberta Model Amon called on friends and connections made over years in New York's high-end real estate business. With architectural photographer Norman McGrath, they set out to showcase the most spectacular gardens.

Many of the photographs in the coffee-table book highlight elaborate landscaping or show the way urban terraces serve as a private art gallery. Sometimes a sculpture dominates the space. In others, the garden's appeal lies more in its interplay with the cityscape just beyond a waist-high wall.

"It's really a fantasy world above New York," Amon said. "This is the epitome of luxury. A lot of people work all week and it's their weekend retreat."

It is a retreat few can afford. An apartment on the East Side of Manhattan, or in the tony TriBeCa neighborhood, that sells for $2,000 per square foot will fetch $3,000 a foot with a terrace. Bigger gardens on higher floors command a premium.

The authors do not name the high-profile owners, calling them "art collectors and philanthropists," or even pinpoint the buildings' locations. Many are protective of their privacy but proud of their homes.   Continued...

<p>A residential terrace is seen on the 76th floor of Manhattan's Time Warner Center, in what could be New York's highest garden, in this undated handout. REUTERS/Norman McGrath/Rooftop Gardens/Rizzoli 2011/Handout</p>