New Rooftop Bar in Bayside, Queens

Melissa Chen of the New York Daily News reported this week that Bourbon Street, an established Bayside, Queens New Orleans style restaurant, is adding a rooftop bar, restaurant, raw seafood bar and possibly even a wood-burning rooftop pizza oven! 

Great news for Queens – home of huge rooftop commercial farm, lots of green roofs and two other rooftop bars in Long Island City. Now there is a rooftop bar, restaurant and pizza oven in Bayside!

Rendering courtesy CD Architect Studio





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Barclays Center to Add Green Roof, according to WSJ

This just in! The Wall Street Journal reports that a huge, 130,000 square foot green roof is planned for Barclays Center. What a wonderful upgrade for this huge sports arena located in Brooklyn.

The link to the full article is below:

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“Igloos” for rent at 230 Fifth’s Rooftop Bar

Another in my series of NYC winter rooftop experiences:


It’s been cold here. I personally witnessed ice floes on the Hudson. I’d even say it’s been cold enough for an Eskimo! And now New Yorkers (and anyone visiting our frigid city) can reserve one of four igloo-shaped, temperature controlled, clear plastic bubble tents, furnished with sofas, rugs and a TV, at the sprawling rooftop bar known as 230 Fifth. 012214bubble2

The minimum drink/food order required to reserve the 12-person party bubble is $500, so with a full house (tent?), including a respectable tip, each guest would need to contribute just $50 for up to five hours of rooftop bubble time.

The “FIFTHgloos,” as 230 Fifth is calling them, will be available until March 31.

By the way, 230 Fifth will be featured in my upcoming book, “Roof Explorer’s Guide: 101 New York City Rooftops.” The book is due out as soon as it warms up a bit around here…

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A Winter Rooftop that is Out of this World! (Pupin Hall, Columbia University)

Save the date – and hope for clear skies – on February 7, 2014!

Here’s a great winter rooftop experience for you, and another preview from Section 6 of my upcoming book, “Roof Explorer’s Guide: 101 New York City Rooftops.”

photo by Heather Shimmin

photo by Heather Shimmin

97. The Rutherford Observatory (Pupin Hall rooftop at Columbia University)

The most thrilling sight from most 15-story Manhattan rooftops is the view of the city below. But what the Rutherford Observatory, atop Pupin Hall at Columbia University, offers is the view above. It can outshine even New York City with some heavy-hitting celestial competition.

The view below includes the cathedral spires of the Union Theological Seminary and the George Washington Bridge, and is indeed spectacular. Yet the crowd is drawn here every other Friday for the opportunity to look up toward the planets, stars and constellations.

The Columbia Astronomy Public Outreach program holds a lecture/stargazing event twice a month during the academic year. The 30-minute lecture is followed by rooftop telescope observations, usually through one of three telescopes manned by the endearingly enthusiastic Columbia astronomy student volunteers. Inside the oxidized green rooftop dome, built well before the surrounding “light pollution” began interfering, is a 14-inch Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. The volunteers focus the telescope and remain on hand to answer questions.

While rooftop visitors explore the enormous wonders of the galaxy on top of Pupin Hall, its underground laboratories are where 29 Nobel Prize winners in physics studied the tiniest building blocks of our universe. In 1939, the first atom-splitting in the United States took place in the cyclotron in Pupin’s basement. Furthermore, much of the early work on The Manhattan Project occurred at Pupin Physics Laboratories, and even our most famous wild-haired physicist, Einstein, did research here.

Take advantage of this opportunity to observe the heavens atop the building where the stars of the physics world have truly shined.


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I’m back with a Winter Rooftop for you

I’m back after a too-long blogging hiatus.

I’ve been roof exploring and writing throughout 2013, but instead of blogging, I was writing my first book: “Roof Explorer’s Guide: 101 New York City Rooftops.”

It’s full of beautiful color photographs and great information. I can’t wait to share it with you. My talented and generous art director, Arlene Bender, and her fabulous husband, Bob Aiese, are putting it all together right now. My amazing photographers are Ari Burling and Heather Shimmin (who is still working hard wrapping up a few of the last photo shoots). Rhea Alexander stepped up when I was in a pickle and helped out with photography as well. Laura Brown and George Ludwig have been enormously helpful with editing the text. What a team!

So I want to leave you with a preview from “Roof Explorer’s Guide” of a perfect rooftop for winter or summer, the City Ice Pavilion. You’re the first ones to read this!

When the New York City summer heat and humidity become unbearable, grab your parka and escape to a chilly winter wonderland. The one-of-a-kind rooftop ice rink, City Ice Pavilion is the place to cool off, have some old-fashioned fun and even get a little exercise during summer, or anytime of year.

Opened in 2008 by a hockey-loving dad who wanted a place for his kids to skate, this bubble-enclosed National Hockey League regulation-size rink dwarfs many of the outdoor winter skating options in Manhattan. At 85 by 200 feet, there is plenty of room for beginners and old pros to glide around, especially during the more sparsely attended midweek public sessions. For spectators, free bleachers are provided, but with the affordable ice-time and skate rental rates, everyone should try a spin on the ice. It is kept very cold under the bubble, so the best way to stay cozy is to keep moving on those skates. For those who choose to watch from the bleachers, make sure to bring a hat, scarf and gloves, even in summer.

While it is only a quick subway ride, plus a short walk, from Manhattan to City Ice Pavilion, the facility is built on a three-story commercial site surrounded by warehouse-type buildings. It is an area with a notable lack of pedestrians and dining choices, so be sure to have your walking directions and your brown-bag lunch in hand once you exit the subway station.

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Ahead of Her Time- Meet One of NYC’s Commercial Roof Farm Pioneers

I first met Anne Apparu on Friday, November 16, 2012, when I volunteered at Shore Soup, a makeshift soup kitchen at 92nd Beach Street in the Rockaways.  She was cooking soup for people who had suffered huge losses at the hands of Super Storm Sandy and I was delivering it.

Across the street from where Shore Soup was happening

Across the street from where Shore Soup was happening

A cook and an artist, Anne is the child of two chefs.  She must cook.  If she doesn’t cook for three consecutive days, she tells me, she begins to get depressed. Food is her art form, her expression and, after tasting what she makes, I know it is her gift to the world.

Born in Corsica of Tunisian parents, Anne is a Sephardic Jew who kisses the Mezzuzah on her doorpost when she enters her apartment.  She has been in New York City since 1987, and, although she travels a lot, she most definitely considers New York City her home.  She says she has tried living other places but it “didn’t work out.”  After listening to her stories, I think I can understand why.  Read on and you’ll see why too.

Anne Apparu on her rooftop farm

Anne Apparu on her rooftop farm

After a day of volunteering at Shore Soup, Anne and I took the ferry back from the Rockaways to Wall Street Pier in Manhattan, together.  As we gazed out the boat’s windows at the Cross Bay Bridge and then the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, I casually commented about seeing Robert Moses’ work up-close after having just spent nearly six months plodding through The Powerbroker, the 1975 Pulitzer Prize winning book by Robert Caro about Robert Moses, the “Master Builder.”  Anne’s copy of the book, it turns out, had been in her storage unit in the Rockaways when Sandy hit.  Along with her catering equipment and other personal items, she lost the book that, before her move to Chinatown, had been her bedside reading stalwart.  She was less than halfway through it.

The early days of commerical rooftop farming in NYC

The early days of commercial rooftop farming in NYC

I promised to bring her my copy and that’s how I happened upon the marrow soup and the magical food tales that follow.

I went to see Anne again at her Chinatown apartment to learn more about her connection with food in New York City.  She was making a delicious, rich marrow soup, full of herbs and noodles – heavenly!  We spoke while she packed up the soup, transporting a homemade gourmet lunch to her fashion photographer friends.

Rooftop tomatoes

Rooftop tomatoes

Cooking has always been Anne’s passion, and from that, she may have invented  what we now know as the “pop-up restaurant.”

In 2007, her friends encouraged Anne to open a restaurant of her own, but she didn’t have the means to devote herself to a full-time restaurant.  As a compromise, she began the “18th Restaurant.” On the 18th of each month, she served full meals at her “pop-up” restaurant.  It began with invited friends, but as word got out, 18th Restaurant’s reputation grew and it became a monthly underground food happening.

Soon after the success of 18th Restaurant, she opened a café called “Homegrown” in an artists’ collective at 169 Bowery just below Delancey,   This was on the second floor in the “Collective Hardware” art space that was closed down in 2010.

At Homegrown, once again, Anne was a NYC food pioneer.  In 2008, she began collecting abandoned scraps of wood on the street and when she had enough, in 2009, she built shallow raised beds on Collective Hardware’s third-floor rooftop.  She got compost from Union Square and made more compost from kitchen scraps in her 2nd floor café .   She set up buckets and barrels to collect rainwater for irrigation.  She grew natives and curative plants from which she made infusions.  In just four inches of rich soil, she grew raspberries, vegetables and even tobacco.  Then she cooked her roof grown bounty downstairs in the café, making her one of the first commercial roof farmers in the United States.  While commercial roof farming was unheard of in 2008, just a few years later, roof farms are on hotels, grocery stores and abandoned factories all over New York City and across the United States.

Around the same time that Anne was closing up Homegrown, Rockaway Taco made this beach a hipster summer destination.  Yet, she noted there was no where else to get healthy, homestyle, affordable food for the summer residents and  for the thousands of full-time Rockaway residents, many of whom live in New York Housing Authority projects.  During the 2011 beach season, in an attempt to combat the “food desert” in the Rockaways, Anne cooked couscous dishes full of fresh and natural ingredients at Malou’s, a restaurant she opened on the boardwalk in the Rockaways and named after her grandmother.

Currently, when not feeding hungry fashion photographers (I’m sure the rail thin models don’t go anywhere near her mouthwatering lunches), Anne cooks at Growing Heart Farm‘s, 75 miles north of New York City in the Harlem River Valley.  She creates farm-to-table yoga dinners for day-retreaters.

When I asked about her describing herself as an artist, she told me about two of her projects, one in the past and one in the future.

In May 2011, the New Museum, located on the rapidly gentrifying Bowery, in fact on the exact spot where the punk rock-star incubator CBGB club once was, contacted Anne to participate in their annual Festival of Ideas, held each May.  Anne had a great, food-related (of course) idea called There are no Recipes, which culminated in a series of wonderful short videos that you can still see on Youtube.

Watch and you will see children teaching viewers cooking techniques – a salad, a quiche, a stew, a soup, a cake, or a cookie.  No recipes, just the basic guidelines and proportions.  Plus the kids always instruct you to choose your ingredients carefully, taste them to make sure you like them, clean up your kitchen and compost your scraps.  This is great stuff, and it was a big hit with children and adults at the 2011 Festival.

Looking to the future, Anne has been contacted by the New Museum again, asking for her repeat participation.  A wealth of creativity, she has another idea, this time involving growing food.  At the New Museum’s May 2013 Festival, Anne is organizing people to assemble “seed bombs,” soil infused with seeds of edible plants and mushroom “tea,” which is known for filtering out pollutants.  After the seed bombs are assembled, they will be distributed to pedestrians and cyclists who will be assigned different sections of New York City’s vast 530 miles of coastline.  The “bombs” will be launched in public places, and after that, it’s up to nature to do the work.  Healthy food will grow randomly along the waterways of New York City for the public to pick, cook and enjoy.

I may not be able to forgive Robert Moses for destroying New York City’s neighborhoods or starving the MTA of funds for decades as he built his mighty bridges and tunnels, but I am grateful to him for revealing to me the ever evolving food-centric world of Anne Apparu, roof farming pioneer.  Bon appétit!

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Javitz Rolls Out the Green Carpet (34th – 40th Streets between 11th and 12th Avenues in Manhattan)

Javitz Center is installing the mother of all green roofs!

Looking east from the green roof of the Javitz Center

When complete (probably next year in 2013), it’s going to be 8 glorious acres, the second largest green roof in the entire country and, for sure, the largest green roof in Manhattan.  Sorry US Postal Service Morgan Mail Processing Center, the former green roof Mama Bear – at 2.5 acres, you are now the Baby Bear; and the Ford Motor Factory green roof in Deerborn, Michigan holds fast as the Papa Bear of USA green roofs coming in at 10.4 awesome acres.

A roll of “living carpet” of pre-grown sedum plants, commonly used for greening rooftops

Xero Flor, the same green roof installer at the Ford plant, assigned Kat Harrold, a trained landscape architect and GRP (Green Roof Professional) to manage this complex project, a key part of the greening up renovation of Javitz Center.  It is clear that Kat, a petite woman with long brown hair who carries her own construction hard hat in her backpack, is passionate about green roofs.  When still in university, she decided to devote her career to the environmentally urgent goal of greening of our cities’ rooftops.

Mechanicals on the 13-acre Javitz rooftop leave roof for 8 acres of green roof

You might be wondering, how do Kat and her crew go about greening 8 acres of rooftop in midtown Manhattan?  In its simplest form, it’s kind of like installing wall-to-wall carpeting on the roof but with small living plants rather than man-made woven carpet fibers.

She explained that after carefully waterproofing the roof membrane and putting in paving stone walkways so there is access to the HVAC and other mechanical stuff that is kept on rooftops, they put down irrigation, some lightweight soil, and a layer or two of materials to maximize drainage and rainwater retention.  Then the fun begins:  Just like carpeting the living room of your suburban tract house, they roll out the pre-grown plants.

Irrigation lines are installed below the sedum carpet

Voila! Instant green roof with all of its fabulous environmental and economic benefits:

Instant rain water runoff reduction

• Instant improved roof insulation for lower air conditioning and heating bills

• Instant longer lasting roofs

• Instant reduced heat island effect

• Instant increased biodiversity

Lightweight, specially manufactured soil keeps the weight of the green roof down

As an advocate of public access green roofs, it’s frustrating that this expansive green roof with breathtaking views will only be accessible by Javitz maintenance folks – and the occasional determined rooftop blog writer.  I’ll search for public access viewing spots from which you can see the roof – dragon’s blood red in winter, blossoming pink, white and yellow in spring, and green in summer and fall - and report back to you.  Meanwhile, as you environmentally progressive baby caniforms enjoy your morning porridge, with a generous dollop of locally harvested rooftop honey of course, you can check out the progress of this Mama Bear of green roofs on Google Earth.

Looking north from the Javitz rooftop

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