My interest in NYC roofs began years ago when, as a tourist from Southern California, I was walking around Manhattan LOOKING UP and wondering what was on those roofs where you could see circumstantial evidence of a garden – maybe a tree top or juniper bush poking up into the Manhattan skyline. I knew there had to be a lot more of great interest that I couldn’t see LOOKING UP from street level. My New York-enamored imagination latched on to the idea of discovering what is up there.
Fast forward to this past April when my dream of living in New York full-time was on track to come true. I got an apartment in the West Village, and even though I could only stay a month this time, I finally had a NYC address. I knew very few people and no one with a private roof garden so I took the next logical step and went to the information super source, Google. Meetup Groups are known for being inclusive so when I happened on one called “The New York Roofdeck and Roof Gardening Meetup Group,” I was thrilled to bits and joined right away – in spite of the fact that I’m not even allowed on the un-improved roof of my own 100-plus year-old West Village apartment building. The Meetup roof gardeners were happy to have me and I began communicating via email with Peter Watson, the warm and helpful founder of this group.
After enjoying a magical month of spring in bloom in New York City, I jetted back to San Diego to do my final preparations for my full-time cross country move. There were roof garden events that I missed while away, but Peter always helped me find ways to have private viewings of the Meetup members’ gardens when I was able to be in New York. Thank you Peter! I’ve been to four Meetup roof gardens (three of them twice – roof gardeners are really lovely, social people) and, in time, I will tell you about all of them, but today I’ll focus on the smallest one, a charming roof top that belongs to my neighbors one block away, lovely people I never would have met if it weren’t for the Roof Garden Meetup. They are in such close proximity that from their roof garden, you can see my bedroom window.
Nathalie grew up in rural France and explains that she needs to get her hands in the dirt and grow a garden to feel normal. She and her handy English boyfriend, Nick, grow lavender, raspberries, basil, flowers and vegetables on this cozy rooftop five stories above a hipster bar, overlooking the Westbeth Artist Community and the Hudson River. When I was up there for the first time last spring, there were bees and butterflies galore dancing around the lavender, and I was offered and eagerly accepted a delicious roof-grown yellow raspberry. Back in a corner, this couple makes compost. It’s amazing that with their small roof garden, they are making way for biodiversity in the City, keeping organic, methane-making scraps out of the landfills, and keeping their sanity with a bit of gardening after long days under fluorescent lights. Bravo to Nick and Nathalie, and I can hardly wait until next spring’s raspberries are ripe!
I’ve been a busy rooftop visitor this week and have too much to share with you, but I think in my next post it’s time to take you to PS 333’s one-of-a-kind science lab roof. This roof is a “Wow!”