If you’ve lived in New York for a bit, then you know it — the unspoken code. Don’t make eye contact with anyone, especially on the subway. Don’t be a pole leaner. Do not stop directly in front of the turnstile. Walk with purpose and direction. Make room for showtime. Avoid people with clipboards and matching T-shirts at all costs. Don’t look up.
Yes, yes, we’re all too jaded — or too busy pretending to be jaded — to look up. I’m not suggesting that you meander down the streets with a camera slung around your neck, but I am encouraging you to pay slightly closer attention to the places you pass each day. To borrow from the infinite wisdom of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Or, in this case. you might miss a pretty sweet house or cottage perched on top of a building you’ve passed a thousand times before.
Charming East Village Rooftop Cottage
On the northeast corner of 13th Street and 3rd Avenue is a prewar building topped with a wooden cottage — chimney and all. It hit the market last year, affording curious New Yorkers a coveted look inside the mysterious home.
West Village Rooftop Cottage With Porch and Meadow
The top floor of a six-story building on Greenwich Street is host to a very special loft, and likely the only porch in the world with views of the Empire State Building. The loft’s owners wanted an escape from New York without actually leaving the city, and thus the idea for a rooftop porch was born. The New York Times confirms the porch is an extension of the apartment, describing it as “a glorified bulkhead over a hole punched in the ceiling of the family’s loft to make way for a nautical stairway that rises to a landing with a galley-like kitchenette, with two paned windows and a door that opens to the roof.” As if a porch overlooking the NYC skyline couldn’t get any more serene, the couple also created their own 1,200-square foot meadow filled with 2,200 plants and a drip irrigation system (see photo below).
An Upper West Side Rooftop “Ski Chalet”
If you’re ever walking down West 78th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam, keep your eyes peeled for a triangular structure poking up among the flat tops of neighboring apartment buildings. Dubbed the “ski chalet” by ScoutingNY, the structure is actually a triplex penthouse owned by architect Andrew Tesoro. According to the New York Times, Tesoro purchased the penthouse in 1990 for $173,000 after two years of negotiation. Due to building codes, his plans for a straightforward duplex were thwarted and, lucky for us, Tesoro had to get creative with his design. The result? A copper-clad roof resembling the top half of an A-frame house.
An East Village Rooftop “Beach House”
On the corner of 1st Street and 1st Avenue in the East Village is another gem hiding in plain sight uncovered by ScoutingNY. From what we can see through StreetEasy data, it seems the house is perched atop 13 First Avenue, and was purchased in 1996 for $225,000. $225,000 for an entire 13,300 square foot HOUSE overlooking 1st Avenue? Talk about a steal!
Lighthouse Overlooking the Bronx
Perched above the Harlem River and Major Deegan Expressway is an extrinsic piece of the West Bronx skyline. Originally constructed for aesthetic purposes, the lighthouse served as a real-life logo for publishing company H.W. Wilson. The building at 950 University Avenue is now host to Tuck-it-Away headquarters, a local storage company.
Have you spotted any stand-alone houses on top of NYC apartment buildings? Let us know in the comments section!