Rooftop parks have become increasingly popular in recent years, especially in urban areas where green space is limited. New York City has been a leader in this trend, with a long history of rooftop parks and gardens dating back to the early 20th century.
The first rooftop park in New York City was created in 1914, on the roof of the Schenley Apartments in the Upper West Side. The building’s developer, Simon Hirsh, saw the potential for using the roof space for recreation and relaxation, and he commissioned landscape architect Thomas W. Lamb to design a rooftop garden. The garden included flower beds, trees, and a central fountain, and it quickly became a popular attraction for the building’s residents.
The success of the Schenley Apartments rooftop garden inspired other developers to follow suit, and by the 1920s, rooftop gardens were becoming a common feature of new buildings in New York City. One of the most famous rooftop gardens of this era was the Rockefeller Center rooftop garden, which opened in 1933. Designed by landscape architect Ralph Hancock, the garden was an oasis in the middle of the bustling city, with a central pool, cascading waterfalls, and lush vegetation.
During World War II, rooftop gardens became a patriotic symbol of self-sufficiency, and many New Yorkers planted gardens on their roofs to help support the war effort. These gardens were often used to grow vegetables and fruits, as well as to provide a place for relaxation and socializing.
In the post-war era, rooftop gardens continued to be popular, but they also began to serve a different purpose. As urbanization continued to accelerate, cities became more and more crowded, and green space became increasingly scarce. Rooftop gardens provided a way for urban dwellers to connect with nature and enjoy some much-needed greenery.
In the 1960s and 1970s, rooftop gardens became a symbol of the counterculture movement, with many young people planting gardens on their roofs as a way of rejecting mainstream society and embracing a more natural way of life. Some of these gardens were quite elaborate, with ponds, waterfalls, and even small buildings.
In the 1980s and 1990s, rooftop gardens began to take on a more practical purpose. As concerns about urban air pollution and global warming increased, architects and designers began to incorporate green roofs into their building designs as a way of reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality. This led to the development of new technologies and materials, such as lightweight soil and modular planting systems, that made it easier and more cost-effective to install rooftop gardens on a large scale.
Today, rooftop gardens are more popular than ever in New York City. They are found on buildings of all sizes and types, from private homes and apartment buildings to commercial high-rises and public institutions. Many of these gardens are open to the public, providing a much-needed respite from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Rooftop gardens also play an important role in sustainability and environmental conservation efforts. By reducing the urban heat island effect, absorbing rainwater, and improving air quality, green roofs help to mitigate some of the negative impacts of urbanization. They also provide habitat for birds and other wildlife, and can even be used to grow food in urban areas, reducing the need for long-distance transportation and supporting local agriculture.
One of the most iconic examples of a rooftop garden in New York City is the High Line, a 1.45-mile elevated park that was built on a former railroad track on Manhattan’s west side. The High Line features a variety of plants and trees, as well as art installations and public gathering spaces, and has become a beloved destination for locals and tourists alike.
The future is bright for continued development of green spaces across the city. Check out one of the famous NYC rooftop gardens to see for yourself how beautiful and stunning they can be. NYC invites you.