From the Terrace: The Skylines of New York City
An insider’s look at nine lush rooftop gardens and breathtaking terraces from a new Rizzoli book.
This unusual seating area is one of several on an expansive terrace in Queens that offers breathtaking views of the Queensboro Bridge, the East River, and the Manhattan skyline. Originally an iron foundry that went out of business in the 1940s, the property was renovated by new owners, who made the interior habitable and transformed the terrace above with squares of cast stone and a patch of river-polished stones. These surround a gigantic rustic wheel—a relic of the foundry—that now serves as a container for a pool and leafy papyrus.
Classic and modern elements mesh in this Soho garden, as neat and crisp as a well-tailored suit. There is a seamless integration of interior and exterior space due to the floor-to-ceiling glass walls that separate the loft-like interior from the outdoor terrace. Located on the seventh floor, the terrace allows quiet enjoyment of the sunset and a rare view of decorative elements of 19th-century buildings nearby. Blue lights mounted to the umbrellas and additional lightening amongst the plantings produce a stunning effect.
Above the maelstrom of traffic in and out of the Holland Tunnel there lies a forest of hydrangeas, birch trees, and weeping red maples. They spill out of ceramic pots and planters on a deck that may be the only oasis of calm in a busy district of former warehouses in Tribeca. The deck is made of composite flooring the color of milk chocolate. Hurricane lanterns of filigreed ironwork add soft light after dark, turning this into an out door livingroom.
This sleek, soberly modernist duplex on the highest floor of an upper East Side building has a wrap-around terrace on three sides. A previous owner—Oona O’Neill, the widow of Charlie Chaplin—wanted an open pergola (shown above) so that roses could grow without blocking the sun. From the pergola one has a stunning view of the varying architecture in the area.
The owners of this 735-square-foot terrace in Chelsea wanted a colorful place in the sun, so they ordered cushions and plants to complement each other in shades of orange, yellow, and red. This open air living room is surrounded by shrub verbena, pale yellow roses, Japanese maple, red hibiscus, and other plants; a tall western red cedar stands in the corner, overlooking this area of the city where everything is thriving.
On the seventy-sixth floor of the Time Warner Center there is a 1,200 square-foot terrace that offers incomparable views of Manhattan, the Hudson River, and New Jersey. Aristide Maillol’s statuary bronze nude L’Air (1938) reclines near the western end. It is perfectly aligned with the entrance to the apartment so that the terrace can be visually experienced from both levels of the 6,511 square-foot duplex through the floor-to-ceiling glass walls of the main floor and from the windows in the floor above.
Above the treetops and even the flight patterns of most birds, this extraordinary terrace offers a panoramic view of old and new architectural landmarks. Extending along Central Park West from Columbus Circle to West 90th Street, it includes a view of early-20th-century buildings, such as the San Remo and the Beresford, almost directly across the park, as well as recent skyscrapers, such as the glass-enclosed Time Warner Towers. The view is framed with low-growing perennials and annuals in a tapestry of greens, yellows, and maroons that complement the colors of the Park.
This distinctive penthouse in Sutton Place has a wrap-around terrace and is a veritable sculpture park in the sky, not only for its plantings and art but also for its views. Seen above is a window view of Roosevelt Island and the Queensboro Bridge framed by two bold sculptures by Takashimi Murakami. On the west side of the terrace there is an oversize sculpture of a green diamond ring by Jeff Koons; adjacent to this is an installation of artificial yellow flowers jutting out of a painted white wall by Ken Smith.
A landmarked building rooftop twelve stories above Park Avenue offers the perfect setting for a terrace of grand proportions. The terrace was judiciously landscaped to create roomy spaces for entertaining and colorful seasonal flowers and plants. Even during the chilly winter, sturdy evergreens and weather-stained chairs make the terrace inviting for those who want to enjoy panoramic views of the historic red-brick Armory, the wall of early 20th century apartment buildings that line the avenue, and the steady stream of taxis, cars, and people that dissolve into tiny specs moving noiselessly along the street.
Adapted from Rooftop Gardens: The Terraces, Conservatories, and Balconies of New York (Rizzoli, 2011), $45
Denise LeFrak Calicchio is a member of the prominent LeFrak real estate family and a co-author of High Rise Low Down. Roberta Model Amon is active on committees at the Guggenheim Musuem and the Museum of Modern Art. Norman McGrath is a New York photographer known for his published images of architecture.