The Blanks Under NYC’s Skyline


Living under New York City’s unyielding yet glorious skyline; surrounded by a tidal wave of luxurious apartments and chain stores; hiding behind the city’s image as a smooth, sleek and expensive giant, are the flat roof tops that are contained in the context of ‘small scale’ and ‘local identity’ and made to draw the line at just housing the famous wooden water-towers.

‘So is that all that these wide spread, seemingly forever existing spaces are capable of?’ I ask myself.

‘Not really’ they tell me.

But by being significantly understated in New York’s sky line, and only occasionally sprouting a flag or a lone Eastern Redbud, these flat roof tops have to patiently wait for the denizens, who are still caught in the frenzy over how beautiful the pinnacle of the Empire State building is or over how intricate the terrace crown of the Chrysler is, to take notice of their potential as a personalised social space.

In the meantime, these overlooked spaces continue to watch the overbearing streets and the other public spaces that are consistently vulnerable to being up scaled, redeveloped, and homogenised through the economic power of capital investors and the legal power of the state that subtly answer the question of who those ‘public’ spaces belong to, and may begin to feel sorry for the people of this city who have forever been at the mercy of privatised public realms, and who hardly seem to even realise the inaccessibility of a potential social space, that’s only a few feet above their heads: their own roof tops.

But when the temperature soars sky high, and these roofs become vulnerable to the heat from the sun above, and the wrath of the raging inhabitants from under, they may momentarily drift to feeling sorry for themselves, and gaze with envy, at their better off neighbours like the Javits Center or the Rockefeller Center that boast luxuriant covers.

But soon enough, from the knowledge that, with real-estate developers constantly changing the primary package of land use, it might not be enough for the city to settle with just a few green roofs, they may rejoice in the thoughts that someday, not so long into the future, they might also join the privileged that sport the rare cool green cover.

For the ones that can look past sporting just a cool green cover, however, the need to draw the attention of the citizens of New York is so that it may aid in elevating themselves to status of having given the citizens the power and ability to create, modify, access, utilize, and contribute to their own social spaces. For then, the flat roof tops can bask in the glory of having not only added a new dimension to experiencing public spaces in New York City, but also in having been instrumental to help the inhabitants dictate the policy of those small spaces to suit their needs.

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