Upgrade your co-op's green space with a rooftop garden

By Virginia K. Smith  | July 14, 2014 - 12:59PM

In lieu of actual backyards, everyone in New York loves a rooftop garden--a Brooklyn-based rooftop vineyard is even in the works--but if there's nothing but tar the top of your building, getting started can be daunting.

As such, Habitat Magazine has a handy guide to installing one atop your co-op (the full version isn't online just yet), avoiding disputes with your neighbors and damage to the building in the process, and even giving your property values a boost. A few key points we took away:

  • Bring in the professionals. A building engineer or architect can determine if a garden on your roof is safe and feasible, or if further construction will be necessary to make it happen. Before you start, you'll want to come up with a budget and layout that you'll run by a designer, and in the long run, the board should sign a maintenance contract for upkeep of both the plants and the garden's irrigation system, since relying on the volunteer efforts of residents can get iffy.
  • Read the fine print. If there are warranties on any component of your building's roof, you'll want to check them before beginning work--adding a major element like a garden can, in some cases, void a warranty.
  • Listen to all voices. "Treat the garden as though you were redoing the lobby," writes Habitat. (You can check out our guide to a sanity-saving lobby reno here.) This means giving shareholders plenty of time to air their concerns (particularly the ones with apartments below the garden), having open discussions about potential usage rules and the effect on property values, and inviting the building's more "vocally opinionated" shareholders to sit on a garden committee. Once there's a rendering, post it in a common area so residents have plenty of time to scope it out. As with most things in life, communication early on will save everyone headaches down the road.

A lot of work, to be sure, but seems well worth it to have a lush garden--instead of a standard tar beach--at the top of the building.


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