Roof deck etiquette: Dos and don’ts for hanging out on your apartment building's roof

  • Leave your Speedo and cigarettes at home; you don’t want to get a reputation among your neighbors
  • Make sure you clean up after yourself, keep the noise down, don’t bring glasses or bottles
Celia Young Headshot
By Celia Young  |
May 8, 2024 - 2:30PM
The shared roofdeck on top of the Manhattan co-op building at 20 River Terrace, dubbed "The Solaire."

The shared roof deck on top of The Solaire, a co-op building at 20 River Terrace in Manhattan.

Photo courtesy The Solaire

My great grandmother passed down one singular piece of advice through generations of my family: Don’t do anything stupid. That same motto can be applied to hanging out on the roof of your New York City apartment building.

At some buildings, the roof deck is a beautiful, meticulously managed space with a long list of rules and expectations. In others, it’s the type of place you sneak into, or that your landlord lets you use with a wink and a nudge (despite a provision in your lease that says it’s off limits). 

In either case, listen to grandma and don’t do anything stupid. You don’t want to make an enemy of building management and lose access to the roof, or accidentally trigger your building’s alarm and annoy your neighbors. (Sure, the alarm could be a ruse designed to ward off unruly tenants, but it’s better to ask your fellow residents or landlord first rather than risk a mistake.) And you absolutely don’t want to hurt yourself or anyone else by being careless on top of a tall building.

A triplex at 162 East 91st St.

A triplex at 162 East 91st St. with a 250-square-foot roof terrace is currently on the market.


Photo courtesy Victoria Vinokur of Brown Harris Stevens

Pro Tip:

Searching for the perfect outdoor escape as summer approaches? Explore this triplex treasure listed by Victoria Vinokur of Brown Harris Stevens featuring a generous 250-square-foot terrace, perfect for entertaining and soaking in stunning Manhattan skyline views. With a contemporary kitchen, smart amenities, and inviting living spaces, this residence effortlessly blends indoor comfort with outdoor elegance, making it an ideal spot for summer get-togethers. Don't overlook the chance to make this terrace sanctuary your own in vibrant Carnegie Hill! 

And if you're looking to get a tan this summer, think twice about going out in a Speedo. Buildings occasionally have rules about wearing proper attire in public spaces, although Miroslav Salon, resident manager at 20 River Terrace (also known as The Solaire) said he’s never had to enforce them. It's probably best that you don’t become the resident responsible for a building-wide dress code.

There are lots of little rules—implicit and explicit—when it comes to enjoying a shared public space with your neighbors. Read on for the five rules you should know before heading out on your building's roof this summer. 

Do: Clean up after you grill

If you’re lucky enough to have a roof deck with a grill, take advantage of the summertime opportunity to hone your barbecue skills. Your neighbors certainly will; summer is by far the most popular season for residents to use roof decks, said Raman Gardner, director of development for the Grid Group, which developed the two condo buildings at 145 Central Park North in Manhattan and 601 Baltic St. in Brooklyn.

“In the summertime people barbecue out there, they have cocktail parties, they’ve had different jazz bands come for events,” Gardner said. “There are more large group social events [over the summer].”

Just make sure to clean up for yourself after you’re done whipping up some hot dogs. In general, you should leave a roof deck as you found it, Gardner said.

“Knock on wood; we haven’t had to scold people about leaving hamburger wrappers in the grill,” Gardner said.

The roofdeck on top of the Brooklyn building at 601 Baltic Street.

The roof deck on top of the Brooklyn building at 601 Baltic St.


Photo courtesy Spotless

Don’t: Avoid things that could break or fly away

When you plan an al fresco meal, serve it on something other than ceramic plates and glass cups. 

The Manhattan co-op building at The Solaire requires that residents bring shatter-proof plates and cups if they want to cook out, said Salon, the property’s resident manager.

And make sure you don’t bring any furniture—like umbrellas for example—that could easily fly away with a heavy gust of wind. Salon said all the furniture at The Solaire’s 19th floor terrace is permanently secured, or weighted down.

The Solaire's roof deck includes a lot of greenery and seating.

The Solaire's roof deck includes greenery, seating, and barbecue grills.


Photo courtesy The Solaire

Do: Respect quiet hours

Roof decks usually have set hours of operation, and times when building management asks residents to be quiet so they don’t disturb nearby units.

For example, the terrace at The Solaire, a roughly 200-unit building, is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., but building management asks that residents keep the noise down after 8 p.m., Salon said. Open hours vary by board for Grid Group's developments, but usually end around 9 or 10 p.m., Gardner said. Management also doesn’t allow speakers on the roof at 20 River.

It’s a good idea to follow your building’s quiet hours, especially if you own your apartment. You don’t want your neighbor retaliating with a boombox outside your door. 

And if you’re sneaking onto your building’s roof, making a lot of noise is one sure way to get found out.

Don’t: Smoke (usually)

Smoking in common indoor spaces in NYC buildings has been banned since 2018, but buildings have their own policies on whether you can smoke inside your own apartment or in outdoor spaces.

If your building prohibits smoking—like The Solaire—don’t light up on your roof deck. And if smoking is allowed, make sure you take your puffs downstream of your non-smoking neighbors. 

Do: Be considerate of shared space

Roof decks are a great way to meet your neighbors—and to make a good impression on them. To that end, it’s a good idea to be mindful of the other folks who are enjoying the summer sun with you.

For example, if the roof area looks packed, consider delaying your plans to head outside. Your roof deck’s capacity limit is there for your safety. At the 3,700-square-foot terrace at The Solaire, no more than 20 residents are allowed onto the roof deck at once, Salon said.

And for those already on a crowded terrace, be mindful of the amount of time you take on the roof deck, Salon said.

“All residents can go up on the terrace and it's first come first serve basis; there are no reservations allowed,” Salon said. “The barbecue grills are the same as the terrace: it’s a first come first serve basis. We ask residents that, if they are there first and somebody else comes to wait, we ask that they don’t let [the second group] wait for more than 20 to 30 minutes.”

Celia Young Headshot

Celia Young

Senior Writer

Celia Young is a senior writer at Brick Underground where she covers New York City residential real estate. She graduated from Brandeis University and previously covered local business at the Milwaukee Business Journal, entertainment at Madison Magazine, and commercial real estate at Commercial Observer. She currently resides in Brooklyn.

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