Rooftop cabanas, barbecue, outdoor shower — such is the life of a renter

By Candace Taylor | August 14, 2009 04:53PM

On warm summer days like today, it’s clear why rooftops are a popular amenity for New Yorkers crammed into small apartments.
But this season in particular, rental building rooftops across the city seem to be getting more elaborate, as the recently unveiled waterfall shower atop 200 Water Street shows. 
That seems counterintuitive in a recession, but one reason for the souped-up amenities is that rental buildings are competing for tenants with ailing condos that are now leasing out their units, said Jodi Berman, a project manager at Rockrose Development, who is overseeing rentals at 200 Water Street.
“Especially in the Financial District, a lot of condos have started renting out units,” Berman said. “We kept that in mind when we were designing the lounges and the gym.”
That means elements like cabanas and outdoor fireplaces, which have been around for a while in the condo world, are now starting to pop up in rental buildings.
The rooftop at 200 Water Street, a 576-unit South Street seaport rental building which began leasing only a few weeks ago, has drawn buzz for its waterfall shower, which residents activate by pulling a chain connected to the building’s water tower.
“It’s a nice feature to have if you don’t have a swimming pool,” said Mark Sullivan of Sullivan Group Design, the designer of 200 Water’s 33rd-floor rooftop terrace. “A deluge of water washes over you, and instantly you’re cooled down.”
The design was inspired by the water-tank logo from 1960s TV show “Petticoat Junction,” he said.
The rooftop he is designing for Gotham’s 196-unit rental tower 200 West, on 72nd Street at Broadway, will feature a more sophisticated “mist wall,” where residents push a button for a 60-second spray. The project is slated to open January 2010.
“It’s a more gentle, sophisticated cool-down,” he said.
Sullivan added that rooftops in general are more user-friendly these days, with curtained cabanas, barbecue areas, and comfortable seating that can accommodate large groups.
“Three years ago, rooftops were meant to look good but weren’t that useable,” he said. “You couldn’t do much with them. Now, it really is an extension of your living room.”
At 200 West, for example, a 12-foot-long rooftop fireplace radiates heat 10 to 15 feet away, making it useable on fall evenings. It also has a movie screen built into it.
“Typically, a rooftop is only used three months of the year,” he said. “We like to extend the seasonality of it.”
As for the old adage that residents rarely use building amenities, he noted that developers are now designing rooftop programming — from concerts to cooking demonstrations — to lure residents to the space, making them more likely to get hooked.