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A blog from CityRealty (Links below will take you to the 6sqft site)


29 West 74th Street via Sotheby's 29 West 74th Street via Sotheby's
Spring has always been the busiest time of year for nurseries, but this year saw such a large spike in demand for fruit and vegetable seeds that garden centers struggled to keep up. The coronavirus outbreak and efforts to contain it led to anxieties about the food supply chain and a lot of people suddenly at home and in need of ways to fill their time. As a result, "pandemic victory gardens" literally sprouted up all over the country. Joel Flagler, a professor of horticultural therapy at Rutgers University, told MarketWatch, "There are certain, very stabilizing forces in gardening that can ground us when we are feeling shaky, uncertain, terrified really. It’s these predictable outcomes, predictable rhythms of the garden that are very comforting right now."

New Yorkers got in on the trend as well, whether by planting herbs in their windowsills or turning their private terraces into full vegetable gardens. But this spring or any other, it isn't always easy to create a beautiful, functional, or compliant garden. From ensuring the roof can handle the weight of a garden to meeting regulations for railings to selecting plants bound to thrive in the often-extreme environments found on New York City rooftops, it is important to enlist the help of a trained professional in the planning and execution of your project.
29-West-74th-Street-01 29 West 74th Street via Sotheby's

The Unique Challenges of Urban Gardening

Spaces in urban, suburban, and rural settings alike pose unique challenges, but urban gardens can still present some especially extreme conditions. Depending on the location of your outdoor space, high wind, intense heat, and excessive shade are all common problems in New York City. Todd Haiman of Todd Haiman Landscape Design is a landscape designer who has helped hundreds of New Yorkers imagine and create urban oases in surprising locations. For Haiman, every project is a new beginning: “There is always something new to learn whether you’re working in an urban or rural space, but urban spaces do pose some unique challenges.”
Haiman has found that since many New Yorkers live in small spaces, they want their gardens to truly serve as extensions of their indoor living spaces. Of course, to do this, one needs to consider factors that many suburban and rural gardeners may be able to more easily ignore, including privacy. As Haiman explains, “Privacy is a major issue for people in New York, but there are restrictions about putting up high fences, so you have to ask yourself, how you can create privacy despite these restrictions? I work with clients to consider various options. Some people use evergreens or ornamental grasses to create a screen, but the choice really depends on your specific situation.”
penthouse garden-03 Landscaped penthouse terrace (Todd Haiman Landscape Design)

Structural and Legal Limitations

Even if some flowers and shrubs are bound to flourish more than others, owners usually have at least some choice when it comes to selecting plants for the garden. The same is not true when it comes to building structures. Indeed, in New York City, even though you don’t generally require a permit to install a garden, restrictions are the rule of the day.
If you’re hoping to build a rooftop garden, for example, you’ll need to hire a structural engineer to determine how much weight your rooftop can handle and where it will be safest to place planters. NYC building codes also require adequate railings that are at least 42-inches tall and if you want to avoid a fire violation, you’ll need to limit wood coverage to no more than 49% of the rooftop, ensure you have both a water source available, and if your garden exceeds 250 square feet, you’ll also need a fire extinguisher.
Once you’ve troubleshot all the specific requirements imposed by the city, you may find yourself facing a final hurdle: your condo or co-op board. As Haiman emphasizes, “In my experience when the design is finished, tenants nearly always need to present it to their building. The board will want to know that you’re protecting the building itself. In some cases, the building will provide parameters in which to work and this may include weight restrictions. Some buildings will want you to bring the plan back for a second reading. This is something you should expect and factor in when you’re thinking about your timeframe.”
Todd Haiman Landscape Design

Should You Hire a Landscape Designer or Landscape Architect?

While enlisting the help of an expert is evidently advised, this leaves a final question: Should you hire a landscape designer or landscape architect, and if so, what is the difference?
When deciding whether to hire a landscape designer or landscape architect, the first consider the scale of your project. Generally, smaller residential projects can be tackled by designers while larger projects (e.g., a garden occupying the roof of an entire high-rise condo building) will require a landscape architect. Second, consider the complexity of the project. If you need extensive construction carried out, you’ll likely need an architect not a designer, even if they do frequently offer overlapping advice.
If you’re looking for a landscape designer, it can be somewhat tricky since designers don’t technically need a degree nor license to practice. That said, many NYC-based landscape designers have years of training and are credentialed. Haiman, for example, has a master of science in landscape design from Columbia University, training from the New York Botanical Gardens’ School of Professional Horticulture and Landscape Design, and is a member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers and Royal Horticultural Society. If you need to hire a landscape architect, however, they must hold an architecture degree from a recognized school of architecture and hold a state license to practice.
Beyond credentials and licenses, however, Haiman emphasizes that it is still important to find someone whose work matches your own aesthetic. Of course, sometimes clients know they want a garden but are still unclear about the possibilities. As a result, he says part of his job is about helping clients gain a better understanding their needs, wants, and the potential of their available space: “Part of my job is understanding who the users are and how they want to use the space and how long they want to use the space for. If someone only wants to use the space for five years, they will make different decisions about how to landscape. Basically, I’m the car who brings you where they are going.” While Haiman emphasizes aesthetics in choosing a designer, it is important to note that most landscape designers have many years of formal training.
38 Prince Street Rendering of the private garden at 38 Prince Street in NoLita. The accompanying townhouse listed for $23.5M

The Process of Working with a Landscape Designer or Architect

Whether you’re working with a landscape designer or landscape architect, you should expect to have an on-site meeting to discuss your needs. During this meeting, the designer or architect will start to draft a creative plan for the project and may recommend that you call in an outside structural engineer. This will likely be followed up by another on-site meeting at which time a more thorough on-site inventory will be carried out to determine the best way to make your outdoor space functional and compliant. Once you’ve dealt with the structural issues and have a clear plan in place, however, what happens next is up to you. As Haiman emphasizes, “I try to emphasize to clients that they have the ability to define nature and when you bring nature in, you’re also bringing in entertainment. You can do all sorts of things to attract butterflies and birds to your garden—planning a garden is about much more than simply selecting plants.”

59-West-88th-Street-01 All images of 59 West 88th Street via Living LLC
Garden duplex in a classic Upper West Side brownstone opens up to a private backyard. Interiors include spacious living space, master bedroom with garden views, and in-unit washer/dryer. The kitchen has recently been updated with Caesarstone countertops and high-end stainless steel appliances. Virtual and video tours are available for this unit, which may be rented with furnishings included. See floor plan and full details here.

7-Sutton-Square-01 All images of 7 Sutton Square via Will Ellis of DD Reps/The Corcoran Group
Extraordinary Georgian-style townhouse in an exclusive Manhattan enclave boasts spectacular river views, a lush private garden, a gated driveway, a breathtaking roof terrace, and the highest-quality finishes and appointments throughout. Living areas include a Great Room with parquet de Versailles wood floors, a formal dining room with terrace and china cabinet, and breakfast kitchen that connects to the commercial-grade staff kitchen below. The full-floor master suite features a double-width sleeping chamber, river and garden views, a private terrace, and elegant onyx bath. See floor plan and full details here.

338-Berry-Street-01 All images of 338 Berry Street via Compass
Townhouse-style condo boasts 12' concrete beamed ceilings, expansive living space, a bonus room, and covered parking. The open kitchen comes outfitted with state-of-the-art appliances, Danby marble countertops and backsplash, oversized breakfast bar, and adjacent walk-in pantry. The living and dining areas open up to a 700-square-foot landscaped private garden with a dedicated gas line grill. A virtual tour is available for this unit. See floor plan and full details here.

245-West-24th-Street-01 All images of 245 West 24th Street via Singer Real Estate
Charming Chelsea co-op has been updated with new security and entertainment systems, multi-zone air conditioning units, built-in air purification system and humidifier, and voice-controlled smart home technology. The gourmet kitchen is outfitted with an expansive island, state-of-the-art appliances, and endless cabinetry. The landscaped private garden comes with built-in seating, electricity, speakers, heat, water, plumbing in place to allow for a hot tub, and enough room for an extra-large grill. See floor plan and full details here.

337-Stuyvesant-Avenue-01 All images of 337 Stuyvesant Avenue via Compass
Queen Anne brownstone on a classic Brooklyn block was built in 1891, and has been renovated to contemporary standards with historic details intact. Classic-contemporary features include leveled rift-cut oak floors, custom-designed maple built-ins, custom chef's kitchen, sunny rear parlor, and massive master suite. The kitchen opens up to an unusually deep private garden. See floor plan and full details here.

337-East-50th-Street-01 All images of 337 East 50th Street via The Corcoran Group
Oversized garden duplex opens up to a 450-square-foot garden appointed with electricity and water. Interiors feature a wall of windows, custom built-ins, electric fireplace, oak floors, and chef's kitchen. The building is well situated on a quiet, tree-lined street near landmarked townhouses, top restaurants and shopping, and public transportation. See floor plan and full details here.

310-West-137th-Street-01 All images of 310 West 137th Street via Halstead
No detail was overlooked in the renovation of this historic Harlem home in a landmarked historic district. Features include a bright parlor floor, chef's kitchen, master suite with high-end bath, den/TV room with skylight, and state-of-the-art heat/air conditioning and security systems. A large patio and massive private garden give the home an outdoor oasis. See floor plan and full details here.

323-West-87th-Street-01 All images of 323 West 87th Street via Compass
Architecturally stunning townhouse is steps from Riverside Park, but the formal dining room opens up to a spacious private garden. This historic home's original details, from the mantels to the grand staircase, have been beautifully restored. Recent renovations include central heat and air conditioning. A virtual tour is available for this home. See floor plan and full details here.

127-West-12th-Street-01 All images of 127 West 12th Street via Compass
Built in 1885, this historic Italianate brownstone features classic architectural details like a striking stone facade, an intricate arch over double front doors, original artwork and ornamental flourishes. Interiors are rich in herringbone oak floors, stunning crown moldings, grand fireplaces complemented by striking mantelpiece throughout, oversized drawing room windows, and impressive ceiling heights reaching up to 12'6". This home also includes a 35' deep charming private garden, which can be accessed from both the parlor and garden levels. See floor plan and full details here.

122-Newton-Street-01 All images of 122 Newton Street via Douglas Elliman
Tranquil duplex has access to a lushly landscaped garden with a manicured lawn and planting beds from both levels. Interiors feature 12' ceilings, a wall of casement windows, a voluminous Great Room, and an open, basement-level recreation room. The kitchen comes outfitted with professional-grade appliances and custom lacquer and walnut cabinetry. See floor plan and full details here.

57-Decatur-Street-01 All images of 57 Decatur Street via Douglas Elliman
In the Stuyvesant Historic District, a historic townhouse has been graciously restored into a boutique condominium with grand spaces and state-of-the-art technology. The garden duplex enjoys access to a 950-square-foot private garden. Interiors feature oversized windows, commercial-grade kitchen, spa-like baths, wireless Sonos system, Nest thermostats, video entry/intercom, and wall-recessed audio/visual interfaces. A virtual tour is available for this unit. See floor plan and full details here.

209-North-5th-Street-01 All images of The Metropolitan via Douglas Elliman
Duplex apartment opens up to a three-tiered, 600-square-foot private garden with gorgeous landscaping and a privacy fence. The interiors are flooded with natural light through 20 feet of floor-to-ceiling windows with custom blinds. Additional features include exposed brick walls, built-in shelving, a modern open kitchen, custom California closet, spa-like baths, and majestic double door reclaimed from the historic John S Kennedy trustee room at the United Charities building. See floor plan and full details here.

538-Washington-Avenue-01 All images of Aperture 538 via Compass
Sprawling duplex in a Brooklyn boutique condominium has access to a 700-square-foot private garden from the basement-level den and master suite. Upstairs, the kitchen comes outfitted with marble slab countertops and top-of-the-line appliances. The baths are finished with luxurious fixtures and finishes. A virtual tour is available for this unit. See floor plan and full details here.

29-West-74th-Street-01 All images of 29 West 74th Street via Sotheby's
Located half a block from Central Park, this newly renovated Upper West Side apartment has its own outdoor oasis, a 25' x 12' landscaped garden wrapping around the unit from north to west. Interiors boast 10' ceilings, original hardwood floors, and wood trimmed details. Recent upgrades include new windows, new electricity, recessed lighting, custom kitchen, spa-like bath, and high-end finishes and fixtures throughout. A virtual tour is available for this unit. See floor plan and full details here.

626-Dean-Street-01 All images of 626 Dean Street via The Corcoran Group
In the heart of Prospect Heights, an industrial warehouse has been transformed into loft condominiums. The living room and master suite open up to a private garden measuring 370 square feet and opening up to common outdoor space. A J-51 tax abatement is in effect until 2023, and additional features include 10' ceilings, oversized rooms, well-appointed kitchen, spa-like master bath, and laundry room. See floor plan and full details here.

14-East-64th-Street-01 All images of 14 East 64th Street via Compass
Garden residence in a prewar townhouse has been meticulously renovated with impeccable interior design, warmth, and comfort. The living room features dark hardwood floors, custom furniture, and a gas fireplace as the centerpiece. The kitchen was designed to inspire a chef, and opens up to a beautifully landscaped garden patio. See floor plan and full details here.

157-Kane-Street-01 All images of 157 Kane Street via Compass
Located on the parlor level of a prewar townhouse, this home is filled with natural light from north, south, and west exposures. Recent upgrades include new doors and hardware, refinished hardwood floors, modern kitchen, stylish shelving, and split A/C units. At the rear of the apartment, the master suite opens up to the landscaped, south-facing garden. A virtual tour is available for this unit. See floor plan and full details here.

41-Bond-Street-01 All images of 41 Bond Street via Compass
The townhouse at 41 Bond Street is reached via private entrance and opens up to a double-wide backyard. Interiors boast 14'4" ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, three-sided marble fireplace, wet bar, luxurious bedroom suites, and recreation room currently used as a home gym. The kitchen comes outfitted with a Carrera marble island and top-of-the-line appliances. A virtual tour is available for this unit, which may be offered fully furnished for $37,500/month. See floor plan and full details here.

Honorable Mentions
305-Fifth-Avenue-01 305 Fifth Avenue via Compass
107-East-36th-Street-01 107 East 36th Street via Douglas Elliman

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Contributing Writer Cait Etherington Cait Etherington has over twenty years of experience working as a journalist and communications consultant. Her articles and reviews have been published in newspapers and magazines across the United States and internationally. An experienced financial writer, Cait is committed to exposing the human side of stories about contemporary business, banking and workplace relations. She also enjoys writing about trends, lifestyles and real estate in New York City where she lives with her family in a cozy apartment on the twentieth floor of a Manhattan high rise.
Spacious 1 Bedrooms with outdoor space and in-residence w/d View Property
Luxury Homes in Midtown | Newly Renovated Studio-2BR Homes View Property
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