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An Interactive Journey Through New York's Roofscape Makeover

Witness the evolution of NYC's billion-square-foot roofscape in the face of climate change.

Most visitors to New York City crane their necks for a view of the city's famous skyline, but locals know better: to get the best views, you have to go up. Here's your chance to take a rare - and vivid - journey atop a few of the city's billion square feet of rooftops.

As the Big Apple faces ever-hotter summers, officials are looking for ways to cool off in some of the only unused space left in a crowded city: rooftops.

FOCUS: Sustainability bug
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Fertile vegetated green roofs absorb the sun's rays, while reflective roofs bounce them back to space. Both are sprouting up in response to a 2008 city rule that requires new roofs to be climate-friendly. Meanwhile, the city is working with the Obama administration to overhaul its hulking construction bureaucracy, making it easier for solar panel installers to turn rooftops into the city's fastest-growing energy provider.

Climate Desk strapped on hardhats, jumped into elevators, and scaled ladders to see first-hand how the roofscape of New York is adapting to face a changing climate.

The Climate Desk is a journalistic collaboration between The Atlantic, Mother Jones, Slate, and others, dedicated to exploring the impact—human, environmental, economic, political—of a changing climate. Learn more at

About the Authors

  • James West
    James West is the editor and producer of The Climate Desk, a collaboration among The Atlantic, the Center for Investigative Reporting, Grist, Mother Jones, Slate, Wired, and PBS. He is the author of Beijing Blur.
  • Tim McDonnell is a senior fellow on the Climate Desk, where he covers national energy policy.