Jessica Leigh Hester is a former senior associate editor at CityLab, covering environment and culture. Her work also appears in the New Yorker, The Atlantic, New York Times, Modern Farmer, Village Voice, Slate, BBC, NPR, and other outlets.
They’re not exactly roughing it.
Many urban dwellers who squeeze into cramped apartments no doubt dream of a more bucolic spread, or at least some wildlife that doesn’t have beady red eyes, mangy feathers, or a prehistoric exoskeleton. Just look at the popularity of the Cabin Porn tumblr, which nets more than 10 million viewers a month.
Some intrepid—and, let’s face it, totally loaded—“homesteaders” are outsmarting the rest of us by setting up camp above penthouse suites.
If you’ve got $4.4 million, for example, you could settle into one of the swanky rooftop cottages atop this East Village penthouse.
The wildly expensive “rustic” dwelling doesn’t have a vegetable patch, but it does boast three terraces. Of course.
The setting isn’t rural, obviously. Instead of gawking at bears or fawns, you’re observing the wildlife on, say, 3rd Avenue.
There’s another rooftop cottage a few blocks away, Gothamist reports, at 719 Greenwich Street in the West Village. (Warning: This place even has a cute little porch.) The New York Times waxed poetic about the structure in a 2006 profile of the owners, writing: “Now, the couple don’t have to leave the city to hear the slam of a screen door, or watch a flock of mourning doves pecking for insects and seeds across the meadow."
In a video interview, owner David Puchkoff says, “It’s a win-win situation, and just a delight to look at.” Yeah, no kidding.
Not a multi-millionaire in the market for a penthouse? There are cheaper ways to feel like you’re getting off the grid: you can enter a lottery to camp in Prospect Park, or forage for greens hidden in plain sight in Central Park. (Roughly 20 percent of the city's population forages, a researcher from the U.S. Forest Service reported to Gothamist.) A word of caution: Though there’s plenty of coverage of foraging in Edible Brooklyn and other local publications, the practice isn’t usually sanctioned by the city. Some self-christened outdoorsmen have been fined for attempting to snare fish or turtles, or even cuffed for plucking dandelions. “Wildman” Steve Brill, a forager who leads gustatory tours of local forests and meadows, was arrested for criminal mischief in 1986 when two undercover officers infiltrated one of his excursions. (The charges were later dropped.) Wrote the New York Daily News at the time:
Parks Commissioner Henry Stern just couldn’t stomach the idea of anyone, in his words, “eating our parks.”
Maybe you’re better off just pitching a tent in your living room.