Real Estate Weekly
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Residential

How to make the best of outdoor spaces in winter

New Yorkers know better than anyone how coveted outdoor living spaces are in the Big Apple – and while terraces and rooftop patios are perfect for summer barbecues and star-gazing, they can also get big use in the dead of winter.

New construction buildings are increasingly including outdoor fireplaces, grills, and fire pits for residents and tenants, so highly-desired outdoor spaces can be used throughout the year, no matter the weather.

Marc Kotler, senior vice president of the New Development Group at FirstService Residential New York, manages luxury condo buildings in Manhattan, and the company takes extra steps to make sure outdoor spaces are usable in frigid weather, like maintaining outdoor fireplaces.

“The challenge is, in order to run these (fireplaces) they have to be piped in with gas because of fire codes,” said Kotler. The fireplaces cannot use propane or other unattached fire sources. Setting up the fireplaces in the right way takes filing plans with the Department of Buildings (DOB), which constitutes a major upgrade, and high cost – but it’s worth it.

Marc Kotler
Marc Kotler

“Especially with rental buildings, where you have a lot of turnover, outdoor space is always at a premium,” said Kotler. “The grilling stations at our building downtown, the Gehry Building, always get a tremendous amount of usage all year round.”

New York by Gehry, at 8 Spruce Street, has a wraparound sundeck and a grilling terrace. Another of FirstService’s buildings, 15 William, added a playground and dog run to its outdoor space, and now it is highly-used, especially in the winter. Another downtown building, TF Cornerstone’s luxury rental building 2 Gold Street, boasts a 9,000 s/f roof deck with a gas fireplace.

On the practical side, though New York City’s weather has been relatively mild going into December, building owners are making preparations for frigid temperatures, with meteorologists predicting this winter will experience one of the strongest El Ninos in 50 years, and bring more winter storms to the area.

Hoffman Architects recently released advice for building owners to repair roofs on their buildings, check for leaks and structural distress, replace snow guards and clean gutters, and plan for snow removal.

Merav Shalhon
Merav Shalhon

Merav Shalhon is director at brokerage firm Essential New York Real Estate, which provides apartment sales, leasing and marketing expertise to individuals buying, renting or selling in NYC. Among the buildings that Essential represents, many have common and private outdoor spaces.

“People are asking for it a lot more than in the past,” said Shalhon of outdoor space. “Especially with people growing their families. There are more dogs than ever before, and these days it’s so competitive with all of the new things going on and everyone’s competing with amenities to top each other.”

With NYC in the midst of a building boom, and the lack of available land in Manhattan shrinking by the day, outdoor space is becoming more and more important in new construction buildings.

“They have to create something, and outdoor space, especially in New York, that’s what people are doing, buying air rights, because they can’t buy land anymore,” said Shalhon of developers building more outdoor spaces and balconies in new construction buildings. “Developers are on an air rights binge right now, that’s the new thing. That’s what they can do with air rights – put balconies.”

Many residents that have their own private outdoor space get heat lamps for their terraces in the winter, which can be purchased relatively inexpensively at stores like Home Depot. European trends are becoming popular in NYC, like smokeless gas fireplaces that extinguish in a couple of hours and require no clean up.

“I have some clients who have their terrace serviced regularly and others who do a major landscaping once or twice a year, but regardless, outdoor spaces in NYC are pretty easy for nine months out of the year,” said Louise Phillips Forbes, an agent with Halstead Property. “It’s the winter blues that you have to get creative with.”

Louise Phillips Forbes
Louise Phillips Forbes

Forbes suggests residents with outdoor spaces consider sprucing up their outdoor spaces with plants and flowers – like planting berrying shrubs and trees to add color, and Evergreen bushes or trees, which flourish well during colder months.

“Even certain evergreen grasses like Variegated Sweet Flag and Silver Spear look at home during the winter,” she said. “Fountain Grass and Maiden Grass also look great in dormancy.”

Perennials are a perfect flower for planting just before winter begins, because the flower begins blooming in January and continues through March.

Outdoor lights can also liven up a patio during the dark days of winter, and ceramic or electric heaters can create a warm space on a cold day – and they are DOB-approved.

And if all else fails – use the outdoor space for storage during the winter.

“In New York, any space you have, you have to use,” said Shalhon.

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