I had a grand idea to ride to the West Side Highway to watch the fireworks on the fourth. A few of our friends were into it but it was melty and being that it was Independence day, Jon had other “independent” ideas.
“It’s the 4th of July and I don’t want to ride to the West Side Highway.”
I could respect that. Besides, I hadn’t worn my padded bike shorts and thigh chafing is an uncomfortable reality. So as the rest of the adventure crew biked down Driggs Ave toward the Williamsburg Bridge, we turned (and I sulked) up Lorimer Ave toward the waterfront. I wanted to be part of an adventure crew!
Our plan was Transmitter Park, but first we checked out the roof of a building where I had a studio years back. Since the security is now tight for a building that was mostly abandoned until very recently, I invoked the attitude of my underage and cringe-worthy “clubbing” self. Legend has it that Zoolander was filmed in that building, so it was worth a shot.
If you look like you know where you are going (and can pass for 16), no one questions you. I have used this technique to skip the security line while late for a flight at the airport as well.
This isn’t the Greenpoint of abandoned burnt out waterfront buildings, where passage is a jump through a hole in a fence. Now, there are elevator access cards and pain in the ass security guards.
We got into the front door no problem. When we entered the elevator there was a group of twenty somethings who had the same “we belong here” puss, so we waited for them to pull out their access card. Apparently they were thinking the same thing about us.
“I guess I’ll call my girlfriend,” one guy said, fumbling with his phone. His “girlfriend” never came.
“To the stairs,” I said. Mission rooftop began.
As we climbed the rickety old stairs that smelled like dead rats, I was giddy because of our newly formed adventure crew. After six flight we got out onto the roof and immediately the security guards shined a spotlight on us. Fuck. But instead of telling us to leave they said: “Wrong roof! Come to this roof!”
They are were our side?
Our original crew dropped us like dead weight. I thought we were in this together!
Then we ran into a miraculous friend – a man with a key card! This is going to be funny if we run into those first guys, I thought. Now who has a key card. Abandon us?
We headed back to the elevator feeling confident and as the door opened up it was our old adventure crew again – they joined a different crew, a family of middle aged mid-western folks with key cards.
“Old friends!” I said and we ascended to the “right roof.”
The top floor was a maze but the mid-westerners knew they way and were much more gracious about combining adventure crews. “Follow us,” they said.
The door to the roof opened to a 360 degree waterfront view of Midtown, Brooklyn and Queens. The term “breathtaking” applied because we couldn’t stop saying “wow,” “wow,” “wow,” at each angle. Every conversation was about the view. “Look at this,” “Can you believe this,” “This is so amazing,” “I can’t believe we are up here.”
I’d grown numb to city views, probably because of what the city has come to represent for me – work, fatigue and stress. I now say, “one day I want to live where I can wake up everyday and see mountains.” The same feeling this skyline view evoked that evening is what I imagine I can feel if I get out of the city.
And there it was, that one night, even though I technically didn’t have “access” to it and will never be able to afford it. As we watched the fireworks that every other New Yorker watched that night, I looked around Greenpoint and knew why the waterfront has transformed so quickly and continues to develop. Million dollar city mountain views don’t stay “abandoned” for long.