Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

A Garden Grows in Peekskill

Rooftop oasis offers a bird’s eye view of city
The view from rooftop of the Lofts on Main. (Photo by Jane Blackstone)

Four stories above the sidewalk, on the roof of the Lofts on Main, a garden flourishes under the harsh summer sun.

Initially, the apartment building in the heart of downtown Peekskill had unremarkable rooftop features. It was a common area with a small patio table, two chairs, and a few sporadic planters. Four years later, it’s become one of the more unique ways to enjoy the cityscape, the picturesque sunrises and sunsets in a relative oasis. 

The view from the roof of the Lofts on Main with other Peekskill buildings in the distance. (Photo by Mike Matteo)

As the summer marches on, the rooftop is currently sporting a crop best suited for long, hot days. Strawberries, peppers, tomatoes, flowering tobacco, bee balm, tiger lilies, basil, mint,  sunflowers and more dot the boundaries of the roof.  

The curators of this garden are all tenants of the Lofts on Main— Jane Blackstone, Monique Michaels, Nancy Wareham-Gordon, and Katerina Spilio. Together, they’re figuring out what will and won’t grow on the sun-soaked, east-west rooftop. 

Jane Blackstone tending to her plants on the top of her apartment building. (Photo by Mike Matteo)

Blackstone, president of the group Friends of the Rooftop Garden, said a lot of trial and error went into the mix of plans for the garden. “The rooftop receives a lot of sunlight with the sunlight shining on the western end in the morning hours, and [in the] afternoon, it would be very strong at the eastern end,” said Blackstone. “As a beginning gardener, I had to learn about which plants liked the morning sun, which plants could stand the intense heat of the afternoon sunlight, and so on.” 

While showing off her portion of the garden, Blackstone lists the names of plants and their ideal growing conditions without a second thought. She also recalls how the plants have fared over the seasons.  “Heliotrope likes mostly shade,” she said as an example, “If you put it somewhere else, it gets burned, and up here, plants get burned.”

The garden lines the perimeter of the rooftop at The Lofts on Main. (Photo by Mike Matteo)

Growing any plant is a labor of love, and this year there’s been an extra emphasis on the “labor” for the rooftop crew. The rooftop wasn’t designed with a water connection, and the gardeners have had to get creative. 

The rooftop gardeners have created a relaxing oasis. (Photo by Jane Blackstone)

In the past, they were able to run a hose from the roof, down a stairwell, and into a maintenance closet a few floors below. This summer, Blackwell has to carry water in twelve one-gallon containers and jugs to keep things from withering on the vine. Depending on the heat, she sometimes makes two trips, 24 gallons, moved manually in one day. 

Lugging the jugs up to the rooftop has increased the workload of the resident gardeners. (Photo by Mike Matteo)

Michaels, in between trimming her plants, estimated that last year, the gardeners collectively went through hundreds of gallons of water a day, all largely brought up by hand. She didn’t mince words when describing the situation.

“We need a solution for water up here.” 

Getting creative on how to get water to the roof, Blackstone uses a shopping cart. (Photo by Mike Matteo)

To her credit, Blackstone doesn’t seem too daunted by the water issue. She speaks and shows pictures of her plants while beaming with pride, as she well should. Blackstone’s also hopeful that more buildings in the city will incorporate green space on the rooftops. From where she waters her plants, she can spot other buildings where she thinks a garden would flourish.

About the Contributor
Mike Matteo
  This is the final story produced by Mike Matteo during his eight-week internship with Peekskill Herald, covering the environment beat. He returns to the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism and plans to graduate in December. While in his undergraduate years at Baruch College, Michael Matteo faced a choice for his major- Public Policy or Journalism? He had just read Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail and decided he wanted to do at least one of them. While both were appealing, he chose Public Policy. After almost five years working in the New York political scene, Matteo knew it was time for a change. Thinking back to undergrad, he decided to address one of the bigger “what-ifs” in his life. He started at CUNY’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism in August of 2022 and knew he found his calling. While his true love is photography, Matteo enjoys writing about environmental issues and local politics. In his free time, he likes watching Turner Classic Movies, finding new music, and all things baseball.