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‘Up on the Roof: New York’s Hidden Skyline Spaces’ shows the city from above

Aerial photographer Alex MacLean documents the changing roofscapes of the Big Apple in a new book. See how New Yorkers take advantage of space in the sky.

Windsor Tower, in Tudor City, is featured in “Up on the Roof: New York’s Hidden Skyline Spaces” by Alex MacLean.

Forget Central Park. Some of the most plentiful outdoor space in New York City is above our heads.

In his new book, “Up on the Roof: New York’s Hidden Skyline Spaces,” aerial photographer Alex MacLean documents the changing roofscapes of the Big Apple, which make up a whopping 30% of the total outdoor space in the five boroughs.

While working on an aerial assignment in 2010 as part of the redesign of Brooklyn Bridge Park, MacLean, who takes photographs for artistic purposes as well as architectural ones, spotted a faux-castle façade on top of a Tudor City building.

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Up on the Roof by Alex MacLean (Princeton Architectural Press)

The Ansonia, one of the city’s most historic residences.

“I had the opportunity to look around on some of the rooftops, and I was amazed how many different things were going on, from swimming pools to playgrounds to bars, to the beautiful gardens on the upper East and upper West Sides — even urban agriculture,” MacLean said.

While MacLean photographed some of the most iconic rooftops in the city, including the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Center, he was drawn to the potential that smaller rooftops had on apartment buildings.

ROOFTOPS3BPW_3_WEB(At left, the Visionaire, in Battery Park City, one of the greenest condos in the world. Solar panels are above a resident roof lounge. Photo credit: “Up on the Roof”by Alex MacLean, Princeton Architectural Press)

“I hadn’t expected to see so many people out on roofs,” MacLean said of the 17 helicopter flights he took to collect photos for the book. “In the more affluent areas of the city, the space was very elegant, with elaborate rooftop structures and beautiful gardens. In more marginal areas, you start to see people look like they were appropriating roof space by moving deck chairs out, putting plants out. It looked more like homesteading — roofsteading. There were other roofs that looked like suburban backyards, with barbecue grills and basketball hoops and aboveground swimming pools for kids.”

MacLean has also noticed the effects of an initiative from Mayor Michael Bloomberg that requires buildings that are redoing their roofs to paint them white. The initiative encourages buildings that aren’t in need of repair to do the same.

When he first started photographing the city in the 1970s, the vast majority of roofs were heat-trapping black roofs. By 2005, a checkerboard pattern had emerged. Now, he estimates about 80% of the roofs are white, helping to keep buildings cooler in the summer.

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Up on the Roof by Alex MacLean (Princeton Architectural Press)

122 Fifth Ave. has an eclectic range of rootop style and usage.

Russell Unger, the director of the U.S. Green Building Council of New York, said that the emphasis on white and green roofs — roofs covered in vegetation or used as a garden — has changed New Yorkers’ attitude about this prime real estate.

“People are seeing roofs not just as these wastelands for mechanical equipment, but as an asset, an area of their building that had been undervalued and could open up all sorts of possibilities,” Unger said. “All of a sudden, it opens up other parts of the city for you to enjoy.”

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