The Challenges of BBQ-ing in a Vertical World

Barbecuing is an all-American pastime synonymous with summer. We usually associate a barbecue with big back yards, but grilling has also become a staple of life in NYC.  From the smallest hibachi on a fire escape–totally illegal–to grand roofs where the stainless steel grill is hooked up to the building’s gas line–approved by the Fire Marshall.

My ex-husband and dear friend grew up in the city without a grill. While the first in the Hamptons to offer his services tending the coals, he resisted having one in our backyard. When I came home with a classic Weber kettle one Fourth of July and placed it in the backyard of our townhouse, he was not convinced that it was a good idea. He watched from indoors as I grilled a steak one weekend, some swordfish the next. A chicken dish finally caught his fancy; he decided that the meat was greatly enhanced by the marinade and smoky charcoal taste. Finally, he snuck a jalapeno onto the grill, just to see how that would taste. Shortly thereafter, he was experimenting with the newest recipes picked up from GQ, and we had yet another NYC BBQ convert.

As a broker, I am frequently asked about the law concerning the use of a grill on one’s terrace. In a nutshell, such a device must be at least ten feet away from anything which might catch fire. While grilling, there must either be a hose nearby, hooked up to a water source, or a 4 gallon bucket of water.

Electric grills are always allowed. Propane is not; fines run to $10,000. In most cases, charcoal is allowed. The super safe alternative is to have a grill on the roof, connected to a gas line.

A few years ago, I sold a new building with such an arrangement at 148 East 24th Street. River & Warren also has a beautiful grill. I have seen some fantastic private roof terraces on townhouses. If you are lucky enough to live with a fabulous outside grilling station, check out these roof top chefs for your next summer soiree. Celebrity chefs can be hired to come do the grilling, while you and your guests sip cocktails and watch the sunset.

If you don’t have a grill, maybe it is time to go searching for your next home!


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