When New Yorkers went to roofs to sunbathe

Here’s an old-school New York City summer pastime you don’t see very much anymore: rooftop sunbathers.

These UV fiends are soaking up the rays on Prospect Tower at Tudor City in 1943—and I have a feeling not one of them is using any kind of sunblock.

Tudor City’s rooftop is clearly designed to host residents. What did New Yorkers do if they lived in a building without an official rooftop? Tar beach, of course!

[Photo: Wurts Brothers, MCNY, X2010.7.1.8408]

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12 Responses to “When New Yorkers went to roofs to sunbathe”

  1. Penelope Bianchi Says:

    Delightful! Are those terraces still there?? Fascinating!

  2. ksbeth Says:

    how cool!

  3. Haskel Says:

    Better use sun block. I am making my Dermatologist rich with all the skin cancers I’ve had as a result of growing up near Coney Island when it was Coney Island and not having sun block available.

  4. Marti Carroll Says:

    Every sunny Sunday in the 70’s. 122nd St.

  5. Lady G. Says:

    My dad remembers people still doing this in Brooklyn during the fifties when he was a child. But he said it was dangerous. The roofs weren’t protected so anyone could fall, the tar would get extremely hot and melt. And many roofs weren’t built to sustain too much additional weight or live loads.

  6. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    According to some real estates sites, the roof garden is still there and open to tenants, though I’m not sure how many are sunbathing….

  7. Caryl Says:

    I miss tar beach even though I have the ocean here in Florida. Good memories.

  8. Lady G. Says:

    As for sunblock. I bet they’re using plenty of Baby Oil! lol. All my aunts did, not realizing they’re literally frying themselves.

  9. RM Says:

    Tar Beach, baby. Every weekend in the Village from 1972-1999
    Also had huge BBQs up there. Great memories!

  10. Robert Swartz Says:

    The relative number of women in this scene reminds what a friend who lived there in the early 90’s told me – Tudor City was a popular stashing ground for the mistresses of Grand Central commuters. Many stayed on long after their relationships ended.

  11. David H Lippman Says:

    A more “exclusive” tar beach, of course….

  12. Todd Aydelotte Says:

    Epic history… thank you!

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