Would you say it’s legal to camp in Central Park? Probably not.
My fellow Travelettes’ recent articles on camping and glamping reminded me of my New York bucket list which holds all the things I still want to do or experience when I get back to the city. This list also includes rooftop camping. Even though friends and I had toyed with the idea of setting up tents atop their Brooklyn home, we never turned that plan into action. I was even more amazed to find out later that New York actually already has a rooftop campside.
But first things first. To answer the initial question: It is of course illegal to set up camp in Central Park. But it’s that time of year again when, on a few selected dates, you can actually pack your pyjamas and a sleeping bag and embark on an adventurous night in one of the largest urban parks in the world – if you happen to be among the lucky ones to win a spot in the annual camping lottery, that is.
Each summer, New York’s Park Department chooses up to a thousand people by lottery to sleep under the skyscrapers of the Big Apple. The events are free of charge and even food and tents are provided. The family camping program includes more than a dozen parks in all five boroughs, among them of course Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.
As fun as this sounds – it’s a long way until you can rest your head on one of the greens in the concrete jungle. There are only 30 tents available for each night which are lottery-picked two weeks in advance. Anyone interested can register online within a 24-hour entry period. For this year, you can still register for camping events in Manhattan’s Inwood Hill Park, Brooklyn’s Prospect Park or Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx.
If you feel like a stay in New York City deserves more than an ordinary campout – how about taking the experience to another level: Brooklyn artist Thomas Stevenson created temporary rooftop campsites in Williamsburg and Bushwick which can accommodate up to 15 campers. All locations offer a clear view of the beautiful Manhattan skyline.
The tents were set up as an art project called Bivouac New York which aims to disconnect people from the hectic metropolitan environment encouraging real-life interaction. The camps are fully equipped with a canteen, a communal table, a small bathroom and even a library. It seems like enough of a challenge to spend the night on top of a building. Now imagine doing this without wifi or electricity.
To join in on the fun, simply request a tent and wait for a confirmation email whether or not there are any tents available. Just like the down to earth counterpart, camping on these roofs is free of charge. You are only asked to bring food items to share with the group as well as the willingness to unplug from your busy routines for the night. Camping nights take place all summer and will continue until early October. Check Bivouac’s official website for the announcement of the camping dates.
Cordula Schaefer is a photography enthusiast who loves to venture out to explore new places and hardly ever leaves the house without a camera. A New Yorker at heart, she is especially fond of city trips and has a soft spot for beautiful beachscapes. She currently bases herself in Berlin and keeps the visual documents of her travels at Cordugram.