Brilliance Lighting Award !

325 Kent Ave is a residential building that is part of the larger Domino Sugar site being developed by Two Trees Management, Inc. The building has a noticeable ‘hole’ in the center- a playful nod to the ubiquitous ‘Sugar’ donut. The building was designed by Ismael Levya Architects, while the interiors were developed by Leeser Architecture. Blondie’s Treehouse, Inc built all three main exterior amenity spaces.

The Courtyard is 9900 SF. A central, rectilinear dry-bed leads through a random planting of large Shade trees, ferns and perennials and ends at a blackened steel water feature. The water spills into a reflecting pool that features a 12’ tall sandstone sculpture by Lluis Lleo. Two thirty foot built-in benches flank the deck that surrounds the end of the reflecting pool.

The 16th Floor has two terraces that are nearly mirror images. At roughly 3000 SF, one of the terraces functions as an entertainment space with a built in kitchen and seating, while the other features a flush deck that acts as an outdoor yoga classroom.

The 17th Floor Roof deck is approximately 5000 SF and comprises distinct usage areas, including a 40’ long kitchen and bar area, picnic spaces, North and South lounges, conversational clusters and a raised garden of steppable plants and lounge chairs under shade trees. Blondie’s Treehouse, Inc. fabricated all of the architecture above the waterproofing membrane- including the custom kitchen, planters, edging, stairs, decking, lounges and benches.

Blackened Steel, ipe, rectangular pavers and linear lighting appear throughout the spaces.


Smarter, faster and cheaper – Crane beats freight everyday

Safe craning in NYC is hard work but your budget will thank you: Planning and preparation are key to a safe, efficient craning operation. The details are important- lives are at stake.

Any urban roof deck installation is an elaborate and complex undertaking, especially when the fastest, most cost-effective way to deliver soil, planters, trees and decking to the roof is by crane. Reliably delivering tons of material to a site six, twelve, twenty or more stories up can take weeks with a freight elevator- or be completed in a single day with the right piece of craning equipment. These projects typically require street closures, which mean coordinating with city agencies, obtaining permits, prepping the site, scheduling deliveries and managing teams of workers and crowds of onlookers and passersby. And all that before anything is being craned- Large scale roof deck installs are not for the inexperienced.

Choose the right company and the right equipment-

When planning a project that requires a crane of any size, it’s critical to choose an experienced, professional company. From small residential projects to very large new developments, there are many variables involved, and lives are literally at stake. Finding a knowledgeable and dependable supplier is absolutely critical.

Cranes can be a big ticket item and can prompt sticker shock even on big-budget projects. Lifting equipment can cost between $10,000 and $70,000 for a single day of craning. This is another reason to work with a qualified and experienced crane operator- they’ll help to select the right equipment for the project, avoiding the mistake of paying for equipment that is larger than necessary. There are some techniques to help squeeze the most from a budget, including sharing the cost with other contractors who need their own material brought to the roof or debris removed to street level.

Logistical ballet

Once we’ve gotten through city agency alphabet soup of DOB, DOT, landmarks and parks, and a job has received the necessary permits with approved dates, it’s critical to move swiftly to choose and contract the crane, coordinate deliveries from all your suppliers, ( a challenge deserving of it’s very own article), prepare the site and make arrangements for backup plans and equipment to manage any contingencies.

We always have a forklift on site- truckers aren’t always fond of NYC and like to unload and turn around as quickly as possible. A forklift allows pallets to be moved quickly and efficiently from wherever they’ve been unloaded to exactly where the crane operator needs them to be.

Two to three days in advance of craning, we visit the site to walk through the space and make sure everything is ready for the big day. Blondie’s Treehouse’s Vice President of Operations Ian Dana prepares a rooftop to ensure that once material is being craned, it can be staged and moved efficiently to avoid any logjams. Clearing the rooftop landing site of any material and sometimes preparing a path with high density styrofoam and plywood ensures a smooth path for our material once the crane delivers it.

While on site, we also take measurements and begin planning where the crane will be set up. This is critical- the center pin of the crane is the precise location from which all calculations must be made- 50’ out at 110’ up requires previous coordination with our suppliers to ensure deliveries are below the maximum weight for each pallet to be craned at that distance. Everything must line up perfectly with landing point. Safety always always always comes first- New York City wisely requires that when winds are over 10 mph, loads must be reduced by half. If gusts exceed 20 mph, craning is prohibited and must be rescheduled. A backup plan is absolutely essential.

We prefer all inclusive companies that handle many of these elements- we love Empire Erectors, a longtime master rigger, specializing in facilitating and overseeing craning in New York City. They  provide the crane, the operator, riggers, oilman, engineer, expediter and pedestrian control. From regulations on when cranes may use bridges (before 7 am) to rerouting pedestrian traffic around a worksite, master riggers expertly navigate the regulations and challenges involved in an efficient, safe installation.

Most people aren’t aware of the hundreds of hours spent preparing and supervising the installation of a modern terrace or roof deck. Those of us who spend our days planning logistics and managing installations have a unique perspective on these relaxing spaces- And an appreciation of what’s required for everything to come together as planned.

If you’re planning a roof deck, terrace or other landscape project, we can help to answer questions you don’t even know you have- Our team of experienced Project Managers and Designers is happy to talk, anytime.

Thermally modified wood is even better than ipe? – Here’s why

We’re really impressed with the thermally modified ash pavers we just installed at the Durst Organization’s 4 Times Square and 1133 Avenue of the Americas.

Thermal modification relies on super heating wood, like ash, in a low oxygen environment to transform the wood into a much tougher, more durable product. Perfect for decking, outdoor furniture and pavers, the treated wood outperforms untreated ash, with a much longer life (25 years), better fire safety rating, and is far more resistant to decay, warping and splintering.

It’s a very eco-friendly product- Sustainably harvested from North American forests, some of the material being used today is reclaimed and repurposed timber felled to help combat blight endangering ash trees.

Heated to temperatures in excess of 180 C, moisture, resins and other extractives are removed from the wood. A low oxygen environment prevents combustion, and the finished product is stronger, better suited to exterior applications and will develop a lustrous, rich patina.

Thermally modified decking and pavers perform as exotic hardwoods, but are ecologically sound, sustainably grown, and a great alternative to depleted stocks of hardwoods like ipe. Available in a variety of sizes as pavers and decking in dimensional lumber sizes.


Plant Selection + Terrace Gardens


The climate in the northeastern United States has always challenged residential gardeners and professional landscapers alike. For most people the chill of fall means pulling out fun collections of sweaters and coats.  For the gardener it’s time to shut down the garden. Pulling weeds, shutting down irrigation and covering furnishings are all part and parcel of landscape maintenance.  However, a temperature and weather shift associated with climate change has really changed the timetable for many.

While many people still debate climate change and it’s impact, surely we have noticed the effects.  A white Christmas is becoming harder and harder to come across. February is dipping lower and lower on the thermometer.  We’ve noticed a lot of loss amongst shrubs and perennials that used to be quite hardy and resistant to cold snaps.  Colder winters are also compounded when your garden might be on a 22nd story roof deck.  Strong winds wick away ambient moisture and temperatures dip even lower than they do at ground level. So your hardiness zone might not be what you think.

Our general rule at J. Mendoza Gardens (a division of blondies treehouse), after the first ten stories, for every ten stories you ascend, your garden steps back a hardiness zone. New York City is considered to be zone 7 city-wide,  but when we design for terraces that are 15 or 20 stories high, we’ll pick plants that are more common to a zone 5 to ensure hardiness.  One commercial client of ours has their office on the 34th floor.  We went with plants that could handle zone 4 hardiness.

For the urban gardener, a Property Manager responsible for a large common roof deck or a hobbyist with a few planters on a terrace, the lesson we’d like to share is that if you’ve lost some perennials, do not replace in kind.  Our recommendation is to transition to plants with higher tolerance to the cold.

Suggested Plants (by Genera)

  • Amsonia
  • Aster
  • Actaea
  • Brunnera
  • Coreopsis
  • Calamagrostis
  • Carex
  • Chasmanthium
  • Dryopteris
  • Echinacea
  • Eryngium (select species)
  • Euphorbia
  • Festuca
  • Gaillardia
  • Hakonechloa
  • Heuchera
  • Helleborus
  • Hemerocallis
  • Hylotelephium
  • Ligularia (select species)
  • Lobelia
  • Monarda
  • Phlox (select species)
  • Schizachyrium
  • Sedum
  • Sporobolus
  • Tiarella
  • Yarrow
  • Yucca

 Additional Resources:

 Good place to search for plants – “MBG – Plant Finder”

 University of Minnesota – “The best plants for 30 tough sites”

Rooftop Meadow in SoHo

Hovering 7 stories above Spring Street is a rooftop garden that is more than just a green roof. Featuring a variety of grasses and a seasonal rotation of blooming plants, this rooftop is transformed into an urban meadow. The distinction between the meadow in the forefront and the city’s skyline as a backdrop plays off of the urban vs wild contrast that lives within each of us. The blooming color is planted in large swaths to increase its intensity and rolls through the season adding a constant shift in color. Flowering chives present soft purple tufts and fresh greens beginning in early spring until the coreopsis take over in the summer with their electric orange hue and wild flower nature. Later, the hydrangeas begin to take bloom and their moppy heads create a late summer watercolor that leads the way into autumn red and golden grasses. As part of the common space of a private office, this rooftop retreat provides respite from the bustle of the surrounding city and is the setting for meetings and gatherings from spring through fall.