More than eight million people, eight-and-a-half billion square feet. Suffice to say, New Yorkers have a love-hate relationship with space, all the more reason for us to occasionally get away from it all. But finding sanctuary in the city is not as hard as you might think. In “My Secret New York Sanctuary,” a new series by Narratively and WNYC, we get up close and personal with New Yorkers who use a little ingenuity to find solitude in some unlikely places.
Ryan Kailath missed the mountains of Northern California. He missed scrambling up cliff faces and trekking down steep ravines. He missed nature, and that sense of awe, spirituality and solitude it provided him. So he recreated the feeling smack in the heart of New York City.
“I try to get on the roof of any building that I’m in,” says Kailath, 31, who moved to New York in 2007 and estimates that he has since sneaked onto the tops of at least fifty NYC buildings.
Madison Square Garden is the crown jewel in his portfolio of thrills, but there’s also a long list of failures, including 30 Rock, and more than a few run-ins with security personnel.
But Kailath, a journalist, swears it’s not about the adrenaline—even if the reporter he brought along on his latest excursion, to a Times Square hotel, might beg to differ, just a little bit.
“There’s nothing that gives me more pure joy than just being out alone, rock-climbing or hiking on top of a beautiful mountain. So, for me, that’s a large part of why I like to get on rooftops. I get some of that same feeling,” he says. “Trying to open the door that might not seem like it opens, it’s a way of bringing back a sense of wonder, and to stay grateful for what actually is an amazing world.”
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Karen Frillmann, WNYC’s Enterprise Editor, was the supervising producer, and Paul Schneider, was the broadcast engineer on the story.