The Curious Truth About “Skybridge” Apartments (And Why They’re the Stuff of NYC Legend)

updated Nov 18, 2020
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For the uninitiated, New York real estate is the pastime and blood sport of the city’s residents. Finding the “perfect apartment” requires a strategy only few have mastered. Among the some 2.5 million apartments in the five boroughs, though, the crown jewel of NYC apartment living are the so-called “skybridges.”

Skybridges are exactly what they sound like—they stretch above a street or a sidewalk to connect two buildings, almost like floating hallways. From an interior design perspective, skybridges are indeed just hallways. But they represent so much more than that in terms of clout among one’s neighbors. I’ll put it this way: there are more apartments in New York City that have private access to a helipad than have a skybridge. 

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So where did they come from—and why are there so few skybridges?

“Bridges weren’t built as residences, at least in NYC, but as ways to link commercial properties owned by the same business so that one’s employees/product/raw material wouldn’t have to go outside,” says Allen Prusis, an architecture consultant. “I only know of one that was converted to a residence, in Tribeca,” says Prusis. “[It was] during the conversion of Tribeca from commercial and manufacturing to residential neighborhood.”

These mid-air structures aren’t just a thing to marvel at—they’re also an outward showing to the people below that you do, in fact, have an incredible apartment. Skybridges are also a historical touchstone to remember these neighborhoods in their earlier forms. In neighborhoods where skybridges are visible, like in Tribeca or Chelsea, they recall a time when land or building owners would buy adjacent buildings and construct these bridges to connect the two spaces into one larger manufacturing plant. Over time, these factories and warehouses were converted into loft residences, and the floating hallways that connected them were, too.

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The most notable example of a skybridge home is the one Prusis mentioned in Tribeca. The Instagram-famous structure reaches across Staple Street, and once connected the New York Hospital Building to its ambulance annex. Now, it’s used as the connection between a fashion designer’s home and a private studio space. What’s more: a few years ago, it was put up for sale and represented by the broker behind the Bravo show “Million Dollar Listing: New York”.

“By way of total coincidence, 9 Jay Street and 67 Hudson #3B are being offered for sale, off market, by one of those guys on ‘Million Dollar Listing,’” reported a newsletter released in 2015 by Town Real Estate. “This will include the bridge connecting 9 Jay to the third floor apartment across Staple Street. Yes—the bridge will be all yours. The interiors are extremely bare, and open, compared to the historical exteriors. The price is available by request only.”

There are other, less famous skybridges in town, too. A skybridge visible from the High Line in Chelsea connects former Nabisco factory buildings. And there’s one that connects two buildings once part of the former Brooklyn Jewish Hospital, a property that’s since been converted into apartments. Some lucky renters have had the chance to live in part of the skybridge—past residents have admitted it has poor insulation (though an excellent cross breeze) and that it’s a hoot to reveal to guests that there’s nothing under the floor beneath their feet.

Temperature fluctuations aside, a skybridge apartment’s undeniable allure is its singular, suspended-in-mid-air rarity—a Holy Grail quality that slim to none will have the chance to experience.