Incidents of rooftopping have alarmed some downtown Rochester building owners, who are tightening security to prevent it. (Photo: Tobi Marchner, Getty Images/iStockphoto) The owners of some of downtown Rochester’s most iconic buildings have beefed up security and one is even threatening legal action since discovering that the tops of their properties have been breached by high-altitude daredevils searching for social-media status.
Chris Hill, whose company Reynolds 2 LP owns downtown Rochester’s First Federal Plaza, was familiar with rooftopping , in which people scale tall buildings, antennas or cranes to capture vertigo-inducing selfies. The thrill- and fame-seeking subculture has been well-documented on Instagram and YouTube in big cities around the world. (Tragically, some of the images and footage show resulting accidental deaths.)
What Hill didn’t realize until recently, though, is that rooftopping is happening here. Dozens of social media posts show people standing on The Metropolitan “fins,” the Hyatt roof and the edge of the Wilder Building or sitting on the Frederick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony Bridge arch as traffic whizzes by below. But it was footage of two young men walking along the edge of the 21-story First Federal Plaza roof that "shook me to my core,” Hill says. The Metropolitan and its distinctive white "fins." (Photo: SHAWN DOWD/ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE) The video, posted to YouTube in September, also revealed how the pair accessed the space: by climbing over a gate on the top floor of the structure, which has a saucer-shaped penthouse that once was home to The Changing Scene restaurant.
As a result, “We have made changes so that they can no longer access those areas, and so that others who try to access the building’s roof can’t do it in the same way,” Hill says.
The same two young men are alleged to have trespassed on the roof of the Times Square Building , says owner Rich Calabrese — in that case by prying open a window in the 10th floor stairwell. The window has since been screwed shut, he says. In addition, doors in the building have been locked, “signs have been placed, and we’ve got a camera now.” The "Wings of Progress" atop the Times Square Building during a solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017. The two also scaled the building’s Wings of Progress sculpture and posted photos to Instagram.
“I couldn’t believe it when I saw it,” says Calabrese of the images, adding that in addition to the obvious dangers of such a stunt, the building is home to a family of peregrine falcons — fast, powerful birds. “They are very protective of their territory,” Calabrese says. “They’ll strike their prey at 200 miles an hour. But even if they just swooped down and scared the kids, who knows what could happen.”
(Interestingly, the above-mentioned YouTube video of the First Federal Plaza incident includes something of a warning: "We do not advise people to recreate or do any of the following in the video, this film is here to inspire. These are my wild explorations i want the world to see, my adventures and passion for urban exploration.")
At this point Calabrese hasn’t pressed charges, but last month he hired a lawyer to warn the pair what they could face if they don’t stay away: being arrested for criminal trespass, criminal mischief and attempted burglary.
“More than anything, we want to protect them and their future,” he says.
More: Daredevil Wu Yongning died after falling off skyscraper in China. What is ‘rooftopping’?
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