Pigeon coops have historically dotted dozens of New York neighborhoods. Much of that has changed in the past decade or so as once blighted or working-poor neighborhoods have been scrubbed of old-world features, attracting real estate speculation and new residents. For a variety of reasons, UP ON THE ROOF focuses on the neighborhood at the geographical center of the five boroughs. Situated at the base of one of the city’s major inter-borough bridges, Williamsburg boasts what is possibly the most varied populations in all of New York: Polish people, Italians, Hasidic Jews, and Puerto Rican and Dominican families who moved in when World War II brought jobs all along the waterfront- and finally, students, artists, and the liberally minded who have made Williamsburg world famous as they have transformed the area into a capitol of music, fashion, and art.
All these groups continue to live side by side, yet changing times present added difficulties for the principally Hispanic pigeon keepers as the hard realities of the real estate market creep in on their turf. Over the course of the documentary, many of the coops are evicted from their rooftops by building owners, concerned that this age-old tradition is not in keeping with Williamsburg’s trajectory. UP ON THE ROOF documents the wonder and dedication involved in pigeon keeping along with the ebullient awkwardness of a neighborhood in transition.
Brought to you with assistance from The Experimental Television Center’s Presentation Funds program, which is supported by the New York State Council on the Arts.