Apple Dun, Carneau, Fantail. These are just a few of the many varieties of pigeon that New Yorkers who use the term "rat with wings," are most likely not familiar with. Most city pigeons are hopeless scavengers, prone to disease and seemingly everywhere. Meanwhile, on the rooftops of every borough, urban flocks of richly colored birds twist and dive through the light air, inspiring awe in all who bother to look up. Is it possible these are the same species of feathered friends? As the men who raise and care for these birds prove through the example of their own lives, anything is possible. UP ON THE ROOF follows several of these devoted pigeon-lovers through the rigors and rewards of this quintessential New York tradition.
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.