The Mystery of the Fifth Floor Roof

In this article I explain the REAL, totally non-fabricated reason why the fifth floor roof is off-limits for all students.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Cover Image
By Jason Lei

Almost all of the crevices and crannies in the current Stuyvesant High School building have been explored by bored and overly-determined students. The 40 stationary bicycles clumped together in a room half the size it should be? Check. The specific location of the glass box-in-the-wall for the class of 2038? Check. The perfect spot on the Hudson staircase for undisclosable human-to-human relations? You betcha. All of ‘em pinpointed, and you probably even know that last one. However, there is one spot on campus completely off-limits to curious eyes: the roof on the fifth floor.

At first, this seems illogical. It is a perfectly good resting area literally attached to the building, and yet we are barred from entering it. Moreover, it’s right next to the perpetually crowded and smelly cafeteria, so one would imagine that the roof supplies some much-needed space and fresh air. Thousands of students have come and gone without getting the chance to experience the wonders of the red-bricked fifth floor roof, only able to longingly stare at it from the other side of the windows. Well, it turns out that there is actually a really good reason Stuyvesant doesn’t want you trespassing in that area, and I’m willing to bet it’s not what you expected…

The first of many offenses occurred during the spring of 1994, with Stuyvesant fresh off the great location change of 1992. First, let’s give some context. Benyamin, an anime-obsessed senior, had been hiding for seven hours in a janitor’s office with 24 Sailor Moon-inspired T-shirts. Then, in the middle of the night, he ran out onto the roof and began dropping each T-shirt over its ledge, one by one. In his mind, Benyamin believed that he was giving over two dozen lucky New Yorkers the most amazing gift one could dream of. Unfortunately, the falling T-shirts had caused one ginormous car collision that involved three SUVs, one 18-wheeler, and 12 smart cars. For four people, Benyamin’s gift was the sweet release of death. And for many others, it was a not-so-free ride to the hospital. The next morning, Ben was found weeping on the roof, deeply regretful not for the damage he had caused but for the lost pieces of his prized anime collection. He failed to show up for his court hearing, instead fleeing the country, and Stuyvesant was forced to cover the costs of the damages. The culprit’s current whereabouts are unknown.

The next occasion was in September of 1994, only a few months after Benyamin’s T-shirt incident. Our hero of this tale was named Lulu Lemonadermaker, and, like most freshmen, she was not of a particularly sizeable stature. In fact, she was so inconspicuous that she donned a long sign that stuck out of her backpack and read “MIND YOUR STEPS, FRESHMAN BELOW” so that no one walked over her. Despite the fiasco that had occurred a few months prior, the fifth floor roof was still an easily accessible part of the campus; anyone could walk on it and dillydally during their free periods. One particularly sunny Monday afternoon, Lulu and her friends were sitting on the roof when a muster of vicious storks approached them. Everyone was able to swat away the hostile birds except Lulu. She was targeted by the biggest stork, which soon overpowered her, grabbed her by her shoulders, and flew her into the sky. Far, far away she flew, everyone stood, nothing they could do, where she would land, nobody knew, poor Lulu, boo, hoo, hoo.

Obviously, a missing child report is pretty bad for PR, but that wasn’t really why the school shut down the roof. In fact, the final occurrence that contributed to the closing—the straw that broke the camel’s back, if you will—happened 12 years later, in 2006. Elizabeth Windsor, Stuyvesant’s head janitor at the time (no relation to Elizabeth II), made the gravest mistake in the history of this school on the morning of January 7, sometime between 7:22 a.m. and 7:31 a.m. Ms. Windsor made the great error of… losing her keys. Yup, that’s right. The reason we cannot enter the fifth floor roof today is because of a single lost key. Not because of the numerous deaths I’ve listed above but because the school was too lazy and cheap to make a SINGLE replica of the roof key. A SINGLE replica.

So there the roof remains, cursed to be locked away forever, never to be trampled on by the weak steps of Stuy kids. But who knows, maybe one day the administration will finally take initiative and install a new lock. Or maybe we’ll just die first. Goodbye!