Greenpoint Gazette
Michael Kagan

A Yurt Grows in Greenpoint

BY Kylie Jane Wakefield

In New York City, few people have a great deal of space at their disposal. For those who do, every square inch counts. Seeking to make the most of their oversized patio, two Greenpoint residents, Jack Bertuzzi and Michael Kagan have brought 13th century technology to the neighborhood by erecting a yurt.

“Two months ago [we looked at] our great big deck,” said Kagan. “Instead of being confined to it in good weather, we wanted to make it into an all-year kind of deal. We wanted to use the space in all the seasons and channel the energy with all the people outside.”

For the uninitiated, a yurt is a dwelling area, similar to a tent, and popularized by Central Asian nomads centuries ago. It was used to keep warm, cook, and partake in home life activities. Bertuzzi and Kagan’s octagon-shaped yurt took three months to build, and was completed on December 31st. It is 14 feet in diameter, 13 feet tall and composed of 53 yards of fabric. It was assembled with the help of Bertuzzi’s girlfriend, and sewer extraordinaire, Susanna Lee.

Absent someone with an engineering background added to the challenges of constructing the yurt. According to Lee, on the day of their promised New Year’s Eve yurt party, there were still two panels left to sew. However, they had never sized the panels with the metal frame. When the cautiously raised the panels and everything fit, onlookers cheered. “We were surprised to hear cheers from across the street when we put it up for the first time,” said Kagan.

On New Year’s, about 40 people partied inside the yurt. The three owners plan to host monthly gatherings, such as dinner parties and brunches in the yurt. In traditional fashion, a hole at the top of the yurt allows people to see a sliver of sky from inside. The hole’s originally functioned as a chimney, letting out smoke when the nomads built fires. As for building fires inside modern yurts, Lee recommends that they be contained.

Bertuzzi, who is starting his own solar energy company, plans to manufacture pre-made, portable yurts. “We’re going to make full design specifications for them and then outsource the manufacturing,” he said. “It’s an adult tent for adult entertaining.”

Although the process was arduous, the trio believes it was worth the effort. “I’ve always liked building things, so it was a fun side project that just added a lot of value to our apartment,” Bertuzzi said. “It essentially turned a really large outdoor space into a really large indoor space. And now we have year round use of the patio.”


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  • Andrew Wall:

    How is this the first comment? I live in the heart of Williamsburg and am ashamed of my callous neighbors to the north. If this was my yurt I would invite and provide ample hallucinogenics for every disenfranchised person in the neighborhood. But that’s just me.

  • Peter Brandenberg:

    Michael, Does the landlord feel it is wonderful idea in his New Yort City real estate?
    I assume that you were held up while obtaining the NYortCity BUILDING PERMIT? Great idea, from great people. DO NOT PERMIT SMIOKING ‘ANYTHING’ WHATSOEVER IN THE YORT!!

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