For obvious pandemic-related reasons, The Rooftop at Pier 17 had to cancel its entire run of concerts, special events, and private parties this season, leaving a big empty space above the South Street Seaport with no one to enjoy all those cool breezes and lovely river views. But like so many other businesses during this exceedingly strange summer, The Rooftop rallied and — using the deep pockets of its owner, the Howard Hughes Corporation — completely reconfigured the space into a socially distant hangout, where you can eat, drink, play games, and even watch a movie on your own little decked-out lawn.

The concept is called The Greens, and it opened about a week ago overlooking the East River. To get up there you have to endure a number of escalator rides through Pier 17's mall, but once you emerge the place is entirely outdoors and exceptionally pleasant. There's no admission fee here — a free reservation gets you and up to seven other people 90 minutes of mini-lawn time — but it is assumed that you will purchase food and beverages during your stay.

There are 28 separate mini lawns in all, and each 14' x 14' patch of artificial turf features cabana-style lounge chairs, an expansive shade umbrella, and a moveable cooler whose core function is completely unnecessary (it's not like you can BYOB) but makes for a decent enough table. Menus are via QR code, and you order and pay through your phone.

In addition to the mini lawns there are also four gaming lawns looking south out over the harbor, which you can also reserve for a crew of up to eight people to play corn hole, giant Jenga, or bocce ball. There's also a live DJ spinning boppy crowd-pleasers by the likes of Frank Ocean, The xx, and Major Lazer.

Movie nights start next week on the 32-foot LED screen that blocks your view of the Brooklyn Bridge during non-movie times, and there are plans to broadcast NBA games and the US Open as well.

At this point in our story it should not surprise you that The Greens is not a discount restaurant. If you're looking for somewhere to get filled up (and/or drunk) at a bargain price, this isn't it. It's not outrageous by any means, at least not by NYC standards, but the whole atmosphere and experience — the lawns, the entertainment, the views, the service, the breezes — is built into what you pay for food and drink.

The good news is that the food is actually quite good. There are a bunch of snacks on the menu, such as Salt and Pepper Calamari, Marinated Sesame Crusted Chicken Fingers, and Blue Corn Chip with salsa. Seeking something a bit more ostentatious I went for the Shrimp Cocktail ($19), and although a lot of that dish's usual luxuriousness was lost in the pandemic-era plating of disposable paper bowls, the crustaceans themselves had a nice, sweet pop to them, and the cocktail sauce was properly redolent with horseradish.

The Tomato, Strawberry, and Cucumber Salad ($16), served with a slab of decent feta, delivered on its promise of summer, and for something more substantial, the Grilled Cheese ($16) with bacon, gooey with gruyere, cheddar, and jack and covering a mound of salty fries, totally hit the spot. Other options include a Cheddar Burger with a risky-sounding passion fruit bbq sauce, a Maine Lobster Roll, and Grilled Salmon. Frozen desserts come from PopBar, and my Peach popsicle ($6), dipped in dark chocolate did the trick.

Grilled Cheese with Bacon ($16)

Grilled Cheese with Bacon ($16)

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Grilled Cheese with Bacon ($16)
Scott Lynch / Gothamist

Most people at The Greens were enjoying many drinks on their respective mini lawns, from cocktails both classic and frozen, cans of beer (a bucket of five will run you $40), glasses of wine, and I even spotted a couple of $165 bottles of Veuve Clicquot in the mix. You must reserve a mini lawn before arriving, and right now the place is booked solid for the next two weeks, but I got a mini lawn off the waitlist within 24 hours, so that's definitely worth a shot.

The Greens at Pier 17 is located on the East River at the end of South Street (the address is 89 South Street), and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (thegreens.pier17ny.com)