Five NYC Public Spaces to Get Work Done Completely for Free

Five NYC Public Spaces to Get Work Done Completely for Free

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NYC Indoor Public Space 8a-10pm
NYC Public Space Indication

Privately Owned NYC Public Spaces

Privately owned public spaces were formally introduced into NYC’s zoning lawns in 1961. Wikipedia lists over 500 of these public spaces but there’s only a dozen that provide usable indoor space all year round.

Many of the nyc public spaces are atriums. This relaxing environment is a great escape from city distractions. There are often tables, greenery, and ample sunlight.

Some spots have food & coffee vendors inside like a small food court. Since these are open to the public, an obligatory purchase is not required. Outside food + drink is welcome. These atriums are commonly used during lunch time.

You can sit at a table for hours without being bothered. Many are open from until 10p or even midnight. The only limiting factors of these spaces is hit-or-miss wifi and hard-to-find outlets. So plan ahead if you’re working with electronics.

I first heard of the concept of public spaces when a friend took me to the Winter Garden in the World Financial Center. I loved the idea and took advantage of their atrium during last year’s NaNoWriMo. Since then, I’ve found two lists from great NYC sites highlighting other spaces: MommyPoppins & Untapped Cities.

Many private owned public spaces are in centered around 53rd st and 5th avenue. With this in mind, a few weekends ago I headed out into the city to explore these spaces. I brought my netbook, a paper to edit, water, and some snacks.

Uses for NYC Public Spaces

While I was planning on getting some work done on this Saturday, there are many other uses for nyc public spaces:

  • Book Group: No purchase required and all ages welcome
  • Games: I’ve seen MTG and D&D groups play at the Citi Atrium
  • Casual Interviews: For roommates or something similar
  • Friend Get Together: Bring some snacks and spend a few hours chatting. You can always go somewhere else after.
  • Freelancing: When you’re tired of coffee shops and your apartment
  • Reading/Writing: These areas are usually quiet
  • People Watching: There is a lot of coming and going
  • Lunch: Especially if your work is nearby

Black Rock Park Avenue Plaza

55 E. 52nd st (b/t Park and Madison Avenues)
Hours: 8a-10p
Weekend Mood: Relaxing
Features: Starbucks (closed weekends), Indoor Waterfall, Birds
Wifi: No
Good for Groups: Yes, at off times

The Park Ave Plaza provides a small seating area along the side of the lobby. There are about 20 round tables with chairs. There isn’t much of an atrium there so lighting can be a bit dim. It was empty on the Saturday afternoon I went. Empty, quiet, and peaceful. The indoors waterfall was relaxing to listen to. Some birds were fluttering around.

Park Avenue Plaza – Seating + Indoor Waterfall

Trump Tower Public Plaza

725 5th Ave (b/t 56th and 57th st)
Hours: 8a-10p
Weekend Mood: Busy, Touristy
Features: Starbucks, Restaurant, Bathrooms, Souvenir Shops, Marble + Gold, Outdoor Gardens, Waterfall Wall
Wifi: Yes (Starbucks)
Good for Groups: No

Trump Tower provides six floors of public open space. Most of the indoor seating is on the second floor where there is a Starbucks. Wifi can be accessed around this area. On the 4th and 5th floor, you can access outdoor public gardens. While there is not much of a view, these areas were quiet and relaxing (on a warm October afternoon). I was able to access Niketown’s free wifi from one of these. Bathrooms are located downstairs on the ground level. There is marble and gold EVERYWHERE.

Public Indoor Space at Trump Tower on 5th Avenue in Manhatan
Trump Tower on 5th Ave Manhatan
Trump Tower Indoor Waterfall in Public Space
Gold + Marble + Indoor Waterfall = Trump Tower
Escalators in Trump Tower 6 floors of Public Space
Six Floors of Public Space with access to 2 Outdoor Gardens

IBM Plaza & Atrium

590 Madison at 57th st
Weekend Mood: Quiet mornings, busy tourist afternoons
Features: Restaurant, Indoor walkway to Trump Tower, Greenery, Birds
Wifi: No
Hours: 8a-10p
Good for Groups: Yes at off times

My time spent here was on a Saturday morning so it was very quiet. When I walked back through several hours later it was much more lively, used as a reprieve for tired tourists. The greenery is nice as it’s practically everywhere. The open ceiling has a real atrium feel. There are birds flying around, chirping, probably confused why they’re stuck in this glass area. There are large and small tables, a pretty big area overall with lots of sunlight.

Madison Avenue IBM Plaza Atrium
IBM Plaza Atrium on Madison Ave w/ birds + foliage + snacks + tables

Sony Plaza & Public Space

550 Madison Ave (b/t 55th and 56th st)
Wifi: No
Good for Groups: Yes
Features: Sony Wonder Lab, Restaurant

This area is directly across the street from the IBM plaza but not quite as nice. There isn’t much sunlight so it was considerably dimmer. The tables were off to the side, but there were many. Since the Sony Wonder Lab is right there, on a Saturday afternoon it got a bit crowded with kids/parents at times. Not the best work environment but would be good for sitting for lunch.

Sony Plaza Public Indoor Space Manhattan
Sony Plaza on Madison Ave
Seating Area in Sony Plaza Public Space
Tables & Seating Area in Sony Plaza (minus Spider Man)

Winter Garden in World Financial Center

220 Vessey St (west of West st)
Features: Shops, Food, Palm Trees
Open: 8a-Midnight
Good for Groups: Yes

This place is beautiful. There are a few tables, lots of benches, tall palm trees, and beautiful windows that bring in a ton of sunlight. Sometimes live performances are done here, so try to check the World Financial Center schedule first before bunkering down to work. It is connected to shops. The movie theater and Shake Shack is nearby so people do walk through, but in the evening and weekend it is rather quiet. I am sure it gets busy during lunchtime on a weekday.

Winter Garden Public Indoor Space in World Financial Center NYC
Winter Garden Atrium in World Financial Center – Financial District
Palm Trees indoors at winter garden
Palm Trees are the highlight of this beautiful atrium

Take Advantage of Free Public Space

It is easy to take advantage of free outdoor space in the summer but don’t forget about these indoor reprieves as the colder weather returns. I invite everyone to explore these public spaces and take advantage of what the city offers us. It is a nice alternative to meeting at a bar. Or spending a ton of money at a restaurant. Or hosting at your own apartment. The space is ours to use. It’s free to use. And it’s there to be used!

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7 Replies to “Five NYC Public Spaces to Get Work Done Completely for Free”

  1. I can also vouch for Black Rock Plaza. I used to work about a block away, and it’s a great place to go. Just stay away at lunch time during the week. It gets hectic and crowded.

    1. Thanks for vouching! I imagine most of these are crazy during lunchtime. Weekends and especially after work would be the key time to go.

    1. There’s a solid pocket of them on Madison, Park and Lex. Definitely easy to walk from one to the other if one is crowded. And way better than buying an obligatory coffee!

  2. This is great. Thanks for this article. I just found it today. Have you been to Citigroup atrium on 53rd and Lex? I think it’s still called that, but I haven’t been there in years so I’m not sure. I’ll try to check it out this week.

    1. Yes! I can’t remember why I didn’t include it but I’ve been to the Atrium there several times! It’s never too full and is one of the larger spaces. I’ve been there several times for meetup groups!

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