Want to sit indoors yet look at water in NYC
May 29, 2011 11:46 AM   Subscribe

free NYC Water View?

Here's what I crave: a place to sit that is inside and air conditioned, that has a water view, and free public access, within the 5 boroughs of New York City.

So far the best view from indoors I've ever experienced in a public place in New York City was of the Hudson River from my mother's hospital window when she was dying of a brain tumor at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital. However, she's dead now and, at the moment, I have no friends or relatives who are hospitalized.

(when she had her hip replaced decades earlier she had an awesome view of the East River from her room at the Hospital for Special Surgery, but so far, with anti-inflammatories, my joints are in pretty good shape)

Of course there are great water views in Manhattan if you want to sit outdoors. But it gets HOT in the summer.

So -- if anyone has any ideas about indoor, publically accessible spots with water views, I'd love to hear about them.

Thank you.
posted by DMelanogaster to Religion & Philosophy (18 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried the Staten Island ferry? Also, does the hospital for special surgery have a cafeteria with a view?
posted by cestmoi15 at 12:21 PM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

The cafe at the back of Fairway Market in Red Hook is an amazing little hidden gem with views of the harbor and the Statue of Liberty. However, it's in a sort of temporary structure and while it's well-heated in winter, I can't recall if it is well air-conditioned in summer. (I guess it's possible that they dismantle it entirely and have an all-outdoor cafe.)
posted by oliverburkeman at 12:30 PM on May 29, 2011

You want the IKEA restaurant in Red Hook. Same area that oliverburkeman describes. But the IKEA is totally air conditioned. Same amazing views of the Statue of Liberty, tug boats, water taxis and sometimes cruise ships. There's also a lovely park there if the weather is temperate. East to get to with free shuttle buses. It can be really crowded on weekends, but on weekdays it's often nearly empty.
posted by kimdog at 12:41 PM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was just reminded by my boyfriend about the Winter Garden in the World Financial Center, and South Street Seaport Mall, which has as large glass food court with amazing views of the Hudson and the Brooklyn Bridge.
posted by kimdog at 12:43 PM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Of course! That is 100% right. Ikea Red Hook.
posted by oliverburkeman at 12:44 PM on May 29, 2011

Columbia-Presbyterian has a restaurant on one of its upper floors that is publicly accessible. And the food, for a hospital setting, is actually surprisingly good. You can sit by the windows and have a view of the river.
posted by dfriedman at 12:46 PM on May 29, 2011

Ah, it's called "Window on the Hudson."
posted by dfriedman at 12:48 PM on May 29, 2011

Response by poster: I've been to that Ikea. Will go again and check out the view (I think when we went there the viewy seats in the restaurant were all taken). Will also check out Fairway.

dfriedman, can you really get up to "Window on the Hudson" without getting a visitor's pass, which requires you to state the name of the person you're visiting? (or show staff ID?)

I probably should have said that I'm looking for a place that not only is free, but that doesn't require you to buy anything to sit there.

The Winter Garden, great idea, probably that's the closest to me (well, definitely, it is) and if there are seats without actually going into a restaurant, that would be just perfect, thanks.

(last year I found a great place at Chelsea Piers until a guy informed me that it was a private catering establishment and kicked my a** out. I hate that place.)
posted by DMelanogaster at 2:31 PM on May 29, 2011

Response by poster: Ah, okay, Window on the Hudson, in the Milstein Pavilion. That's exactly the building my mother was in for about two months. I remember taking food out there. However, you do need to get a visitor's pass in the lobby of Milstein in order to be allowed into the building. See, that's the sad thing. Nice for the sick people and their guests, though.
posted by DMelanogaster at 2:34 PM on May 29, 2011

what about the SI Ferry bldg at Whitehall?
I think it has AC and some pretty good views from the big windows. I don't know about the seats though.
posted by TravellingCari at 5:02 PM on May 29, 2011

OK, this is a weird suggestion, but: the New York State Psychiatric Institute. The exterior of the building has the grim, institutional feel you'd expect, but the lobby has a big glassed-in view of the Hudson and the George Washington Bridge. I find it quite pretty and calming, although there is a road between the building and the water, which might ruin it for the really picky types.

You can get in even if you are not a patient or visiting one. To get past the locked doors you must present ID, get a sticker with the date on it and sign the ledger, but for destination you can write "cafe" or something like that. I've gotten in that way. (At that sort of place, they're more worried about the wrong people getting out than about the wrong people getting in.) There are usually a handful of people sitting at the tables in the lobby so I doubt you would be bothered as long as you remained quiet and inconspicuous. Cheap coffee and snacks are for sale in the lobby and there is indeed a cafe, which I would not particularly recommend.

Depending on your personality the insane asylum ambiance could add or detract. Of course, the ferry can be fun, too.

P.S. Are you sure that you can't get a visitor's pass into Millstein without having someone to visit? If you really want to visit again, I'd call and ask.
posted by reren at 6:54 PM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

The ferry terminal at 39th Street is surprisingly pleasant. It's at water level, so it's not so epic a view, but it does afford some peace, as you sit with commuters and tourists moving silently around you and boats coming and going: a mini-koyaanisqatsi. I spent time there one summer just reading. BONUS: It's accessible by free buses from lots of spots in Manhattan.

Maybe the other terminals are nice, as well.
posted by mahorn at 6:58 PM on May 29, 2011

The very best views of the Upper Bay of NY Harbor that I've ever seen in my 45 years in NYC are — maybe not surprisingly since they are the Masters of the Universe — from the Goldman Sachs cafeterias at the top of 1 New York Plaza down at the tip of Manhattan and on the 38th floor (39th?) of their Jersey City tower. If you can wangle any kind of meeting or interview in those buildings, that's the ticket.
posted by nicwolff at 7:33 PM on May 29, 2011

Starbucks in Jersey City has water views.
posted by skwm at 8:34 PM on May 29, 2011

The trees may block the view a bit dependent upon where you sit, but I think you want the Poets House. Great, sunny and comfortable space and good for reading.
posted by kathryn at 9:54 AM on May 30, 2011

Starbucks in Jersey City has water views.

Yes, unfortunately it's not "within the 5 boroughs of New York City" as specified by OP
posted by TravellingCari at 1:54 PM on May 30, 2011

Riverwalk Cafe on Roosevelt Island, to a lesser extent the Starbucks on Roosevelt Island, possibly Fuji East sushi restaurant on Roosevelt Island. Bonus: Roosevelt Island tram views.
posted by slateyness at 12:14 AM on May 31, 2011

Response by poster: mahorn, I used to work at P.I. -- before they built the new building. GREAT views. I assume you're talking about the new building, which now obscures the views of the 19th century one? (which has Freud's actual office furniture set up in a room, by the way).

Thank you all for the suggestions. I have a lot of water viewing in my future now.
posted by DMelanogaster at 2:29 AM on May 31, 2011

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