Help me kill time while working near 34th St, NYC
June 25, 2014 7:04 AM   Subscribe

Pottering around NYC: I work near 34th St/Herald Square and have huge gaps in my work schedule. Help me find nearby places (walking distance or only a couple subway stops at the most) where I can escape the office? Slightly narrowing constraints inside:

I'm a new therapist at a counseling center, and building my clientele will take a couple months. For instance, I have a gap in tomorrow's schedule where I'm free from 12:45 until 6:15. I'm currently working a couple blocks south of Herald Square.

I've lived in NYC for years (though I live, prefer, and spend most of my free time in Brooklyn, hence the question), so I know the obvious answers: Madison Square Park is a couple blocks south, Washington Square Park is one stop by the B/D, and Greeley Square with the metal patio furniture is several blocks north.

Ideally, new ideas are:

-not eating-related, since I bring my own food
-not expensive
-not enmeshed in the Times Square or Herald Square chaos

Indoors or outdoors are both fine. I'm looking for quiet cafes, shady parks, bookstores, places to browse in the air conditioning, and so forth. Bonus points if it's within a mile of my office. I can't do anything too far away, even if the block of time is huge, because any possible subway snafu that could make me late gets me nervous. I am, sadly, not a great museum-going, which should be the obvious solution. As I spend enough of my time in the office ruminating, I suspect my fried brain will just blank out in a museum.

Thanks in advance!
posted by zoomorphic to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (21 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Are you a CitiBike member? There are lots of bikes available in that area; you could ride a great number of places, particularly if you're killing time in 6-hour blocks.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:07 AM on June 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

That's a huge chunk of time. This time of year, I would go sit in Central Park, go for a run, rent a bicycle, something like that. Enjoy the summer. You might find an athletics class you like at Chelsea Piers, as well.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:08 AM on June 25, 2014

Walk to Bryant Park and enjoy the reading room tent or the free classes and games. Six hours is enough time to walk or bike to the high line and walk around on it.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 7:12 AM on June 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Seconding the High Line. I think they have completed the part that extends up to 33rd Street, and you could just get on and walk as far south as you like (it extends down to 14th Street) and then turn around and walk back. About halfway down the High Line (approximately 20th St.) you have the Chelsea Market, which is a bit on the hoity-toity side but still an interesting place to browse if you're a foodie.

One of my favorite "quiet cafes" is also one of the city's oldest, and is in Greenwich Village - Cafe Reggio, which is about two blocks from the West 4th Station. If you take the B or the D from 34th it's like two stops. A couple blocks from there is a New York City outpost of the Italian gelateria Grom, which is HOLY CRAP WORTH IT. (Although, speaking of Chelsea Market, they have their own gelateria which also is worthy of the title.)

And also right by the West 4th Stop is the IFC Film Center, if you want to take in a movie.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:25 AM on June 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

That area is a little bit of a wasteland for cool things (esp. that aren't food related), but Chelsea Market comes to mind. It's about a 15-20 minute walk from you and a nice air-conditioned place to people watch, window shop, look at nicknacks, and often get free wine samples. Also the Manhattan public library is right in Bryant Park, and has lectures and events sometimes. Oh, and Bluestockings, which is not close but a straight shot on the F train. They have a great book selection, good coffee, and frequently interesting events.
posted by likeatoaster at 7:35 AM on June 25, 2014

Here are a few ideas: I know you say you're not a good museum goer, but The Museum of Sex!; The cafe in the Ace Hotel on 29th St is very nice and fun (but often crowded); The Episcopal Church at 29th St just east of 5th Ave has a lovely shady garden with benches open to the public.
posted by Pineapplicious at 7:47 AM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: FWIW, Chelsea Market would be very easy to access from Herald Square via Citibike; 9th Ave runs downtown and 8th Ave runs uptown and both have dedicated bike lanes.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:25 AM on June 25, 2014

Why are you "killing" time? Not to turn therapist on the therapist, of course. :) But surely with a five hour window you can do something that benefits a project, hobby or career goal. (Although you just attained one, congrats!) I'd kill for five hours to spend researching in the big NYPL branch. What do you love? What do you want to get done in this world?

All that aside, getting out of the greater Herald Square area is important. There is literally almost nothing there, as a former neighborhood victim. Do you love art? Seeing galleries in west chelsea on a weekday is AMAZING, it's so quiet and peaceful (and air-conditioned). Do you want to experiment with how other 1/20th lives? Go do a trip up Fifth and Madison Avenues and look at the insane clothing stores!
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:31 AM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Go to the Morgan Library at Madison and 36th. Interesting collections, reading rooms, etc. There's a nice atrium and it's pretty quiet. Entrance to the café is free, and entrance to the McKim rooms is free Tuesdays from 3-5. You could make it a regular Tuesday thing and spend money only on coffee or snacks.
posted by greta simone at 8:39 AM on June 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'll be the voice of dissent on the High Line: It's *packed solid* with tourists in the summertime. If you do not like crowds, it is not a good choice.
posted by yellowcandy at 8:40 AM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also head over to Chelsea Piers/Hudson River park. There is a nice lawn and benches everywhere between Pier 62 and 64 (the far west end of 23rd St). Wichcraft Café at Pier 62 has an upstairs with couches and a clean private bathroom. I've even napped there a time or two.
posted by greta simone at 8:45 AM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

With 5 1/2 hours of free time, you could probably go just about anywhere in Manhattan for just the cost of subway fares. Don't limit yourself.
posted by tckma at 8:47 AM on June 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Jim Hanleys Comics is at 32 e32nd
posted by brujita at 8:59 AM on June 25, 2014

I don't know if you'd want to replace one office with another, but perhaps a private space would be more peaceful than the counseling center. If so, perhaps you could try Breather? They offer by-the-hour private office/chill-out spaces in Manhattan.
posted by thejoshu at 9:06 AM on June 25, 2014

You said you don't like museums, but the Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) is always free and open to the public and is just a few blocks south on 27th & 7th. It's not very big (not at all overwhelming) and not very crowded the times I've visited.
posted by salmon at 9:07 AM on June 25, 2014

Best answer: In the heat and humidity of an NYC summer the last thing I would want to do is walk around on crowded sidewalks. I'd go see all the movies, all the movies in the world, in a nice cool movie theatre.
posted by elizardbits at 9:20 AM on June 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

A few people have recommended the NYPL Schwarzman building but keep in mind the Rose Reading Room and main catalog room will be closed for approximately the next 6 months.

SIBL (Science, Industry and Business Library) at Madison Ave & 34th is much closer to Herald Square and a better option I think.

It is underutilized and not as crowded as Schwarzman. The downstairs rooms are a great place to relax and read. The air conditioning is cold and bathrooms better than average in terms of cleanliness for bathrooms publicly accessible in NYC. Free Wifi.

Also, I understand you are looking for a place to relax so research is probably not going to be a strong selling point, but *if* you do need to access a database for a work-related question or for some other purpose, there is a robust selection of subscription-only databases you can use onsite.
posted by mlis at 4:26 PM on June 25, 2014

Best answer: Citibike is your angel here as others have mentioned. But sticking close to the justifiably loathed Herald Square area:

1. The parks in Herald Square are actually kind of nice.
2. On the horrible 32nd Street Koreatown block (horrible for crowds), there is a good Korean food court. You can go get a table there and hang forever probably.
3. Go crosstown to the river. The river is always nice.
4. Ace Hotel lobby; a meager cup of coffee can be sipped for hours in a nice atmosphere.
5. Uniqlo, Old Navy, etc. for mindless window-shopping.
6. West 30th and 6th Ave: right behind the big hotel there is an outdoor park area. It's not cozy, but it's not crowded. Sometimes in the summer they have events and stuff there.
posted by moedym at 5:53 PM on June 25, 2014

The cafe at the back of The Museum of Sex is called 'Play' and it's really nice and quiet, with tables surrounded by bookshelves. Some of my stylist friends like it because very few people know about it so there are always open spots to sit and read or catch up on emails between errands. I much prefer it over the Ace lobby - it's usually hard to find a seat there.

Also, right off 6th Ave between 29th and 30th is a small open space with a fountain and a huge screen that plays all the World Cup games. During normal days it's pretty quiet since you can't really see it while going down 6th.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 6:04 PM on June 25, 2014

Do you have any hobbies you could work on during this free time?

Bryant Park has free juggling lessons (balls and such provided) every weekday 12-1pm. They also have free language, knitting, yoga, and other classes. You can play all sorts of free games there too.

I like to wander around Kinokuniya (Japanese bookstore, 1073 Avenue of the Americas) sometimes.
posted by wiskunde at 6:40 PM on June 25, 2014

Best answer: The Strand! 1 stop on the Q, 3 stops on the N or R. It's easy to spend hours just browsing.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:52 PM on June 25, 2014

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