Some come here to sit and think ...
April 18, 2008 12:39 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for places to sit and write in New York City. Fussy constraints within.

Okay, I'm not getting any work done in my apartment these days. I need to find a place, or a series of places, to sit and write. Below are some constraints:

1). Starbucks (or Starbuck clones) are not acceptable. Look, it's just the vibe in there. I can't do it.

2). I write first drafts longhand so I do not need a place to plug in the laptop, and I don't need Internet service.

3). I need a place where I can either access cheap cold drinks like iced tea or be able to bring beverages with me.

4). With all that iced tea I drink, bathroom access is a must.

5). Lower half of Manhattan or around Brooklyn Heights is preferable. Reasonably near a subway stop (4,5; R; or 2,3 optimum) would be nice.

6). I don't mind people being around, in fact being able to peoplewatch can help, but I don't want to fight for space. I'll mostly be there in the afternoons.

7.) It don't have to be fancy. I've actually written some stories taking the train out to Coney Island on a weekday afternoon when the trains were pretty empty.
posted by Bookhouse to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (25 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, and outdoor suggestions are okay, as long as I can get comfortable and there is a public bathroom nearby.
posted by Bookhouse at 12:45 PM on April 18, 2008

Best answer: Check out Columbus Park in Chinatown. Lots of restaurants and tea places. Dunkin Donuts lets you use the bathroom. Plenty of places to sit outside. Very relaxing.
posted by milarepa at 12:53 PM on April 18, 2008

The Brighton Beach boardwalk and City Hall Park are my two favorites.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:53 PM on April 18, 2008

Except for item # 1 you sound like you are writing an ad for Starbucks. If you just want to write, drink ice tea, pee and people watch, what's all the fuss?

at least the bathrooms in Starbucks are fairly clean. As you know, there are a million little places in lower Manhatten, but most of the "mom and pops" will expect you to spend more than ice tea money if you are planning on camping out for the day
posted by Mr_Chips at 12:59 PM on April 18, 2008

Best answer: Hudson River Park near Pier 40 is a pretty nice place to sit and write. There's a public restroom and generally a vendor or two selling cold drinks and snacks. It's just a couple blocks west of the Houston Street station on the 1 train.
posted by JaredSeth at 1:00 PM on April 18, 2008

The upstairs eating area of Balducci's on the corner of 14th and 8th Ave in Chelsea. The building a beautiful old converted bank, and there is an eat-in loft type area that is virtually deserted every time I've been there. Tables, chairs, microwave, bathroom, and natural light all in the same space... which is completely removed (but overlooks) from the actual grocery store part. I've met friends there to do trip planning. Open 7am to 9pm and it has a coffee bar.
posted by kimdog at 1:42 PM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When I lived in Brooklyn, Empire Fulton Ferry State Park was my favorite park. Basically, just a nice, farily uncrowded stretch of lawn on the riverfront between the bridges. They used to have picnic tables, benches, and a public restroom. Don't know whether that's still the case, as I haven't been there since 2005. I used to go there to write, and I'd bring a picnic lunch with me. Loved it. Loved. It.
posted by dersins at 1:49 PM on April 18, 2008

Bryant park.
posted by gyusan at 1:56 PM on April 18, 2008

Best answer: When the weather's good, the plaza in front of the Brooklyn Museum is a great spot for sitting and peoplewatching, but there's no tables so you'll be writing in your lap. You can use the bathroom inside the museum lobby; there's often street vendors selling water and soft drinks, and there's bodegas and a supermarket on Washington just across Eastern Parkway. The 2 and 3 stop right there. If you ever do decide to join the 21st century, I understand they have free wireless on the plaza.

Get a Brooklyn Botanic Garden membership and you have access to their benches and lawns and surprisingly delicious cafeteria. I go there 2 or 3 times a month just to have lunch or sit in the sun. The 2/3 and B/Q are right outside its doors.
posted by moonmilk at 2:00 PM on April 18, 2008

How about a branch of the public library? I didn't see any rules on the NYPL's web site for beverages but here (Seattle) lidded beverages are fine in the library.
posted by camcgee at 2:01 PM on April 18, 2008

Union Square Park? There are plenty of places around there to grab a cold beverage, and you can use the bathrooms at Barnes & Noble on the north side or Filene's Basement on the south side. What's more, I know you said you don't need Internet, but you can still access if for free from the park if you change your mind.
posted by zerbinetta at 2:11 PM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Art Coffee near St. Mark's (when it goes into Tompkins Square Park, I think) is a cute punk-rock coffee shop with couches, although it gets loud sometimes.
posted by nasreddin at 2:16 PM on April 18, 2008

Best answer: The great Caffe Reggio is good for a couple of hours. They don't allow laptops, but a notebook and pen would fit the vibe just right. The tourists all try to grab the outdoor tables; go for a dark corner. In fact since you don't need to use a computer I'd have thought lots of places could work. Pubs for example. All those Irish places etc on 2nd Ave that are silent in the afternoons. Depends on your definition of "cheap" for drinks, of course.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 2:26 PM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Tea Spot has a lot of tea, a bathroom, and is not Starbucks.
posted by lsemel at 3:11 PM on April 18, 2008

This list on Yelp may be of use:
posted by kenzi23 at 3:14 PM on April 18, 2008

Best answer: Let me try again...oy!

Places to write in NYC
posted by kenzi23 at 3:14 PM on April 18, 2008

Best answer: Tazza is in Brooklyn Heights. On Henry, just off Atlantic Ave. There's no power for laptops, and I've never seen it packed. According to their menu, iced tea is $2.50. Bathroom is nice and clean.

On preview, it is really hard to get a seat at the Tea Spot. That place gets packed! (But they have a great selection of tea.)
posted by hooray at 3:15 PM on April 18, 2008

Mr_Chips, your answer is really misinformed on a couple levels. He didn't want a starbucks specifically because the vibe is wrong for him to write, and mentioned so in the question. Also, plenty of mom and pop shops don't care how long you stay. You're the one who sounds like they're writing an ad for Starbucks, not the OP.

nasreddin, alt coffee is long gone. Like, more than a year gone. Ownership is the same, but it's not hopscotch cafe. It's aimed at families with little kids, my guess is not a great place to write.

Now, on to the question... Cake Shop is run by the people who run hopsotch, and it has more of the Alt feel to it (although, it is still not Alt). Tea Lounge may be a good option, and they have multiple locations in Brooklyn. However, during the day they can have a decent number of moms with babies. B Cup is another decent option in the East Village.
posted by piratebowling at 3:37 PM on April 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

It sounds to me like the Met(tropolitan Musuem of Art) and its cafeteria meet all of your criteria pretty well.
posted by oddman at 4:32 PM on April 18, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. Hooray, I have written at Tazza in the past (I live two blocks from there). Pretty good food, too.
posted by Bookhouse at 4:36 PM on April 18, 2008

The weather in New York was wonderful today, so I thought it would be nice to sit & read in Bryant Park.

It must have been a great idea. EVERYONE thought of it.

But there were still mare that enough chairs for everyone (at 1PM--late lunch hour).

I read about Onychophora, but could not imagine a pleasanter NY place to outdooricate.

I don't know about the bathroom situation, though. But they do exist.

...And there's a big library right there if you need help spelling or something.
posted by hexatron at 5:16 PM on April 18, 2008

Best answer: Depending on your budget for drinks, the Met sounds like a good idea... I've actually done studying in the caafeteria there myself.

Upstairs of Whole Foods Union Square might work... Has bathroom, drinks, and you should have no problem getting a seat if you don't arive in lunch/dinner rush... Plus a view of the park.

Bryant park is obviously an option... Restrooms in the NYPL if nowhere else... Vendors and several places to buy drinks south of the park.

The Onassis tower might work... Located just north of St. Patrick's Cathedral, it's not a bad walk from Grand Central... There's a (pricey) cafe but also free seats. Buy your drinks at the deli a couple stores to the east. The bathroom is in the basement near the exhibit space... Which has cool rotating exhibits of greek culture. There's a nice fountain and cats of the Elgin marbles mounted on the wall.

Not sure what vibe you want... But the food court of the Manhattan Mall at 34th st Herald Square might work. Take the 2/3 to Penn Station.

Chipotle Mexican Grill locations have bathrooms, serve iced tea, and seem to be pretty cool about letting me hang out/read. Your vibe may vary... Music volume/ seating are different from place to place.
posted by Jahaza at 5:18 PM on April 18, 2008

The food court at Manhatten Mall? Let me disparage:

I ate there last week. It is down to 2 outlets: slimy japanese and (unknown) tex-mex.
It is dark and, well, uncongenial. At lunch, it was still pretty well half-filled, but not a hang-out type place. It is an 'eat & leave right now' place.

It didn't usta be. But we can't go to usta.

(In my earlier Bryant Park screed, I didn't mention: It's crowded and in midtown, but somehow remarkably quiet. Maybe it's the trees. Or maybe God loves us.)
posted by hexatron at 8:09 PM on April 18, 2008

Wait! Wait! Tazza has a new policy - no laptops. But if you want a little park right near there, you can go to Palmetto Playground at the end of State Street right where it hits the BQE (but far enough away that it isn't very loud). There are tables there and there are usually a few people. If you get writer's block you can go watch the dogs in the little dog run.
posted by Shebear at 5:45 AM on April 19, 2008

Best answer: google NYC's privately owned public spaces. I'd link but I'm on an unfamiliar mobile. If you poke around a bit on the city website they have rankings. Trump tower has a public space! With seating and everything. So much marble and gold. The 7 train has great views and there is vibrant city life at both ends.
posted by sondrialiac at 9:22 AM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

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