My 5 favorite best laptop friendly public spaces in NYC that I recommend for visitors or locals
Nov. 10, 2018 | Updated May 7, 2019
People using the open work space in the lobby of the Ace Hotel in Manhattan's Flatiron District.
I prefer a bit of contrast between where I live and where I work, as such, I am not a big fan of doing work while at home. On the other hand, I don't have a traditional office at the moment, so I have become creative in finding public spaces (cafes, coffee shops, bars, etc.) to get work done outside of my apartment.
Finding places to get work done in an unfamiliar city.
I also love to travel. Often, when I'm traveling, I also try to get work done, which will require me to spend time researching laptop friendly public spaces in unfamiliar cities. I know how finding where to go in a new city can turn into a time-consuming project in itself. I’ve had some successes in places like London, Berlin, and San Francisco, and I hope to write about those soon. But I live in New York, and this is to help out those visitors to NYC, by letting you in on some of my favorite laptop friendly coffee shops and other public spaces for working. If you’re visiting New York City, or you live here, and you are searching for good public spaces to work, hopefully this helps!
How to judge work friendly public spaces
Let's first set the criteria for a laptop friendly public space. When I'm looking for places to work, in order of importance, I care about the following:
- Am I implicitly or explicitly pressured to leave within a certain amount of time? As a rule of thumb, I will not include any places where I have felt even remotely pressured to leave within a certain amount of time.
- Availability of power outlets
- Quality of Wi-Fi
- Aesthetic qualities/comfortableness of the environment
- Quality of the food and coffee
Next, let me give a couple of disclaimers:
Author's note: This list has grown since it was originally published, and is now quite longer than five.
I will continue to add to it as I come across quality working spaces that fit the criteria.
- Disclaimer #1 -- A city as big as New York will have many great public spaces, and I cannot possibly cover them all. BUT, if you have a great place in mind that you want to shout out, please drop a comment with the name, location, the quick “pros” (e.g. many outlets), and, if any, the quick “cons” (e.g. no outlets).
- Second disclaimer: you’ll need to create a Vezpuchi account to comment, but creating one is easy. Navigate back to the main page by clicking the Vezpuchi logo in the upper left corner. From there, click Login and then Create Account.
- Third disclaimer: Since I live in Brooklyn, this list will be biased to places that are accessible to my home within a 30 minute subway ride. In other words, this is biased to Manhattan, midtown and below, and Brooklyn north of Prospect Park. If you know of some quality laptop friendly public spaces outside of this zone, drop your recommendations in the comments!
Without further ado, my list of friendly public places to do work in New York City:
Neighborhood: Lower East Side, Manhattan
Address: 116 Suffolk Street, New York, NY
Spreadhouse is my favorite place to work between midtown Manhattan and Brooklyn. Spreadhouse is a production company based in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. They converted much of their company space into a café. The space is set up specifically for people like me who are looking for a work space, a little buzz of activity, good wi-fi, and access to power outlets.
- Location: Easy to get to from Lower Manhattan, Midtown Manhattan, and North Brooklyn
- Availability of power outlets: Good. If you have a good battery, and it is fully charged when you arrive, you will easily find one before you need it.
- Quality of Wi-Fi: Great.
- Aesthetic qualities/comfortableness of the environment: Good.
- Quality of the food and coffee: Great coffee. Limited food menu. Don't come hungry!
Cons: Some seating can become uncomfortable after sitting for a stretch of time. Also, there is only one restroom and it is unisex, so a line will often form for it during busy periods.
Neighborhood: Flatiron District, Manhattan
Address: 20 W 29th Street, New York, NY
It might sound a little weird to sit around in a hotel lobby with your laptop all day, but this is one of the best laptop friendly places that I've found in/near Midtown Manhattan.
- Location: It sits just below Midtown Manhattan, so it is centrally located for most of New York City.
- Availability of power outlets: Good. Power outlets are plentiful at the tables in the middle of the lobby, but less so in the sofa seating areas
- Quality of Wi-Fi: Great!
- Aesthetic qualities/comfortableness of the environment: Great! Well-designed.
- Quality of the food and coffee: Great. The lobby is served by the Breslin, which is one of the most popular restaurants in the Flatiron District. They will serve food and drinks directly to you at your workspace. There is also a Stumptown Coffeeshop connected to the lobby.
Cons: This place gets the most crowded of any laptop friendly space on this list, so be prepared to linger for a bit to find a good spot. Additionally, outside food is not allowed, and food from the Breslin is a little pricey. If you're on a budget, eat before you get there! Finally, it gets loud later in the evening when the Breslin's Happy Hour starts. But that's nothing a paid of noise-cancelling headphones can't fix.
Neighborhood: Clinton Hill/Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn
Address: 1014 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY
This very laptop friendly place has a dedicated customer base, many of whom are laptop warriors who live in the neighborhood. Don’t be surprised if it feels like everyone here knows each other, because many of them do. But even if you don’t know anyone, it is a very easy place to sit down and become invisible as you get some work done. It is also one of the most eclectic places I have ever seen, and it is probably worth visiting for that reason alone.
- Location: It's in Brooklyn, so it probably isn't appealing to travel to from Manhattan, or another borough, if you live here. If you are visiting NYC, then it is a great excuse to visit Brooklyn, if you happen to be staying elsewhere in the city. If you are visiting (or live in) Clinton Hill, Bed Stuy, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, or Fort Greene, then it is worth the trip.
- Availability of power outlets: Good, borderline great. The regulars here tend to have the power outlets staked out. But you can always find one when you need it if you look hard enough
- Aesthetic qualities/comfortableness of the environment: Great. Another well-designed, authentic feeling space.
- Quality of Wi-Fi: Okay, borderline good. On busy days, their router seems like it isn't able to handle the load, and has to be reset periodically. That's usually on the weekends from morning to early afternoon.
- Quality of the food and coffee: Great. The menu is standard NYC coffee shop quirky, but I have never had a bad meal.
Cons: While the playlist is always good, the music can be loud depending on who is working that day.
Neighborhood: Crown Heights, Brooklyn
Address: 764 Franklin Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
Breukelen is a no frills coffee shop. The staff is friendly and make good coffee. The food menu is pretty sparse, so I don’t recommend coming here hungry.
- Location: It's in Brooklyn, so if you're in Manhattan, you'll probably pass other suitable laptop friendly places before you get here. But if you are visiting - or live in - Crown Heights, and you're searching for a good place to work, uninterrupted, then Breukelen will satisfy.
- Availability of power outlets: Good, borderline great. Not hard to find one at all.
- Aesthetic qualities/comfortableness of the environment: Visually pleasing, and authentic. The seating can be uncomfortable for sitting long periods.
- Quality of Wi-Fi: Not the best. Okay, probably the least best of any place on this list, but generally it is tolerable. It will most likely stop working for a short period of time at least once per visit. But there are public Wi-Fi signals within range, particularly if you have an account with a one of the major home cable provider.
- Quality of the food and coffee: Good coffee, but not much else on the menu. There are plenty of restaurants surrounding here, so it is very easy to find food and then come here to work.
Cons: Other than Wi-Fi issues, there is the relatively early closing time (6 pm).
Neighborhood: Crown Heights, Brooklyn
Address: 167 Rogers Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
This location is the Brooklyn outpost of the original Manhattanville Coffee that is located in the upper Manhattan neighborhood of Manhattanville. Manhattanville Coffee, like Breukelen Coffee House, is a pretty basic coffee shop. Manhattanville and Breukelen are located just a couple of blocks from each other in Crown Heights, and I tend to use Manhattanville as my backup to Breukelen - i.e. when it's closed, too crowded, or having dramatic Wi-Fi issues - since Breukelen is closer to where I live.
- Location: See Breukelen.
- Availability of power outlets: Great. Probably the most coverage of any place on this list.
- Aesthetic qualities/comfortableness of the environment: The sofas near the entrance look extremely comfortable but I have never used them. Like other places, the rest of the seating can be uncomfortable for sitting long periods.
- Quality of Wi-Fi: Good. You will need to purchase an item to get the Wi-Fi passcode.
- Quality of the food and coffee: The coffee is good, but not much else on the menu. Don't come hungry!
Cons: Other than what has already been said, it is probably hard to get here if you're not in Crown Heights. It is also closed on Saturdays.
And that's my top 5! However, while putting together this list, I thought about a couple of other good, potentially overlooked, ideas for laptop friendly public spaces that are worth mentioning. Here are a couple of bonuses:
Neighborhood: Midtown East, Manhattan
Address: 188 Madison Avenue, New York, NY
This is an under-utilized resource for laptop warriors seeking laptop friendly public work places. The space is modern and it is conveniently located near the Empire State Building. It is open to anyone, whether you are a New York City resident or not. But if you want to check out material from the library, you will need to be a NYC resident with a valid library card.
- Location: Midtown Manhattan. Easy to get to from most parts of NYC.
- Availability of power outlets: Great. Absolutely the most coverage of any place on this list.
- Aesthetic qualities/comfortableness of the environment: While it is a library, it is a relatively modern library. Think more posh university business school library with large endowment than municipal library system.
- Quality of Wi-Fi: Great! It's the library!
- Quality of the food and coffee: No outside food or drink. Don't come hungry or thirsty!
Cons: Since it is a library, and thus it is a public space, it is a little popular with some of the city's homeless population that don't have many options on places to go. Typically, they will not cause trouble, as they are just there to get shelter from the elements. If there is trouble, the staff usually handles it quickly.
Free days in a co-working space!
Various areas -- Manhattan and Brooklyn
Either I’m very late to this idea or very early, but recently I have discovered that a great way to find places to work is to sign up for the newsletters of the co-working spaces in NYC. One that I have taken advantage of several times is Alley HQ
, which periodically has open co-working days at their location in Chelsea (great space, btw!). I’m sure others like Spaces also do so too. If you’re planning to move to NYC and start a company, this could be a good way to test drive a few places.
That's it from me now. Again, if you have a laptop friendly place that you'd like to share, please shout it out in the comments!
Neighborhood: Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Address: 29 Norman Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
This is my new favorite space laptop friendly public work place. It is a co-working space for creative industries that has a free open area for freelancers, entrepreneurs, creatives, etc., to work during the day. The space is sponsored by Mini USA - the car company - and is located in the burgeoning tech corridor being established in North Brooklyn and the western edge of Queens (also known as Amazon's new home).
- Location: Greenpoint is not the most convenient location to reach from Manhattan. Or most of Brooklyn and Queens for that matter. It is most easily reached from Willamsburg, and those of us along the G train corridor.
- Availability of power outlets: Fantastic. There is an outlet for everyone!
- Aesthetic qualities/comfortableness of the environment: It is great. The space is modern but gritty. The building appears to be converted from an old warehouse, and it retains many of those architectural details while also being a functional modern workspace. Lastly, I discovered this place in the cold weather months, but there even appears to be an outdoor terrace area for warmer times of the year.
- Quality of Wi-Fi: Also fantastic!
- Quality of the food and coffee: The space is served by a great restaurant named The Norman. The restaurant serves full meals, coffee, pastries, and alcoholic drinks. I also think outside food is allowed in the open workspace area.
Cons: The location can be a huge deterrent, but it is really worth the trek.
Stephon Owens is the Founder and CEO of Vezpuchi.