Downtown Tables and Chairs

By Nathaniel Nelson

If you’re anything like me, you pop Brussels sprouts like candy and live with a crippling anxiety over nonexistence. Also, you probably enjoy working outside during nice weather. There’s little else that opens up the mind’s inner workings quite like sitting alone on a calm day in an ecosystem of city life.

Wherever I’m living in this town, I always need at least one designated area of tables and chairs where I can plop down and do some creative typing. Fortunately, the parks department sets up seating in designated areas (usually until 7-8:00ish daily) during mild weather months, and I’ve scouted them all. As such, I’m one of the foremost experts in the field of outdoor NYC tables and chairs. I’ve highlighted some good places for al fresco chillin’ in downtown Manhattan.

16th and Union Square West

Nearby: Starbucks, the tables and chairs at 18th and Union Square West

A pleasant place to chill in the park during warm weather months. There’s seating just inside the park for those who seek shade and insularity, as well as just outside the park’s boundaries—better for open air and people-watching.

18th and Union Square West

Nearby: Chipotle, Union Square Park, a really gross deli I always go to

This area is something of a conjoined twin to Union Square, featuring one large statue and a statistically improbable number of outdoor clothing stores. Located right by Chiptole on an often-busy side street, the set up is perfect for mountaineers who like spicy food.

23rd and Broadway

Nearby: Madison Square Park, Shake Shack

Wide-open, and hugging the Flatiron Building—one of those instances where you’d imagine one or two car lanes might be a better use of the space, considering it’s rarely busy anyway. They put out tables and chairs in nice weather, to relieve those of us otherwise trying to illegally scrounge a spot at Shake Shack, and there’s also a café. Not the closest to 14th street, but I’m still counting it for this list, as you could probably reach from here to the tables at 18th and Union Square West if you were long enough.

18th and Avenue C

Nearby: Nothing, really, besides a gas station

The few options available have wonderful views over the East River. Real breezy, and an odd number of helicopters (I shot a music video there once, and let’s just say we had a lot of bad takes).

East River at 7th Street

Nearby: Athletic fields, and not much else

A beautiful view of the East River and Brooklyn, near just about every athletic field the East River park has to offer. These babies are bolted to the ground, too, which means 24/7 access. Enjoy the sunset, get some work done, then take a jog to work off all the nerd sweat.

High Line (e.g., 16th and 10th)

Nearby: Depends; generally not much

This one’s the most likely to be crowded, so stop here a last resort, unless you’re some sort of meatpacking wizard.

14th and 11th

Nearby: Chelsea Market

A quaint, bounded park at a heavy intersection. Situated right by the Hudson river, it’s also particularly breezy. And if you didn’t get enough sleep last night, the steady car honking and cold air is enough to keep you awake to finish the day’s work.


Nathaniel NelsonNathaniel Nelson (N8) is a filmmaker and writer.