winterPhoto by Attila Sary

Thanks to zoning initiatives, where the city granted buildings the rights to additional air space (i.e. taller buildings) in exchange for indoor and outdoor public areas, there are quite a few indoor public access areas in the least likely of locations. If you’re looking for a unique meeting spot, have a nice quiet lunch, or simply get some “me” time, stop in at one of these 10 great locations. Good news if you are a CitiBiker – all of these locations have Citibikes either directly in front of the main entrances, or just across the street.

1. The Ford Foundation

The newly renovated Ford Foundation atrium is the perfect indoor lunch escape. It literally is like sitting inside of a small, plush green house. The air is filled with something that most New Yorkers don’t expect in the vicinity of 42nd Street: flowers. But keep in mind the only seating is the bench running alongside the perimeter, or the steps, so during come as early as possible over lunch.

The Ford Foundation is located at 320 E 43rd St. Take any of the trains to Grand Central Terminal.

2. Continental Center

This indoor enclosed public space is a spacious atrium replete with fake grass and picnic benches, and also includes an outdoor public space on Water Street. Large and spacious, it feature plenty of tables and chairs, a food kiosk, two restrooms, an exhibition space, retail space, and an elevated platform for public events and performances. The outdoor space has benches and trees.

Continental Plaza is located at 180 Maiden Lane (between Front and South Streets). Take the 2/3 to Wall Street; 4/5 or J/M to Fulton Street.

3. Park Avenue Plaza

Huge indoor waterfalls provide a soothing background for those that want to sit or have lunch. On the side there are a few tables where you can study, surf the web or play chess with a friend. Of course, there’s a Starbucks that’s open until 6pm. But the past part: a hidden bookstore tucked inside the lobby. Park Avenue Plaza runs all the way through mid-block, so you can enter on both 52nd and 53rd streets.

55 East 52nd Street (Between Park and Madison Avenues) – Take the number 6 train to 51st Street

4. The IBM Plaza

One of the most plush atriums, there are literally birds flying around you, singing and chirping. One would be hard pressed to remember that you’re only a few blocks away from one of the worlds busiest intersections: 57th Street in midtown Manhattan. There are sandwiches, coffee and free Wifi available – one of the most relaxing hours you will spend! There is also an entrance from here into Trump Tower, should that strike your fancy. Another perk: this building is filled with great art, not only inside the atrium but the entrance lobby of the building has Kenny Scharf, Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder and Jeff Koons work.

The IMB Plaza is located at 590 Madison Avenue (at 57th Street). Take the 4/5/6 or N/R to 59th Street

5. Brookfield Place (Formerly Winter Garden)

winterPhoto by Attila Sary

The Atrium was severely damaged in the September 11th attacks, as almost all the glass panes were blown out by the dust clouds, but it was rebuilt in 2002. Overlooking New York Harbor, this is the home to several yearly events programs and regular indoor art installations. Currently on display: colorful pieces in aluminum and printed polysilk fabric by Canadian-born artist Jordan Bennett who draws from his Native heritage.

Made upscale in the last few years, Brookfield Place is also the home to a few great food courts, including Le District and Hudson Eats.

Brookfield Place is located at 220 Vesey Street (West of West Street). Take the E train to World Trade Center.

6. One Bryant Park

The public space inside One Bryant Park is always a nice stop, with its large, arched sculptural plantings and double height ground floor. Located on the corner of 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue, the LEED Platinum-certified skyscraper also has some hidden secrets thanks to innovations from the Durst Organization: a rooftop bee farm (we’ve visited and even tried the honey!) and you can actually change the colors of the spire. Remember this spot if you find yourself near Times Square and need somewhere to cool off or seek refuge.

Take the B/D/F/M or 7 to Bryant Park.

7. 6 1/2 Avenue

In Midtown, 6 ½  Avenue is a series of mid-block crosswalks from 51st Street to 57th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenue, connecting arcades within the dense buildings of Midtown. They are the unique children of the ongoing public-private love affair dotted around New York City called POPS, privately owned public spaces.

One note: even the atrium within the Parker Meridien Hotel (above) is technically a public space although much of it has been taken over by various concessions like this hotel bar and café.

8. Trump Tower


Ah yes, what can we say: wall to wall gold and marble. Who else would build an atrium that literally feels as if you were inside of an Egyptian Pyramid? Regardless, it’s actually housed with some nice restaurants and a Starbucks on the atrium But, with Trump’s election as President of the United States of America, this public space is increasingly less accessible – though the building is legally required to be, since Trump received height bonuses for construction the spaces here which include the lobby, lower level concourse and two terrace gardens above.

725 Fifth Avenue (Between 56th and 57th Streets) -Take the 4/5/6 or N/R to 59th Street

9. 60 Wall Street Plaza

60 Wall Street Plaza-POPS-Privately Owned Public Space-Financial District-Indoor Public Space-NYC
For a hot minute, this was one of “Occupy Wall Street‘s indoor locations. It might have been because of the four fountains and sculptural water features, but most likely it was for the clean bathrooms. A little bit of Vegas inspired ceiling decor doesn’t take away from the overall serene environment – thanks to the palm trees!

60 Wall Street (between William and Pearl Streets) Take the 2/3 to Wall Street or the J/Z to Broad Street

10. David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center

The David Rubenstein Public Plaza is one of our favorites, as we’ve seen this atrium go from a climbing wall with sparse activation to a true indoor public space. There are two vertical green walls, a cafe, and plenty of seating. And every Thursday, you are treated to live, world-class music.

If you go looking for this atrium, don’t head to Lincoln Center proper. Enter from either Broadway or Columbus Avenue, between 62nd and 63rd streets. The narrow entrance makes it easily missed, but there is a large overhang above the sidewalk to denote its existence.

Next, read about 10 man-made waterfalls in NYC.