New Yorkers are constantly moving, focused on getting from Point A to Point B. We are so accustomed to walking that we neglect the many opportunities Manhattan presents us for sitting. This weekend, set aside some time to slow down and take a seat. Here are some unique city benches for relaxing, reading, or simply enjoying the view. You can also check out a map of our bench route here!
10. Grant’s Tomb
Grant’s Tomb in Morningside Heights is a presidential memorial overlooking the Hudson River. The monument is flanked by 17 colorful mosaic benches that compose a public art project called “The Rolling Bench.” Designed by artist Pedro Silva and architect Phillip Danzig, this disjointed sculpture was created by hundreds of children over a three-year period. Originally assembled in 1972, the benches pose a shocking contrast to the neoclassical tomb. They are reminiscent of Gaudí’s mosaic benches in Barcelona’s Park Güell.
9. Riverside Park South
Benches with stunning views of the Hudson River stretch endlessly down the Upper West Side. A particularly notable stopping point is the refurbished Riverside Park South. The park is situated along a strip of shoreline that stretches from 72nd Street to 59th Street; the area was formerly the rail yards of the Penn Central railroad company. In redesigning the landscape, architects saw an opportunity to create innovative and unique designs— even with the seating! Read more about the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway.
8. Federal Plaza (Demolished)
For a period of time, these fun benches sat in front of Federal Plaza, where the Jacob K. Javits Federal Office Building and Court of International Trade is. These benches by Martha Schwartz were based upon the classic design of the Central Park benches, but they take on a much more whimsical shape. From above, the plaza looks almost alien. [Update: Unfortunately, this installation has been demolished]
Chelsea’s High Line is an incredibly popular place for strolling and walking. When you need a break, the High Line is also home to a handful of cool seating options. Its sleek wooden benches are great for lounging, lying down, and soaking up the city views.
6. Garden at St. Luke in the Fields
In the heart of the West Village is Manhattan’s version of a secret garden. The Garden at St. Luke in the Fields is open daily from 8 am until dusk and serves as a quiet refuge for New Yorkers. The garden is almost a full acre of walks, lawns, and benches. Pets and cellphones are disallowed here, which makes for the perfect reading and thinking getaway.
4. Peter Minuit Plaza
If you find yourself en route to Staten Island, or simply exploring the southern tip of Manhattan, take a moment to sit on a zipper bench in the Peter Minuit Plaza. This plaza is just outside the Staten Island Ferry Terminal and was recently renovated. The new skateboard-proof benches begin as two benches facing opposite directions that ultimately zip-up and merge into one surface.
3. Sutton Place
Next, head over to the East River where the classic bench-scene in Woody Allen’s film Manhattan was shot. While the bench from the actual movie was removed, there are copious substitutes. On East 57th Street, a small alcove of benches allows you a quiet space to admire the water and the Queensboro Bridge. Several places along the river offer this great view, but this obscure spot on 57th is easily overlooked and frequently empty.
2. 77 East 77th St.
A walk uptown will land you beside a bizarrely oversized and curvy bench on East 77th Street. This bench is awkwardly giant and feels out of place amongst the neatly organized Upper East Side. Interestingly enough, you can’t actually sit down here! A small plaque beneath the bench reads: “ARTWORK. PLEASE DO NOT SIT.” Read more about Manhattan’s outdoor art scene.
1. Central Park
Lastly, Central Park is full of beautiful places to sit. In fact, Central Park has more than 6,000 benches that can be adopted as a memorial or a gift. One particular spot is a small, wooden gazebo with curved benches on The Lake. The small, wooden gazebo sits at the center of The Lake and is accessible from the 72nd Street entrance on the west side.
If you have a favorite bench to share, check out Street Seats, a project dedicated to documenting the seats and benches of our city!