Summer, or at least summer weather has arrived, bringing with it a particular set of challenges for freelancers, the self-employed and anyone who works at home. For one, air conditioning can get expensive if you have to run it in your apartment all day long to avoid sticking to your chair. If you have roommates who attend or teach school, they’re likely to be home a lot more often as well. And, it can be difficult to maintain the focus and dedication to work a full day at home, or in a coffee shop, when the park, the movies and the sunshine beckon. We sent Jon Reiss, writer of our Freelance Life column and coffice chronicler out to test coworking spaces around the borough. Though many of these spaces are designed as spots to rent on a monthly basis, there are also drop-in coworking spots, perfect for a week when your roommate’s friends are visiting or you need to meet with a client.
The advantages to coworking are not limited to high-speed wifi and bottomless cups of coffee–working at home can be lonely and several of the spots on this list not only encourage networking, they cultivate it. These places have vastly different regulars, vibes and advantages, and there are enough now around Brooklyn to find one that meets your professional needs and personal preferences.
Coworking may even be more affordable than you think. If you’re working 10am to 6pm at a coffee shop, with at least two coffee drinks and some kind of food item (standard coffice etiquette) you’ll spend $12-15 a day, around $250 per month. Many coworking spaces have options that are close in price–and oh so much more professional. (Ever try printing at a coffee shop?)
Green Desk, 67 West Street, DUMBO
Green Desk feels like a real office and it’s the kind of place where you could meet a client and feel professional. The wood floors and sliver trim on the walls and desks gives the place a green, modern feel. It’s like the way I imagine the offices at Google or Tumblr, but reined in a bit. Green Desk lives up to its name. Walking into the building by the water in Dumbo it seems just like any old Brooklyn building but the three floors occupied by Green Desk have a dominant vibe of all around green-ness. From the energy saving bulbs down to the cleaning products and wind powered energy, the space delivers on its eco-conscious promise. The company hails from Tel Aviv where apparently the co-working phenomenon is in full swing.
Vibe/Comfort: Green Desk invests in rather nice chairs and after six hours at my cubicle, I didn’t once have a backache. People talk on the phone, but Green Desk is laid out in such a way that you don’t really hear them. There was absolute silence for most of the day and the lighting was brilliant. I was given my own cubicle with blurred glass for privacy and focus, a comfy spinning chair and an Ethernet cable. My overall feeling: This place makes me feel like a person with a real job.
Community/Networking: My visit to Dumbo Green Desk was my first day ever co-working and after getting up for my first cup of coffee and having a conversation with a really pretty girl standing at the water cooler, I realized something: I’m having a flirty conversation with a really pretty co-worker at the water cooler! There may be no turning back from this cofficing upgrade.
Kitchen/Coffee: On the floor where I worked there was a small kitchen with water, a few drawers and a coffee maker brewing Crop to Cup coffee that was refreshed throughout the day. There’s a large fridge and vending machines in the building’s lobby.
Wifi/Outlets/Gear: The ethernet is always fast and always working, 10mbps on speedtest. Printing is not free which is a downside, but it’s cheap, at .07 cents a page for black and white and .37 cents for color. The conference room is free if you sign up. You’ll also never find yourself without an outlet.
Whose Co-Working Space Is This? It’s hard to say. Really, anyone’s. It’s not the first place I’d think of for a fiction writer, but it certainly would work. Journalists would probably do well here and anyone in the graphic design or tech world would be right at home here. It’s also great for groups. There’s a wide choice of work spaces and it’s an excellent place to start a new project with a couple of people.
Monthly Rates: Single desk $299, enclosed work stations $425 and up, office spaces $1000 and up, large office $1500 and up, drop-in day rate $29 Hours: 24/7
Greenpoint Co-Working, 240 N. Henry Street, Greenpoint
With white walls and desks and a sleek wood floor there’s a really bright aesthetic at Greenpoint Coworking. There’s a real post-millennium, green, Good Magazine feeling going on with the look of this place.
Vibe/Comfort: GPCW has a vibe that differs greatly from all the other co-working spots I tried. Essentially, it’s for laid back folks who are too serious about their work to coffice. There’s a tendency for your co-workers to have phone conversations inside and it can be nearly impossible not to get sucked into their conversations, but the background music helps. The Smiths were playing at low volume when I entered. Owner Sara Bacon brings her dog to work, where he just hangs out on a bean bag chair next to her desk–this speaks to vibe at GPCW.
Community/Networking: It’s a late twenties to mid-thirties crowd, and in general people seem friendly and relaxed. However, at one point when a new member entered the space, the dog freaked out at launched from his bean bag chair toward her.
Kitchen/Coffee: I didn’t have a cup of coffee here because there wasn’t a pot brewed but they use Starbucks beans at GPCW. The kitchen is here is really quite beautiful, one of the nicest I’ve seen. It’s like a full kitchen where you could make a serious meal but aside from coffee you bring all your own stuff.
Wifi/Outlets/Gear: It’s a pretty basic setup. There are only a few outlets but they’re all fixed with powerstrips so that everyone can juice up and the whole joint works on wifi. Here’s the thing though, it’s super crazy nutso wifi, it’s Mt. Olympus wifi. I don’t understand how this works since apparently they have RoadRunner, but the wifi at GPCW clocked in at 50mbps. Never in all my speedtesting have I seen anything close to this.
Whose Co-Working Space Is This? If you are looking to try and start the next Google, this isn’t the place to put down roots. It’s probably not the best place for groups and it probably isn’t one of the top networking spots but it’s comfy and it does the job. For a person like myself, this is a very good fit. If you’re a designer, writer, or editor just graduating from coffice life, this might be just the place to start.
Rates: Daily drop-in $25, community member $50 monthly w/ $10 daily drop-in rate, monthly $350, free printing for all Hours: 10am to 6pm, Monday through Friday
3rd Ward, 195 Morgan Ave. 2nd Floor, East Williamsburg
It’s the 3rd Ward, so you’d expect an aesthetically pleasing space and I’d say it lives up to the expectation. There are two long tables for laptop folk, a few little cubicles-type spaces and then private rooms for folks who pay a bit more. The table in the conference room is beautiful, obviously handmade.
Vibe/Comfort: It’s a good artsy vibe, and you get the impression that a lot of writers work here, designers as well. There are also two big brown couches for breaks. One problem I found, was the whole, dead quiet/phone conversation problem that a few of these places have. If indoor phone calls are allowed, there should be some kind of music or else it is near impossible not to get sucked into a person’s conversation. The shared space here never gets entirely full which is nice because it doesn’t feel crowded–the most I’ve seen it is about 80 percent full.
Community/Networking: This is a place where your co-workers are quite likely to go up and talk to you. The kitchen is the main spot where people end up chatting during working hours.
Kitchen/Coffee: Not sure what the coffee was, but it was good, hot and always flowing. They also have some of the most impressive vending machines I’ve ever seen with exotic Asian candies and treats.
Wifi/Outlets/Gear: The wifi here tested at 10mbps which is quite good but it tended to cut in and out a bit, which is something you don’t want at a co-working space. Printing is free, but there’s only one, pretty basic printer and it’s downstairs so it can be a bit of hassle to print. The communal tables are really cool and certainly designed by some kind of brilliant artistic mind, complete with little fold-out outlet cubbies at each spot. 3rd Ward has one advantage above all the other spots, which is plenty of desktop computers for use, all of which are loaded with design software. There are also discounts on classes for co-workers.
Whose Co-Working Space Is This? Certainly if your career leans toward the arts, this is a good place to consider joining. Or if you do nothing artsy for work but paint or blow glass as a hobby, 3rd Ward is perfect. If you’re a graphic designer who lives in the McKibbin lofts in Bushwick, this is probably the place for you. Basically, if you have any interest in 3rd Ward’s non co-working stuff and need a co-working space, then this the ticket. Also, the shared desk deal here can’t be beat.
Monthly Rates: Shared desk $150, dedicated desk: $299, dedicated desk with unlimited classes $599; you can register online to sample the space for a day for free Hours: 8am to midnight, Monday through Friday, 9am to midnight on the weekend
Bitmap Creative Labs, 300 Graham Avenue (between Ainslie and Powers), Williamsburg
I was somewhat suspicious of the motorcycle that’s prominently displayed in the main window at Bitmap. However, the aesthetics of the space are well thought out; owner Nick Robalik basically built Bitmap with his bare hands and the design is very conducive to coworking. The light colors and hardwood floors make for a bright environment which helps to battle the post lunch slump. I’d call this the best-lit coworking space I’ve seen. The exposed brick and white columns, along with the somewhat nice office chairs make for a space you actually might look forward to frequenting. Bitmap is another spot with an extremely modern vibe, which is good in case you’re planning on bringing clients into the office.
Vibe/Comfort: There’s no use in being coy about it. I really loved Bitmap Creative Labs for a number of reasons. The vibe was a major one. People work hard here and often go out for beers afterwards. There’s a conversational, laid back vibe if you’re hanging out on break outside or in the kitchen and there’s a get-down-to-business vibe on the inside.
Community/Networking: Again, I have to give it up for Robalik and the way he handles this aspect of the space. Networking is an important part of the way things work at Bitmap and there’s special effort to create a good mix of creative professionals. The environment here is one where different folks with different specialties work together, so you can walk a few feet and get legal advice, a illustration drawn, a consult from a programmer or a funny joke from a comedy writer. There’s also a certain caliber of professional here, people at a certain place in their careers. According to Robalik, if someone comes into Bitmap to become a member and isn’t right for the community there, or would be better suited somewhere else, he’ll let them know, and has, on many occasions sent coworkers elsewhere for their benefit.
Kitchen/Coffee: There’s a full kitchen, with a fridge and microwave and Brewklyn Grind is always brewing.
Wifi/Outlets/Gear: 20mbps on Speedtest. Bitmap has the same connection as most spaces but, being smaller than most places, there are far fewer people using it, so it’s fast. Outlets are plentiful. But there’s more, way more. If you’re an architect, photographer, filmmaker or designer, Bitmap is a haven. There’s editing equipment, lighting equipment, camera stands, a large format printer and machines I couldn’t even begin to identify. Members also get 25 gigs of free hard-drive space.
Whose Co-Working Space Is This? The co-workers at Bitmap are a tight knit group, almost like a residency, but not in a clannish way–this is one of the friendliest, most community-oriented spaces I’ve worked at. Events for freelancers are also held here at night. In short, this is a coworking space for anyone who prefers a smaller, more intimate experience.
Monthly Rates: Open desk membership $325, workspace membership $526, private office $750; daily drop-in $35 Hours: 10am to 6pm, but full-time members have 24-hour access via private key
The Yard, 33 Nassau Avenue, Greenpoint
The Yard’s website describes the space as light-drenched, which is pretty accurate. Modern is a word I’ve used to describe other spots, but The Yard takes the cake in terms of modern-ness. It’s a cool place to bring clients, with well-curated art on the walls and an overall, light blue and silver color scheme that feels particularly futuristic. It also doesn’t’ hurt that McCarren Park is right across the street.
Vibe/Comfort: The Yard feels larger than many other coworking spaces, and they’ve invested in quality desk chairs and the office spaces are especially comfy. People seem to know each other here and with so many co-workers in the space , that’s a good thing.
Community/Networking: The Co-owners of The Yard take all new members out to lunch when they sign up to get a sense of where you’re headed with your career and what you’re currently working on and then try to facilitate networking as much as possible. The day I worked there I was introduced to at least one blogger and one writer by the owners. The Yard also holds meet-and-greets and events for freelancers at night.
Kitchen/Coffee: The Yard has a kitchen and Porto Rico coffee is free and always hot. Special K Bars, Snickers, Sun Chips and the like are available for a buck on the honor system.
Wifi/Outlets/Gear: Both wifi and ethernet are available at The Yard, both steady. Printing is free for the first 100 black and white and 20 color prints, after that they’re .20 cents per color copy and .07 cents per black and white. Conference rooms are available for open signup.
Whose Co-Working Space Is This? In some ways I found The Yard’s bigness less pleasant than the more intimate spots I worked at, but they make up for it in other areas, like networking, aesthetic and rates. This is a good place for your average Williamsburg freelancer.
Monthly Rates: The Lounge $195 (long shared desk, less comfy chairs), The Library $295 (shared, nicely lit room, with comfy chairs and dedicated desker), solo office $395, two-person office $795, three or more $1,195 Hours: 9am to 6pm for Loungers, 24 hours for offices
Brooklyn Creative League, 540 President St. 3rd Floor, Gowanus
Whether or not you’ve arrived in your chosen field, walking into BCL you’re apt to feel like you have. As new parents, Erin Carney and Neil Carlson, the owners of BCL, found themselves in need of a work space without the distractions of working from home so they designed this one to precisely suit their needs. Built in a former factory space, the industrious vibe at BCL leads to productivity magic. The walls are off-white brick and the guts of BCL take on a white, teal and red color scheme (some cubicles feature denim wallpaper) that, along with the abundance of windows, keeps the space bright.
Vibe: The vibe at BCL is unlike any other. The floor plan seems to lead straight to the space’s kitchen and lounge area. For Carney and Carlson, BCL is a space that places a special focus on the culture of coworking. Carney pointed out to me that someone writing a book could talk to BCL members who are involved in every step of the publishing process, from submitting query letters, to signing contracts, writing proposals, and doing publicity, and that kind of cross-pollination and collaboration is what the space strives for. Don’t get me wrong, this is no hippie love fest, you will see no hackey sacks flying across the room, but you’d be hard pressed to find a BCL member who hasn’t benefited from Carney and Carlson’s desire to make it community oriented.
Community/Networking: Professionals of every stripe, from doctors to lawyers and accountants, journalists and writers, designers and publicists, most of whom are a pretty big deal all work here. This is a boon to all members, particularly with Carney and Carlson facilitating collaboration every chance they get. A weekly salad get together takes place at BCL, which I was lucky enough to catch on my visit. With Carney providing the greens and BCL members providing the fixings, the weekly event acts as a great opportunity for members to socialize, and the lounge, adjacent to the kitchen with comfy couch chairs looking out the window seems to be a major meeting place. Meetings and lectures on numerous business, networking and freelance survival topics are also held at BCL.
Kitchen/Coffee: The kitchen here is a full, microwave, fridge, sink, coffee maker deal, with tea, candy bars and chips and Starbucks dark/medium blend always brewing. What separates this kitchen space from the other co-working space is the large area set aside for co-workers to actually break and eat lunch, rather than eating at their desks.
Wifi/Outlets/Gear: Wifi and ethernet are available here, both fast and steady. A large room is dedicated to printers, copy machines, and the like. There’s also a dedicated breastfeeding area. On top of this, they have mail and delivery service in the space. During my visit to BCL, I forgot my laptop charger–BCL had me covered with spare laptop chargers on hand.
Whose Co-Working Space Is This? BCL feels like a co-working space for people like Carney and Carlson when they opened the space–folks who’ve found a comfortable place in their professional lives, in need of an office that’s not a standard, office space. Unlike some places with a similarly grown-up appeal, BCL’s rates don’t necessarily make it out of reach for up-and-comers, and becoming a part-time member at BCL seems like a fantastic investment.
Monthly Rates: Part-time $225/$350 (40 hours per month/80 hours per month), full-time desk $495-575/month (depending on spot), full-time office $1,350-1,500 Note: in the membership section of BCL’s website there’s a nice rundown of the cost and benefits of joining the space compared to the alternatives. Hours: Full-time members have access 24/7/365. Part-time members have access 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.
Green Desk in Greenpoint, 67 West Street, Greenpoint
Though similar to the Dumbo location, Green Desk in Greenpoint has a much different, somewhat snazzier vibe. The rooms of exposed brocks and pub-style glossy hardwood floors give it a fancy appeal and the well-windowed spot has a nice view of the East River.
Vibe: It’s a bit quiet, partially because it’s new. There’s less of a social vibe here, but that may be partially because it’s quite new and hasn’t yet established a community of regulars. However, if quiet and focus with few interruptions are what you desire, this is a great spot.
Networking: This one is hard to call because of the new-ness of the space. It leans toward a tech crowd, and to be honest, this location didn’t really feel like the right spot for an author or journalist.
Coffee: Crop to Cup Grounds tastes like coffee your Berkeley-based grandma would serves you while she reminisces about her fling with Abbie Hoffman–a bit earthy for my taste.
Wifi/Outlets/Gear: Wifi here is fast at 20mbps and steady and each office has wifi and lamps. A bike room is available and printing is cheap. The main feature here though, is the rec room, which features a large screen TV, foosball, a beautiful pool table and workout machines. The conference room here is also big and impressive looking.
Whose Co-Working Space is This? If you’re looking to begin a tech startup with a few friends, or develop your own app, this is the place.
Monthly Rates: Single desk $299, enclosed work station $425 and up, office space $1,100 and up, large office space $1,500 and up, drop-in day rate $29 Hours: 24/7
Room 58, 168 7th Street, 3rd Floor, Gowanus
Note: Room 58 is a writers room and should probably be held up to different standards than a co-working space. It’s really two rooms within the Brooklyn Artists Gym for writers. It’s easy to get your Hemingway on in this space with its dark wood desks and wood-paneled walls. This place feels like the study of a great, pipe-smoking writer, and quickly instills that into its patrons. It’s not as plush or attractive as some other spots, but some great writers have done their work here and you can see why. There’s a singular focus here that will appeal to the capitol W-writer in you.
Vibe: Room 58 is consists of two rooms, a quiet and non-quiet room. Used to the constant buzz of working in coffices, the non-quiet room served me better but the quiet room is by far the quietest co-working spot I’ve visited.
Networking: You will meet other writers and artists. You’re not as likely to meet agents or publishers, but it’s unbeatable for for the exchange of creative ideas and the opportunity to meet new collaborators.
Coffee/Kitchen: The kitchen here is shared with Artists Gym, but it’s a nice bright kitchen space where major conversation is always flowing as well as coffee that I didn’t taste because 4 & 20 Blackbirds is right around the corner, but it’s certainly as pleasant a kitchen as any.
Wifi/Outlets/Gear: The wifi here not as fast as most spaces, though faster than most coffee shops and steady at 5mbps. Outlets are available at each space as well as landline telephones, and even an old school fax machine. Room 58 also has the most comfortable desk chairs of any space I’ve been to, period. Finally, Room 58 features one thing that no other space does, a long, hallway that’s perfect for pacing while awaiting a letter of acceptance or rejection. Printing here is free as long as you bring your own paper (a pretty good deal when it comes down to dollars and cents).
Whose Co-Working Space is This? This is a writers space. If you are working on a book or a book proposal, this is a perfect place to join. Room 58 is open 24 hours and significantly cheaper than most co-working space. If you pass the application process, it’s a great place to get the creativity out.
Rates: $65 one-time initiation fee then $325/ quarter year Hours: 24/7