With paper thin apartment walls and “chill” coffee shops that blast music, it’s nearly impossible to find a truly peaceful place in the city. And with all of the creative inspiration provided by the city, moments of introspection are sacred. In the search to preserve my sanity, I have found a few spaces of solace that I can rely on.
The Reading Room at the New York Public Library, Bryant Park Branch
This is a classic, but it lives up to its hype. If quiet is the equivalent of peace for you, than this beautiful space is your sanctuary. It’s an excellent working environment where a writer/artist/thinker can settle for hours without the obligation of buying a cup of coffee. With a multitude of shelves of brilliance lining the space, inspiration surrounds the inhabitants of this room. And visually, the grandeur of the room is just simply stunning. For quiet escapism in the middle of Manhattan, you can’t go wrong with the reading room.
Washington Heights neighborhood in Upper Manhattan
I visited this neighborhood for the first time last weekend and it felt like a day-cation. Nature feels accessible here, and that was sheer joy for me. The historic architecture means many beautiful brick buildings and less skyscrapers blocking the sun. And art is accessible! The south end of the neighborhood features the American Academy of Arts and Letters and The Hispanic Society of America, both understated art institutions. The Academy hosts strong contemporary exhibitions, such as its current Invitation Exhibition, and other art events, such as concerts. The society displays Hispanic art from a range of eras and movements, including archeological objects. You can take a walk through the hilly Trinity Cemetery and then go east and visit Morris-Jumel Mansion, the oldest house in Manhattan. The northern end is home to The Cloisters, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s medieval haven in the expansive Fort Tryon Park. The museum and gardens feature reconstructed monastic Cloisters and the collection houses roughly two thousand works of art, including the iconic unicorn tapestries. And linking these two ends together is Fort Washington Park along the coast of the Hudson River. This neighborhood space is actually spacious, bringing freedom from the crowds and suffocating buildings. And it’s relatively quiet, particularly in the park spaces.
The Staten Island Ferry
Okay, so this isn’t always a place of peace. During rush hours, the crowds can be a bit much and it is a space with a time limit. But there is something freeing about sitting outside on the ferry’s balcony seats where you can see the skyline and hear the slosh of the water. And while the air is still brisk, fellow ferry riders are less inclined to sit outside, enhancing the solitude of the moment. Taking the ferry roundtrip means an hour long environment for journaling, sketching, or just pondering life.
Yes, the city is amazing. But it’s even more amazing when I can return to the energy refreshed and inspired. I hope these free and accessible spaces have the same effect on you.
Article by Taylor Zartman, NYAP participant and blogger.