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The Office 2.0: Havens for solo workers

amny

amny Photo Credit: Greenspaces/Nicholas Grant

Call it the home office away from home.

No longer satisfied with lugging a laptop to Starbucks, independent workers in New York are increasingly embracing so-called co-working spaces that offer the comforts and benefits of an office setting.

The phenomenon — an outgrowth of the Great Recession — began as a happy marriage between landlords suddenly left with lots of space to rent out, and workers caught up in job turmoil looking for a shared professional environment to reinvent their careers as freelancers or consultants.

“It forced a new bubble of entrepreneurship that caused everyone to think outside the box. This unprecedented shift created an opportunity for a new way of working,“ said Marissa Feinberg, co-founder of Greenspaces NYC.

Gotham has 14 such shared spaces. “I think we will continue to see this trend grow as the way in which people work continues to change — telecommuting, more working from home and less 9-to-5 office jobs, etc.,” said Daria Siegel, director of Hive at 55.

amNewYork visited five co-working spaces that are leading the way.

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Greenspaces NYC (pictured above)
Where: 394 Broadway
The angle: For the eco-friendly set
The deal: A full-time desk is $550 a month; open space is $250 a month. They do not have private offices.

Greenspaces NYC provides a home to 80 members who embody a lifestyle of health and sustainability, environmentalist companies, nonprofits and a diverse mix of independents.

You don’t need a green focus to join, but you do have to share their environmental philosophy.

The facility uses Con Ed Wind Energy, kitchen utensils are made from fallen leaves, compost is turned into biofuel, and furniture is recycled and refurbished.

Joe Miller, 24, the founder of Print a Forest, a PC software company that funds reforestation efforts, said Greenspaces was the reason he moved his start-up from Detroit to New York City.

He’s also a fan of Greenspaces’ weekly Idea Bounce Lunches.

“It’s fantastic to be around like-minded individuals coming together to make a change,” he said.

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Paragraph
Where: 35 W. 14th St.
The angle: For “serious writers only”
The deal: In addition to the $95 initiation fee, membership is $132 per month if you sign up for six, and $152 if you commit to three. A single month is $172. Members have 24/7 access.

Paragraph’s building, a walkup, is reserved for “serious writers only” who like privacy. If a desk, lamp and chair are all you need, then this is the space for you. Just make sure you’ve mastered the art of walking on tiptoe.

Writers can eat, chat and read each other’s work in the communal kitchen, but the writing room, with 38 partitioned desks, must remain dead silent: no cell phones, no conversations, no eating.

Office manager Sara Farrington said coming to Paragraph is “like going on a rightbrain vacation.” Applications are carefully reviewed; you don’t have to be published to be considered, but you must provide references.

Allison Amend, a fiction novelist, found her agent this way. Aside from the “free coffee and candy” she loves that she can transition to the communal kitchen whenever she feels like chatting.

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In Good Company
Where: 16 W. 23rd St.
The angle: For women only
The deal: $400 annual membership fee; a full-time desk is $750 a month, and 30 hours at a partitioned desk is $150. A desk for a day is $40, and there’s an hourly punch card: $100 for 10 hours.

Amy Abrams and Adelaide Lancaster considered making In Good Company a coed space, but believe women have different needs.

They say the approach emphasizes collaboration among their 300 members (and counting).

“It’s great to be in a community with like-minded women entrepreneurs who are so supportive of each other,” said member Diane O’Connell, founder and director of Write to Sell Your Book, which helps first-time authors get published.

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WeWork
Where: 1 Little West 12th St.
The angle: For youthful and sophisticated entrepreneurs
The deal: The most expensive of the WeWork locations, offices range from $800 a month for one-person to $3,900 for a six-person space.

WeWork’s third New York location occupies six floors. With 600 members citywide, they cater to the “cool, creative entrepreneurial crowd.” Club promoters find a home here, too, as well as entertainment lawyers and musicians.

Weekly happy hours and monthly rooftop parties are part of their appeal, as are several conference rooms that feature convertible billiards tables. The building is big on being green and boasts floors recycled from old Brooklyn bowling alleys.

Jessica Usenbor, who shares an office with six members of her consulting agency, moved her team over from the SoHo location.

“These aren’t your typical cubicles. Each floor has different character,” she said. “We definitely like the keg floor the best.”

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Hive at 55
Where: 55 Broad St.
The angle: A fun but professional vibe
The deal: Membership is available month-to-month. Twelve visits a month is $200; full time, $300; and 24/7 access is $450. They offer an off-peak membership, nights and weekends only, for $150 a month, or pay $25 for a day.

Hive at 55 is mainly composed of shared-desk space on a single floor; use of conference rooms is free and unlimited.

Many of the 100 active members belong to small companies. Hive is home to techies, but there are lawyers, accountants, graphic designers and journalists, too. Members often solicit help from one another.

“The open space encourages members to strike up conversation,” said director Daria Siegel.
Rajiv Roopan, who develops educational interactive games, values the face time and advice he gets from lawyers, graphic designers, and software developers. “There’s easy access in our little community,” he said.

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