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Hotels: The Secret Study Support of New York’s Students

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Columbia Barnard chapter.

As a student in New York, it can be difficult to find a cozy off-campus study spot without breaking the bank. Coffee shops are enticing, but they come at the cost of a $7 latte. On weekends, the struggle only deepens: your favorite cafe is overflowing with people, and your go-to backups have a no-laptop policy for the end of the week. During finals and midterms, the lack of adequate study space only grows. Luckily, the Public Hotel offers a simple solution for your end of semester needs: a free study space adorned with couches, an outdoor garden, and accessible amenities.  

Located across from Sara D. Roosevelt Park, the Public can be accessed via train from Columbia’s campus in 35 minutes. The train ride is simple, requiring only one transfer, and transports you to an alternate universe. Stepping off the train into the bustling Lower East Side, it’s a quick walk through the vibrant neighborhood until you arrive at the hotel’s secluded entryway. The greenery leads you towards the door, but before entering, it’s worth scoping out the left-side garden. Adorned with comfortable seating and plenty of greenery, the garden is the perfect place to write without the distractions of a larger park. 

If this space doesn’t satisfy your study needs, make your way into the central lobby. There’s an open cafe on this level, but the food is rather average for the steep price. Instead, follow the light onto the golden escalators. The mirror paneling on the wall, combined with lines of neon lights, creates a tunnel-like atmosphere. Designing the entrance like this makes sense when you ascend into the open study space. Soft couches are thoughtfully organized into conversation pits, while individual study booths are sharpened out of wood paneling for a more private feel. Natural light floods in through the floor-to-ceiling windows, and the presence of business leaders and other students creates a productive atmosphere without the academic pressures libraries can pose. 

The time I’ve spent at the Public Hotel has inspired me to venture to similar spaces off campus. The Ace Hotel and The Ludlow are fantastic options, but the Public has remained my favorite. Despite not having free wifi (passes can be purchased by most visitors choosing to use their hotspots), the Public’s atmosphere is unmatched. The lighting, design, and energy all align into the perfect recipe for motivation. Being off campus and surrounded by people other than students also has an inspirational effect, as you’re reminded of the wonders of the city and how much is truly going on around you. 

In the interest of ensuring that others felt the same way about the Public as I did, I took the chance to talk to Abigail Rabbitt, a first-year at Barnard. Our conversation can be found below:

What makes studying at the public different from other spaces? 

Studying at the Public Hotel offers the very unique experience of being immersed in the true city of New York while also enjoying the comforts of an upscale environment. The serene music and lighting are perfect for a focused study session but there is always the opportunity to take a quick break and listen in on the conversations of international tourists, journalists on a lunch break, or even other students from schools all around the city. 

Which aspect of the Public is your favorite?

I particularly enjoy the variety of the study spaces such as the spacious outdoor patio, individual booths and tables, and huge comfortable couches. I also love the sense of comfort the space brings to its inhabitants; a free and beautiful refuge from the rest of the bustling city. 

If you could improve one thing about the hotel, what would it be?

While there is a wonderful restaurant on the lower floor of the public, it would be nice to see more reasonably priced options for refreshments and snacks. 

What would you advise other Barnard students in pursuit of a good study spot to look for ?

I would look for a place where you can feel complete comfort as well as separation from your usual stomping grounds on campus. This can be hard to come by so I would suggest a cafe that offers a homey and comfortable environment but is far enough away from campus that you feel a sense of excitement and adventure in your studying. 

If you could bring any aspect of the Public Hotel to Barnard study spaces what would it be?

One of my favorite parts of the Public is the large windows that are designed to let in an optimal amount of light and display the trees and gardens outside. Barnard study spaces would benefit from more natural light, and access to even the smallest amounts of nature. 

Speaking with Abigail Rabbitt solidified my assumption that the Public is one of the best open study spaces New York has to offer. Studying off-campus can be expensive and unpredictable. To avoid this, plan your next study trip to the Public hotel or another hotel near you, where you can soak up the energy of the city while still getting your midterm and finals studying done. The routine of completing homework each weekend can be exhausting, and the best way to prevent burnout is by implementing changes to your routine that bring you joy. Next time you’re in a study rut, try something new. Go out and adventure until you find a place to settle down with your laptop and take advantage of the city we are lucky enough to live in together.

Theresa Cullen

Columbia Barnard '27

Theresa Cullen is a proud writer, leader, and entrepreneur. A student at Barnard College, Theresa spends her time studying English and intersectional technology while also taking advantage of the city. On campus, she is involved with CU Ski, CU Sunrise, Girls Who Film, and HerCampus. During trips home to NH, Theresa works on providing equitable education to students in need. Some of her favorite activities include running her podcast, Picture Me, going on adventures with friends, and horseback riding. Throughout her high school career, Theresa worked to contribute to her community through club leadership and educational innovation. She headed three feminist-focused clubs and worked alongside other students to promote a positive and inclusive school environment, something she hopes to continue at Barnard College. High school is where Theresa discovered her passion for writing. Her mentor and teacher worked closely with her to develop an inquisitive and reflective voice, something she is recognized for in her fictional pieces. Since starting her career, Theresa has received numerous accolades and rewards, the most influential being her time as an Al Nuetharth Free Spirit Scholar. Dedicated to writing and excited about the future, Theresa Cullen is ready to guide you through your own educational and personal journeys. You can follow her work on LinkedIn.