When you look at it objectively, we had no business getting a physical space of our own. We were small, we were broke, and we barely knew what we were doing. That anyone ever took a chance on us and let us have a lease in the heart of Manhattan is hard to understand. It’s as if, from the very first day, we were playing with house money.
Every day that we had a space was a day stolen from a world that normally doesn’t let such things happen. Real estate is expensive. Leases are hard to get. You need cash. You need resources. A grassroots community of indie workers isn’t supposed to be able to take over a place, fill it with secondhand furniture, and suddenly be in charge. But that’s exactly what happened, in 2008 and then again in 2010.
At the end of this month, New Work City’s community will move out of its space at 412 Broadway. It will not be moving into one new space managed by us, but into many spaces managed by others. This is a huge shift for us, but a necessary one.
When we got started, our reason for existence was tied to the growing need for New York City to have a coworking space where one was lacking. Nobody was stepping up to build a place that could act as an open, accessible hub for anyone who worked from home to find others like them to befriend and work alongside.
Since we opened, dozens and dozens of new spaces followed. Some were big; some were small. Some were all about the money; some were all about the people. Some wanted to be the coolest; some just wanted to do their thing.
Hive at 55. Projective Space. Con Artist Collective. Green Spaces. Brooklyn Creative League. WeWork. General Assembly. Alley NYC. DUMBO Startup Lab. Greenpoint Coworking. Bitmap Creative Labs. Work Shoppe. Coworkrs. The Productive. The Works. The Yard. The Farm. Grind. Brooklyn Works 159. SoTechie Spaces. Neuehouse. Makeshift Society. St. Lydia’s Dinner Church. Bat Haus. QNS Collective. Secret Clubhouse. Mission 50. Studiomates. Friends Work Here. District Cowork. Coalition for Queens. The Bakery. The Centre for Social Innovation New York. Compound Cowork. Harlem Garage. Teem Harlem. Create NY Space. DaniPad. Ensemble. Fueled Collective. Joynture. LaunchPad LI. Orbital. SoTechie. We Create NYC. Wix Lounge. Impact Hub. Civic Hall.*
(* I would be remiss not to note those who preceded us as well. The Change You Want to See, Nutopia, Paragraph, DTUT, and 3rd Ward come to mind.)
As the expiration of our lease approached, we faced a question: In a world where dozens and dozens of spaces exist to service what has grown from a nascent notion to a burgeoning industry of coworking in New York, what is the role that is right for us?
Having a physical space that’s all our own is tremendously liberating, but it can also be tremendously restricting. The problem with owning a lease on a space is that so long as you have it, it can be hard to think clearly about anything else. We might want to support the other coworking communities in the city, but we have to be sure we’re taking care of ours. If we take our eye off the ball for even a short time, things can degrade quickly.
Over the years, we’ve witnessed this several times. We’ve tried to turn our attention outward, only to find ourselves rushing back to the wheel to steady the ship.
Now, we are free to dedicate all of our energy to supporting not just one small rectangle of 4,700 square feet in Manhattan, but to the entire movement and all of the people in it.
We can take what we’ve learned and share it. Our members can spread the culture to other communities that they join. We can more fully embrace the phenomenon that is blossoming around us and champion it with a fervor that we previously never could.
Nothing will be quite like the tiny corner of Manhattan that we managed to steal from the world for a few short years. But when I look at all of the communities that have followed us, and the corners of their neighborhoods that they have carved out for themselves, I can only bear witness to the magnitude of the movement that lies before us and the influence it stands to have on our future.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, thank you for being a part of it. New Work City exists thanks to the help, in large ways and in small ways, of thousands of people. We exist because you want us to exist, and I am grateful to every one of you for believing in us.
There is so much more to be done, and so much more to look forward to. Our story will continue online and in person, in partnership with a new network of like-minded communities we are building. We’ll be raising awareness of not just the gatherings we organize but ones happening all over the city, looking for every opportunity to make it easier for anyone who works for themselves to find a group of people to belong to.
We’ll also be supporting new efforts. If you or someone you know wants to build a coworking space with the same kind of ethos we espouse, we want to make use of all that we have to help you succeed.
No one who works for themselves should have to feel like they’re on their own. As we shed the shell of our old space, we’ll find new ways to grow into something that can help far more people than we ever could before.
Now, before we close our doors on our tiny corner of the world, we’ve got some important things to do, and we need your help.
We’ve got to revamp our site and our processes to support our renewed city-wide mission. Join our newsletter.