Ridgeway Diner — 71.2 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The Ridgeway Diner was at least half full when we visited.  It’s located on busy 6th Avenue, so we were concerned when we saw that the front door was open to the street. Our concern was mostly misplaced, as we didn’t hear much street traffic throughout the lion’s share of our meal.  The problem, however, was that ambulances raced by, sirens blaring, at least twice during our visit. This raised the decibel reading, which is an average over the period during which the reading was taken.  It’s hard to blame a restaurant owner for random noise over which he or she has no control, but on opening the door to the street one must assume that an emergency vehicle could pass by. That said, shutting the door may have saved only a decibel or two at best, as the sirens were so loud that they would surely have penetrated into the space even if the door was shut.

Sirens aside, the place was generally calm and relaxed. Why? No music.  Other than street noise, the soundscape of the place consisted mainly of voices,  even with an open service area and a window to the kitchen.  So, despite being in a noisy and busy part of the city, we were able to eat in relative comfort.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The Ridgeway Diner is proof that not playing background music yields benefits, particularly for businesses on very busy city streets.  The food was decent diner fare and service was efficient.  There’s nothing particularly interesting or compelling about the place except that it’s hard to find a non-national chain restaurant option in this area, making this relaxed, old-school Greek diner a lucky find.  We recommend it.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 7:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. 20th and 21st Streets), New York, NY 10010

WEBSITE

Ridgeway Diner

Fika (6th Avenue) — 71.6 decibels CLOSED

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There was unnecessary music playing when we visited Fika on 6th Avenue in Chelsea, but we can still recommend it.  We generally see a lot of the laptop brigade in this location during the week, but we visited on a weekend when there were fewer laptoppers and more tourists.  Even with a chattier crowd, the space was fine.

As with other Fika locations–it’s a Swedish chain with 13 Manhattan locations–the decor features lots of hard surfaces.  But even though there were not many textiles–only the chairs are upholstered–the noise level was more than manageable.  High ceilings and a relaxed crowd are mostly responsible for the soundscape.  If they only lowered the background music a notch or two–or turned if off–the space would be close to perfect.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Fika serves very good coffee and lovely sweet treats (try the cardamom bun), but it’s a bit more expensive than other coffee shops.  Also, we noted that they were advertising a live music performance later in the early evening.  We would suggest avoiding live performances in that space given how unforgiving it could be.  We’re not sure if the performance was a one of or a regular gig, so proceed with caution on weekend nights.

HOURS

Monday through Fri

Saturday and Sunday:

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. 15th and 16th Streets), New York, NY 10011

WEBSITE

Fika NYC

Jefferson Market Garden — 74.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Jefferson Market Garden is similar to another of our favorite outdoor spaces, Jackson Square, in that it is an absolutely beautiful, well-tended, and well-loved park, but it suffers from its location.  Located on the site of a former women’s prison, the garden is bordered by 6th Avenue and Greenwich Avenue and is plagued with constant traffic, unrelenting horn honking, and never-ending construction noise of some sort or another.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Our visit was short.  It started off louder than it ended due to a utility truck that was idling very loudly nearby.  There’s a fire house about a block away, so loud sirens are common (one returning fire truck made its way back home during our visit), as are those purposefully loud motorcycles.  There wasn’t one silent moment, not a minute of calm during our visit.

That said, Jefferson Market Garden is still worth visiting.  The plantings are lovely, with bursts of color throughout, and fragrance has not been ignored.  We could smell the roses whenever a breeze swept through.   So come and enjoy the lush plantings and riot of color.  Just don’t expect a peaceful visit, because you won’t get it.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The garden is open when a member is present, which generally is not a problem during the season (April through November).  Some bench seating is provided but is often occupied as the garden is very popular.

HOURS

Tuesday through Sunday: 10:00 a.m. to dusk (from April through October), weather permitting

Closed Mondays

LOCATION

70 A Greenwich Avenue (betw. 6th Avenue and W. 10th Street), New York, NY 10011

WEBSITE

Jefferson Market Garden

Kinokuniya New York — 61 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Bliss.  Kinokuniya is a Japanese-based retailer selling books, magazines, and Japanese pens and stationery.  Those of you who love to try out new pens and pencils already know that Japanese stationery products are compelling, and Kinokuniya has an excellent selection that is unmatched in the city.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

That said, what makes the store so delightful is seeing the interesting array of products displayed in such a peaceful space.  Books and magazines are on the ground floor, stationery and novelties are in the basement. Give yourself some time to look around, because there is a lot more on display than you may first appreciate.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

This delightful store is located directly across from hectic Bryant park, a beautiful park marred by constant, jarring street noise.  Check out the park and then escape to Kinokuniya for some peace.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Sunday: 11:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

LOCATION

(betw. 40th and 41st Streets), New York, NY 10018

WEBSITE

Kinokuniya US

Winston Churchill Square — 73.5 decibels

Photo credit: quietcitymap

Photo credit: quietcitymap

Sir Winston Churchill Square is a little pocket of serenity in the sea of insanity that is the conflux of 6th Avenue and Carmine and Bleecker Streets.  The square is directly across from the much larger, and much louder, Father Demo Square, which is always crowded on mild days and overwhelmed by small children (and their minders) who flock to its fountain in the summer.  With the commotion going across the street, it is easy to miss Winston Churchill Square entirely, which explains why it is generally quiet(ish) and calm.

That said, our sound meter registered at 73.5 decibels during our visit to the square.  At first that seemed anomalous, because we have been to the square a number of times and it was always calmer.  But then we recalled that during the reading period a couple of purposely loud motorcycles passed by, increasing the overall reading by at least two or three points.  [Aside: Why do people like to make that much noise and why do cities tolerate them?]

In any event, the immediate space of the square is lovely but street noise does intrude.  If the city were to ban the toys of the desperately insecure (look at me!), the square would be almost perfect.  Almost perfect because outdoor spaces are always vulnerable to the sounds and smells of the city.  For example, on the August afternoon that we took our decibel reading there was the occasional whiff of eau d’New York City (stale urine).  It wasn’t overpowering or constant, just noticeable with the intermittent breeze.

Winston Churchill Square is heavily shaded by mature trees, which cools the space down by about ten degrees–a very good thing on hot and humid days.  But be sure to keep an eye out for the bench under the pigeons’ toilet (no worries, it’s easy to spot).

If you are in the West Village near Bleecker Street and 6th Avenue on a muggy summer afternoon, grab a treat from one of the nearby ice cream shops, walk past Father Demo Square, and head on over to Winston Churchill Square to enjoy the (relative) serenity.

HOURS

Dawn (generally 7:00-7:30 a.m.) to dusk

LOCATION

1 Downing Street (where Downing, Bleecker, and 6th Avenue meet), NY, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Winston Churchill Square