As a coffee snob not typically interested in dropping $4 on a mediocre cappuccino, I tend to consider Starbucks a phone-charging station first and coffeeshop second. That said, I'm also a compulsively early person, which means I've spent my fair share of time walking around aimlessly to while away 20 minutes—or, when it's cold or I'm feeling lazy, looking for the nearest coffeeshop in which I can warm up and kill some time. In Manhattan, that nearly always winds up being a Starbucks, and, it appears, that's for good reason: according to data mined by CUNY Baruch student Aleksey Bilogur, on average, you're only ever 5.6 blocks from the nearest pumpkin spice latte.
Bilogur, a programmer studying mathematics, was inspired by a post on Reddit earlier this week, in which a user recounted giving coffeeshop recommendations to a tourist couple:
In a thick southern accent, they ask me if I know anywhere to get a cup of coffee.
"You kidding me? You're on the Upper West Side! There's amazing coffee everywhere. My favorite is the Sensuous Bean, 70th and Columbus. About five blocks up."
They looked unsatisfied. "Well, we're really looking more for tea."
"Oh, they've got tea! Plus there's Alice's Tea Cup three blocks up, cute little tea house."
They look at each other, then back to me.
"Well actually, uh... We were just looking for a Starbucks..."
I just stared at them, then walked away. I pointed in a direction - any direction it didn't matter - and said, "Walk two blocks."
This ever-so-benevolent Redditor wasn't all that far off: according to Bilogur's map, which he compiled using Yelp data, there are at least six Starbucks in a two-block radius of Columbus Circle, though none immediately to the north or east. And that's nothing compared to most of Midtown between 9th and 2nd avenues.
Outside of Manhattan, things are comparatively sparse, though as Bilogur notes, Yelp's data on outer boroughs was patchy, often listing locations simply by borough rather than by address or even neighborhood.
The programmer also cited work by Ben Wellington of I Quant NY, who has previously mapped the farthest Brooklyn address from a subway and the city's cleanest fast food chains, among others. Wellington did a similar project last year using data from Google and found that a fifth of Manhattan is indeed within just two blocks of a Starbucks. Wellington also located the farthest residential address from a Starbucks in Manhattan: 140 Baruch Place on the Lower East Side, which is .93 miles from the nearest location. Heaven.
But the most omnipresent chain in the borough is not, in fact, Starbucks: Subways pop up on average every 4.8 streets, Bilogur learned, and Dunkin Donuts—which has made $10 million overcharging New Yorkers—comes in second, with 5.3 blocks between locations on average. But good luck just stumbling upon a Forever 21 when you've got time to kill: those average over 2 miles between locations.