Working freelance in New York City just got a bit more free.
A free coworking space for New York City freelancers in Industry City was unveiled on Wednesday by the Freelancers Union and the mayor’s office of media and entertainment. Backed by $1.5 million in city funding, the 4,143-square-foot facility located on the third floor of 241 37th St. features a large coworking space lined with rows of desks, rooms to host workshops, and isolated spaces for meetings.
Dubbed the “Freelancers Hub,” it will also serve as the headquarters for the Freelancers Union, which represents more than 500,000 independent workers across the country.
“The idea is getting people out of their homes, making sure they have somewhere to go to do their work but also to be able to build their careers as well,” Executive Director of Freelancers Union Rafael Espinal said at the grand opening on Tuesday in the company of freelancers and local elected officials.
The Industry City location is a comeback for the hub – the first location opened in DUMBO in 2018, but was forced to shut down during the pandemic and offer its resources virtually. Now back in person, the coworking space will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will host workshops at night on the legal and business aspects of freelancing, classes on finances and taxes, health and wellness and more.
“I love the interior design… it's very open, I feel like it really motivates your creative flow with nice pops of color that make me feel calm and happy,” said entrepreneur Calandra Griffin, who recently moved to New York from Phoenix, and read about the space online.
The city newcomer said she was thrilled to find out how much support the city she just moved to offers its freelancers.
“It actually really motivates me and lets me know that New York is here for their freelancers, and that makes me feel good to just know that I’m appreciated and that I am important,” Griffin said.
Some freelancers told Gothamist the southern Brooklyn location was a bit out of the way, but Espinal said the city chose Industry City for its proximity to more than 90 companies in media, production, and related fields. Having a physical space to convene is crucial for freelancers to collaborate and network, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
“The pandemic has really shined a light on the struggles freelance workers face because of the lack of social safety net that exists for them, because of the lack of resources that exists for them,” Espinal said. “Because you work independent doesn't mean that you don’t deserve to have similar protections to other workers. It’s important to ensure that there are no workers falling through the cracks.”
The Freelancers Hub is part of a continued effort by the city to support the city’s growing freelancer workforce, which in 2019 made up around one-third of the city’s total workforce according to a report by MOME. That study also found that 60% of the city’s media workforce operates as freelancers – an industry that the hub is specifically set up to cater to, complete with photo studio spaces, editing software and skills courses.
“Freelancers are such a critical component of our creativity, our nightlife, our arts and entertainment,” MOME Commissioner Anne del Castillo said. “This new hub provides a true space for them to convene, to work, to network, and gain access to a variety of resources that will not only help them succeed, but continue to push New York City's reputation as a center for innovation and creativity.“
In 2017, the city passed the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, which established and enhanced protections for freelance workers.