Privately Owned Public Spaces

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

As the Occupy Wall Street protests continue, Yolanne Almanzar, reporter for The New York World, discusses a new project about privately owned public spaces like Zucotti Park, and a crowdsourcing project where you help find out how public these public spaces are. She's joined by Jerold Kayden, professor of urban planning and design at Harvard and author of Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience, who explains why privately owned public spaces exist and how they differ from city- and state-owned public parks.

New Project!: Help Us Map and Report on NYC's Privately Owned Public Spaces



Yolanne Almanzar and Jerold Kayden

Comments [24]

Linda Gold from Q13,Q8,Q16,H13,

I am concerned about the Phantom POPS' - buildings that recieved generous financial bonuses and did NOTHING in return. I have visited many buildings where there is absolutle nothing other then a pretty building entrance. I visited one building where the only reciprocity for the zoning bonus was a sign. How does one rate something that doesn't exist. You need a special category for these sites.

Nov. 09 2011 04:26 PM

Occupiers will need inexpensive biveys.

Oct. 23 2011 02:20 PM

@John A.


Oct. 19 2011 01:20 PM
Mike Cole

You missed Paley Park at 3 East 52nd St. It's a very nice privately owned public space. Whenever I've been there it's been in good condition.

Oct. 19 2011 12:09 PM
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights

Brian said at one point that he thought Central Park is open to 1 AM. I found some web sites that say that, BUT that is not on the Parks Department's own web pages. It took my calling the Department to find out that , except for certain sections like playgrounds and the zoo, Central Park is open all night. And, according to the mayor, Diana Taylor goes into the park at 1AM to walk their dogs- So it must be open or the mayor's companion is breaking the rules.

Oct. 19 2011 11:51 AM
John A.

I looked up your video. The chief hater in it is an attention seeker who'll do anything to get on video (proof available). Another version of this same footage shows he's separated from the main camp by perhaps 50 feet of empty space. Fringe.

Oct. 19 2011 11:43 AM
Jeffrey Zupan

Regional Plan Association discussed this issue in our book "Urban Space for Pedestrians" published in 1975. We gave good examples and bad. Good:Seagrams and Lever House Buildings on Park Avenue; Bad: CBS and Grace Buildings on Sixth Avenue.

Oct. 19 2011 10:59 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

To Mark, the skateboarder.... very easy for you to criticize private owners for "rushing" you out of there, but what happens if you get hurt doing your skateboarding? Maybe YOU wouldn't sue, but in our litigious society, there's no doubt that someone would.

Sorry, but you don't have an absolute right to do skateboarding everywhere, particularly on private property....

Oct. 19 2011 10:52 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I'll take it back farther than the caller--to the clearing of the homeless people camping in Tompkins Sq. Park early in the Dinkins administration. Of course, that was a public park.

Oct. 19 2011 10:50 AM
Laura from UWS

How much money have owners of private-public spaces made with the extra square footage their buildings were given? Was this such a good deal for the public?

Similarly, loss of sunlight...but how to measure the effect?

I worked on creation of two of the more successful spaces--you could have fun reading the requirements from the city where they name the suggested types of foods that vendors might offer. All fattening. Bagels, croissants, etc.

Oct. 19 2011 10:50 AM
Josh from Brooklyn

How do I find out which public/private spaces are open 24 hours? Can they be posted on your map of the 503 spaces?

Oct. 19 2011 10:50 AM
Peter T. Daniels from Jersey City

Both Rockefeller Center and Paley Park are labeled on your map, and both are privately owned public spaces, but they are not on your list because they were not created in response to the zoning ordinances in question.

Aside to Mark the Skateboarder: benches are for sitting on, and handrails are for easing a walk on the steps, not for skating on.

Oct. 19 2011 10:48 AM
Nate from midtown

There is a great space on 875 Third Avenue, but the hours as promised are rarely kept.

The building staff often opens the seating area late and closes up to 2 hours early, it seems, because they say they can't police the upper and lower floors of seating, or clean up by closing time.

The building staff's argument is that as long as the lobby is open as a public space to walk through, they can close the seating areas whenever they wish.

I feel like the building owners are not living up to their agreement of keeping the space public during those hours, if they are really just keeping the lobby open.

Do city regulations take these factors (hours for subsections of the space) under account?

Oct. 19 2011 10:47 AM
moshe from manhattan

please discuss also the white elephant issue: how come this issue is raised by the same 1% and now?

Oct. 19 2011 10:47 AM
ellen from Manhattan

There is a rating system for such parks from the Dept of City Planning. It's quite extensive: Here are some criteria: Dimensions
Minor Portions
Through Block Plazas
Sidewalk Frontages

Permitted Obstructions
Planting and Trees
Litter Receptacles
Bicycle Parking
Additional required amenities

On my block, East 93rd Street, there are 2 such spaces. My bldg has one but it has stairs and only 2 benches w/o backs, so not very people-friendly to either the public or us!

Oct. 19 2011 10:46 AM
moshe from manhattan

please discuss also the white elephant issue: how come this issue is raised by the same 1% and now?

Oct. 19 2011 10:45 AM
Peter in Brooklyn

While many people have focused on the factthat these parks are privately owned, the public should not forget what they give up in these private park deals: light and air. The city knew what it was doing when it required these spaces to be open 24/7. Prior to the 24 hour access rules (and their was a big figth over this in the 80s), owners had made many of these spaces their own, private preserves, while we the public got less light and air.

Oct. 19 2011 10:45 AM
David G Flatt from West 73 Street

There is a space on W 74 Street between Central Park west and Columbus that was public, and now is fenced as part of the Mayfair apartment building. I was under the impression this was a public space, but it doesn't show up on your map.



Oct. 19 2011 10:43 AM
john from office

What will occur is that the law will change and these areas will be closed at night. If a good thing is abused, it will result in a change in policy. The property owners are open to all kinds of liability with this situation.

Oct. 19 2011 10:43 AM
Alec from Brooklyn

It's remarkable that Zuccotti Park, as privately owned public spaces, is more public than out publicly owned public spaces. Is there no publicly owned public space that is available for the type of democratic expression that we're seeing at Occupy Wall st? If not, I would challenge the city to come up with a platform for the citizenry to engage in this type of expression, especially since we can expect the regulations of POPs to change as soon at OWS is over.

Oct. 19 2011 10:41 AM

how much 9/11 funding did Zucotti park receive from our tax dollars?

Oct. 19 2011 10:40 AM
David from Fredericksburg, VA

Not directly on point for this discussion, but I just had to bring up the jaw dropping assertion by Rush Limbaugh that the Occupy Wall Street is an "astroturf organization" created by President Obama. I think he's fallen off the wagon again.

Oct. 19 2011 10:17 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Should privately owned public spaces allow humiliation of elderly Jews in yarmulkes by OWS radicals???

Please go to YouTube and see the "Hate at Occupy Wall Street" footage.

"Middle class speaking out" my foot.
Bigoted thugs.

Oct. 19 2011 10:02 AM

Every skateboarder quickly learns the differences between public and privately owned spaces. The difference may seem small to an observer since either way you get rushed by some goons in paramilitary gear but the legal consequences are different. Occasionally there are spots like Zucotti that are private but not actively monitored by security forces...but the owners of Zucotti had little bumps attached to the benches to block people from skating on them a few years ago and they replaced the low and flat handrails with a much less appealing round double rail.

Oct. 19 2011 09:19 AM

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