Privately Owned Public Spaces: POPS Report Wrapup

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

You visited almost 140 privately owned public spaces as part of our POPS project. Yolanne Almanzar, reporter for The New York World, discusses what you found, and Fred Kent, president of the Project for Public Spaces, talks about what makes a place public.


Yolanne Almanzar and Fred Kent

Comments [15]


The POPS behind my office is being used as a parking lot. Even though the property owner took out the trees and benches a decade ago*, it's still a public space. When I quit smoking cigarettes 1.5 years ago, I started using that space to hula hoop instead of smoke. Some days, there's not even room for me to do that. I've called 3-1-1, taken pictures, been on the phone with the local Sgt emailed pictures to him and the public affairs detective. I asked a local traffic cop to look at the space.... all to no avail.

Half the building is a co-op you might have heard of -- The Setai @ 40 Broad St., not a half block from the NYSE.


Pictures of the abused space:
(yes, the vehicle owner is reversing at me)

Jul. 06 2012 12:46 PM
Ronald Shiffman

Dear Brian,

In light of OWS, the emerging issues concerning freedom of assembly and the role that public places play in a democracy, the Center for Architecture in Association with CCNY and the Pratt Center for Sustainable Development Programs, are planning to discuss matters of public assembly and urban space on on Saturday, December 17 from 3-5PM. We have commitments from Rick Bell of the CFA, Michael Sorkin and Lance Brown form City College, and Mindy Fullilove from Columbia University. Also invited are Ken Smith, Alex Cooper, Jan Gehl and others. We would be honored if you would be willing to join us as the moderator/ facilitator for this event.

Thanks for all that you do,

Ron Shiffman,
Pratt Institute

Please feel free to call me at 917.705.8935 if you have any questions.

Nov. 29 2011 04:05 PM
Eric from Manhattan

Not sure if this has been mentioned but a book came out earlier this year from SUNY Press called "The Beach Beneath the Streets" (not to be confused with the McKenzie Wark book of a similar title which also came out this year). It covers the history of NYC bonus plazas from both private (developer) and public (activist) angles. It also references a 2000 joint study by The Department of City Planning, the Municipal Art Society and Harvard professor Jerold S. Kayden whose results are available on and was published as "Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience" which I think includes ratings of 503 public spaces...

Nov. 10 2011 06:05 PM
Ben from Dobbs Ferry

The following may sound facetious but I mean it with all seriousness.

News reports of late have noted that Zucotti Park was built during a time where such barter contracts (the developers get ten extra floors on a building in exchange for building a public space) allowed for 24 hour access. More recent contracts, we were told, allow for limited access.

Thus the builders who created Zucotti Park want to now change their "charter" to restrict the hours at the park.

I'm not an OWS person and haven't been to the park, though I support their goals. But my question is this:

If developers can come in five or ten years later and ask to rewrite an agreement, in light of new facts -- in this case they have learned they need limited hours -- then why can't the public?

I think it should be totally reasonable to go to those developers -- who built a building and promised the city an open public space in exchange for ten extra floors -- and ask them to remove the ten extra floors from the building. After all, it was a fair bargain that they signed on to, and they failed to deliver their half of it.

Why not just raze a building or two? Shouldn't that get their attention. It seems fair.

Nov. 09 2011 03:42 PM

The Municipal Art Soc and the Dept of City Planning did a study on this issue about ten years ago. Has the WNYC project discovered anything new?

Nov. 09 2011 01:39 PM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

Your guest's suggestion for 'splitting" the space in Zucotti Park for protesters' use and public use is kind of hilarious; this is a tiny, tiny park in a part of the city that is very densely populated, and could not function if food trucks were parked in the streets.

I used to work at 1 Liberty, and have to say that if I still worked there, I would indeed resent the occupation by the protesters; all comforts that used to exist around 1 Liberty for people who work around there (seating at the Starbucks in the lobby, access to the benches and stairs that people would gather to talk, smoke, eat their lunch, etc). have been closed off. It also smells like rotting food and human waste around the park. Once I saw and smelled that for myself, I started wondering; is this really the best way to protest the government and Wall Street? By making daily life kind of awful for regular New Yorkers and small business owners who live and work downtown?

At what point do we all switch from supporting the protest, and wanting the personal comfort and respite that a public park provides in our daily lives?

Nov. 09 2011 11:29 AM
Sandra from Montvale, New Jersey

The bike path along the Hudson River from Harlem to lower Manhattan has several very comfortable spaces to hang out. Is this a publicly owned public space?

Nov. 09 2011 11:27 AM
Mark from Brooklyn

-What's the "deal" with Gramercy Park?

Nov. 09 2011 11:25 AM
JR from Bronx

The OWS movement is not "camping", they are assembling peaceable to petition our government for redress of grievances.

This is a moment of crisis in our democracy, and a possible point of positive change. The 1st Amendment is the foundational law of our land and as such clearly has more weight than local ordinances. Their use of public space is specifically protected by the Constitution -- and if it is argued otherwise, this is yet another reason to occupy.

Nov. 09 2011 11:25 AM
Carol Husten from Brooklyn, NY

What about just a silent protest for a few hours that are not allowed on POPS. Zucotti Park is very different than just a short protest.

Nov. 09 2011 11:23 AM
ellen diamond from Manhattan

9 years ago I looked into my own building's so-called public space.

The Organization that actually has a rating system and has rated every single public space privately owned appears to be the NYC Dept of Public Planning.

My bldg didn't do so well!

Nov. 09 2011 11:21 AM
James from Brooklyn, NY

I've been to the Elevated Acre as part of the River to River Festival to see films. Its a fantastic space, but your guest is correct - it is not easy to find from the street level.

Nov. 09 2011 11:16 AM
al from nyc

the bank of America building's court is not inviting and dose not look friendly

Nov. 09 2011 11:15 AM
Nick from Manhattan

is there a way that POPS that are not meeting their criteria can be reported to the city? How are these spaces reviewed after opening?

Nov. 09 2011 11:13 AM

POPS are just bad, bad, bad. They circumvent the voter and allow politicians to collude with big business. yuck!

Nov. 09 2011 11:13 AM

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