To engage with a New York City privately owned public space, select a POPS.
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Boston is one of many cities worldwide that has deployed its land-use regulatory approval process to secure from developers so-called Privately Owned Public Spaces at office and residential towers. Legally required to be open to the public, these “POPS” — plazas, arcades, gallerias, rooftop terraces, and other outdoor and indoor spaces — are meant to be places to relax, meet with friends, eat a sandwich, read a book, take a snooze, or watch the city go by — all without having to pay for the privilege. Properly designed, accessorized, and maintained, POPS can richly complement a city’s public realm.
So how many POPS does Boston have? Where are they located? How many have seating, landscaping, public art, restrooms, or water fountains? When do they open and close? How many are indoor, heated, and air-conditioned? Are they operated at all times in compliance with applicable legal requirements? These questions have answers, but it is unlikely anyone knows them all. Most important, the public does not know the answers.
Some of us know where some POPS are. There is the 14th-floor observation deck at 470 Atlantic Avenue (Independence Wharf) and its interior seating area off the HarborWalk. There’s Foster’s Rotunda down the street on the 9th floor of 30 Rowes Wharf. Atlantic Wharf at 290 Congress Street has public seating and events. But what about the outdoor plazas scattered about the downtown commercial area? Was the Hancock tower’s observatory (now closed) ever a required POPS? Are some office lobbies actually indoor POPS?
Click here for the full text of Jerold S. Kayden’s article, “Boston POPS,” just published in the spring, 2015 issue of Architecture Boston.
The New York City branch of Huge, the powerhouse digital agency, has produced an interesting five-minute video about privately owned public space in New York City. APOPS@MAS provided information to Huge and Chris Holmes for the video project.
APOPS founder Jerold S. Kayden was recently interviewed by Lara Belkind, a PhD candidate in urban planning at Harvard, for FunctionLab, the research arm of Farshid Moussavi Architecture (FMA). During the interview, entitled “Privately Owned Public Space—For Whom, By Whom,” Professor Kayden discusses the functional uses of privately owned public space in New York City, particularly since the publication of his book Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience in 2000. Citing Zuccotti Park as a site of political protest during Occupy Wall Street, he describes how the occupation challenged everyone’s conception about how POPS may be used. He notes that the Zoning Resolution is silent with regard to what user conduct POPS owners may prohibit. What’s interesting, Kayden suggests, is that many of the POPS from the 1960s and early 1970s, bereft of public amenities such as seating or landscaping, present an opportunity to be defined by use rather than design. You can read the full interview here.
This past summer, under the direction of Community Board 6 District Manager Dan Miner, four summer interns visited all 77 buildings with POPS in the district and prepared a report detailing their findings. Interns Christopher Consalvo, Anita Li, Eduard Knechtl, and Shelby Yvon took photographs, described positive and negative attributes of the spaces, and specified certain conditions that were apparently out of compliance with applicable legal requirements. APOPS@MAS Chair Jerold Kayden provided help to the interns in the final preparation of their report. Later this fall, APOPS@MAS and Community Board 6 will co-host a meeting with other Community Board members interested in visiting and suggesting improvements to their POPS.
Imagine that you were given “responsibility” for stewarding more than 80 acres of prime New York City private real estate that, by law, had to be open to the public. Imagining that role helps define the mission of our project, entitled Advocates for Privately Owned Public Space at the Municipal Art Society (APOPS@MAS). Harvard Professor Jerold S. Kayden, Advocates for Privately Owned Public Space, and the Municipal Art Society have joined forces to offer imaginative stewardship for the city’s 525 or so privately owned public spaces (POPS), those zoning-created plazas, arcades, and other outdoor and indoor spaces located at the street level of many office and residential towers. We believe that a city’s greatness is enhanced by an attractive, usable, and egalitarian public realm. We seek to invigorate POPS by sparking constructive action-producing conversations among city residents and employees, POPS owners, public officials, community board members, civic activists, and anyone else hoping to realize the possibility and promise of privately owned public spaces. Through creative ideas and hard work, we can leverage the good spaces and improve the marginal ones.
APOPS@MAS has an ambitious Work Program consisting of six elements: (1) Public Information; (2) Programs; (3) Upgrading; (4) Monitoring; (5) Special Projects; (6) Public Policy. Some activities have already commenced, others remain dependent on funding availability. Read more about these six elements here. We invite all of you to join APOPS@MAS in realizing this Work Program. Contact us if you are interested in helping us with any part of the 2014-2015 Work Program.
You will not find this definition (yet) in the dictionary, but we are trying.
PRIVATELY OWNED PUBLIC SPACE [noun phrase] [slang POPS] 1. a plaza, arcade, or other outdoor or indoor space provided for public use by a private office or residential building owner in return for a zoning concession 2. one of 525 or so zoning-defined public spaces in New York City 3. a plaza, urban plaza, residential plaza, public plaza, elevated plaza, arcade, through block arcade, through block galleria, through block connection, covered pedestrian space, sidewalk widening, open air concourse, or other privately owned public space specifically defined by New York City’s 1961 Zoning Resolution and accompanying legal instruments 4. a type of public space characterized by the combination of private ownership and zoning-required public access and use 5. Law’s oxymoronic invention
Check out the winter and spring schedule of free events at the David Rubenstein Atrium. It is worth recalling the “before” and “after” of this POPS. Called Harmony Atrium and largely known for its climbing wall, this interior space had some positive attributes but was hardly a rousing POPS success. The excerpt from Jerold Kayden’s book, Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience, reproduced on this website, describes the conditions back in 2000. Lincoln Center’s president Reyn Levy had his eye on the space as a portal to Lincoln Center, and Jerold Kayden and his organization Advocates for Privately Owned Public Space was seeking a test candidate for its program for third-party adopting and upgrading of a POPS. Rebecca Robertson, then head of Lincoln Center’s redevelopment arm and now head of the Park Avenue Armory, brought Levy and Kayden together, and the ultimate outcome years and millions of dollars later is the celebrated Tod Williams Billie Tsien-designed David Rubenstein Atrium, named for its generous benefactor. APOPS@MAS Senior Advisor Douglas Woodward played a key role as Lincoln Center project manager. Lincoln Center board members Katherine Farley, now Chair of the Lincoln Center Board, Cheryl Cohen Effron, now a member of the New York City Planning Commission, and real estate developer Philip Milstein, along with Levy, Kayden, and Woodward, served on the architect selection committee that chose Tod Williams Billie Tsien from an initial long list of about thirty architects and a subsequent short list of seven. Billlie Tsien talks about the design in a presentation with Jerold Kayden at the October 2012 MAS Summit. For more about the initial transformation of Harmony Atrium, read this June 8, 2006 Lincoln Center press release.