Imagine 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 APOPS|MAS, a collaboration between Harvard Professor Jerold S. Kayden, his organization Advocates for Privately Owned Public Space, and the Municipal Art Society of New York. We have joined forces to promote creative stewardship of the city’s close to 600 privately owned public spaces (POPS), those zoning-created plazas, arcades, and other outdoor and indoor spaces located principally 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 new and existing POPS by sparking constructive action-producing conversations among city residents and employees, POPS owners, public officials, community board members, civic activists, and everyone else hoping to realize the promise of privately owned public spaces. Through innovative ideas and hard work, we believe 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) Public Programs; (3) Upgrading; (4) Monitoring; (5) Special Projects; and (6) Public Policy. Some activities have already commenced, others remain dependent on funding availability.
1. Public Information
APOPS|MAS maintains a website providing important information about POPS and providing a crowd-sourcing vehicle to the public to post comments, report problems, share photos and videos, suggest redesigns, write descriptions, propose programs, and rate spaces.
2. Public Program
APOPS|MAS seeks to activate POPS by encouraging POPS owners and others to sponsor artistic, recreational, and academic programs.
APOPS|MAS works with owners and others to assist with the physical upgrading of existing POPS, including the following:
- identification of organizations with potential interest in “adopting” existing POPS
- arrangement of design competitions and consultations for interested owners
- assistance to owners in securing, where appropriate, regulatory permission for improvements to POPS
- assistance to community boards, business improvement districts, and civic institutions to encourage improvements to POPS
APOPS|MAS encourages proactive monitoring programs to assure that all POPS are in compliance with applicable legal requirements. Actions include the following:
- work with community boards, business improvement districts, and civic organizations
- keeping up-to-date the registry of data about POPS created in 2000 by Professor Kayden, the New York City Department of City Planning, and the Municipal Art Society
5. Special Projects
APOPS|MAS pursues special projects, including the following projects underway or under consideration:
- drafting of model rules that owners may use to manage conduct in POPS
- analysis of through-block arcade networks in the city
- sponsorship of graduate-level studio classes
- a study about de-accessioning “irredeemable” POPS
- a POPS ideas competition
6. Public Policy
APOPS|MAS participates in public policy discussions about POPS, including the following.
- a policy brief on POPS
- introduction of an annual “State of Privately Owned Public Space Report”
We invite you to contact APOPS|MAS if you wish to help with this work program.