How "Public" are Privately Owned Public Spaces?

Authors: Te-Sheng Huang*,
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Urban Geography
Keywords: public space, privately owned public space, accessibility
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Delaware A, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Unlike traditional public space such as parks and streets, which are owned and managed by city governments, privately owned public spaces (POPS) are located on private land or inside privately owned buildings. In New York City these spaces have been built for the opportunity to build buildings that are larger than building codes allow and so are often called “bonus spaces”. In exchange, these paces must be open to the public and are often required to provide some amenities

However, their ambiguous character -- of being both private and public -- and the lack of clear, enforced directives from city governments reduces the accessibility of POPS in various ways. When they are located inside host buildings, even on the ground floor, they may not be easily visible from the adjacent sidewalk. If they are located above the ground floor, their visibility is even further reduced. The presence of a café in the space may suggest to people that one must purchase from the café in order to sit in the space. The required signs indicating the space is public may be hard to see. The hours that the space is open may be severely reduced – for instance to weekdays during the daytime only. The prominence of security personnel at the entrance may also discourage people from entering.

Drawing upon 24 cases of interior bonus spaces in New York City, this paper will present a systematic analysis of the many ways in which these spaces are not easily accessible.

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