A Privately Owned Public Space (POPS) is an amenity provided, constructed and maintained by a property owner/developer for public use in exchange for additional floor area. POPS are primarily achieved as-of-right through incentive zoning, although some POPS were created by way of a special permit granted by the City Planning Commission.
Privately owned public spaces have been encouraged in the city’s high-density commercial and residential districts as a means of increasing light and air and green space, and easing the hard streetscape formed by towering buildings bordered by concrete sidewalks. Since 1961, the Zoning Resolution has permitted different types of POPS, including residential, urban and sunken plazas, arcades, sidewalk widenings, open air concourses, covered pedestrian spaces and through block arcades. Over the years, the requirements for POPS have been refined, providing greater design quality and more comfortable elements to meet the needs of the public.
POPS, which can be located outdoors or indoors, now require arrangements of functional and visual amenities, such as a variety of seating (including benches and chairs), tables, plantings, kiosks and art works for the purpose of providing the public with a respite from the busy New York City streets. Indoor spaces must be easily accessible from the street and provide a place to sit and rest and perhaps get something to eat.
The most visible type of public space is the outdoor plaza, which can be identified by the familiar entry plaque. The conditions under which these outdoor spaces are permitted have continued to change since 1961, beginning initially with only modest design requirements and progressing to a superior set of design standards that ensure that the public benefit of amenities is maximized.
Design regulations for POPS, including dimensions, location, seating, planting, signage, permitted kiosks and open air cafes, and maintenance requirements, can be found in Section 37-70 of the Zoning Resolution.