The 1961 Zoning Resolution inaugurated the incentive zoning program in New York City. The program encouraged private developers to provide spaces for the public within or outside their buildings by allowing them greater density in certain high-density districts. Since its inception, the program has produced more than 3.5 million square feet of public space in exchange for additional building area or other considerations such as relief from certain height and setback restrictions.
At first, the program was limited to a few types of spaces like plazas and arcades, but over the years many other types with differing standards were added, including sidewalk widenings; open-air concourses; covered pedestrian spaces; through block arcades, connections and gallerias. Experience with the early spaces shaped standards for the later spaces, which were more precisely defined and subject to greater public scrutiny than the first-generation spaces. Plazas built to the original 1961 standards account for one-third of the 503 spaces surveyed, the largest single category.
The results of the program have been mixed. An impressive amount of public space has been created in parts of the city with little access to public parks, but much of it is not of high quality. Some spaces have proved to be valuable public resources, but others are inaccessible or devoid of the kinds of amenities that attract public use. Approximately 16 percent of the spaces are actively used as regional destinations or neighborhood gathering spaces, 21 percent are usable as brief resting places, 18 percent are circulation-related, four percent are being renovated or constructed, and 41 percent are of marginal utility.
In response to the real and perceived failure of many of these spaces and to community dissatisfaction with their effectiveness, the types of public spaces permitted, and their locations, were curtailed in the late nineties. In 2000, The Department of City Planning, the Municipal Art Society and Harvard professor Jerold S. Kayden joined forces to develop an electronic database with detailed information about public spaces created as a result of the city’s incentive zoning program. The database findings led to the publication of "Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience". This book describes the evolution of incentive zoning in New York City from 1961-2000, and profiles 503 public spaces at 320 buildings that had been granted additional floor area or related waivers in exchange for providing these spaces.
In 2000, The Department of City Planning, the Municipal Art Society, and Harvard Professor Jerold S. Kayden joined forces to develop an electronic database with detailed information about every one of the public spaces created as a result of the city’s incentive zoning program. The database findings led to the publication of “Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience”. Access the Inventory.
Note: These pages present Privately Owned Public Spaces as they were described in Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience, by Jerold S. Kayden, The New York City Department of City Planning, and the Municipal Art Society of New York, published by John Wiley & Sons, 2000. These pages are not regularly updated and do not describe all Privately Owned Public Spaces as they exist today.