This webpage offers an overview of New York City’s Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS), which are outdoor and indoor spaces provided for public enjoyment by private owners in exchange for bonus floor area or waivers, an incentive first introduced into New York City’s zoning regulations in 1961. Explore the city’s 550+ POPS through our interactive map; find detailed explanations of our current standards; and discover how POPS have evolved throughout the city’s history.
What are POPS?
Privately owned public spaces, also known by the acronym POPS, are spaces dedicated to public use and enjoyment and which are owned and maintained by private property owners, in exchange for bonus floor area or waivers. More than 550 POPS provide a myriad of opportunities to sit, relax, people watch, eat, meet others – in other words, to partake and enjoy in urban life in one of the world’s greatest cities. POPS come in many shapes and sizes, both outdoor and indoor, and offer a variety of amenities. POPS are the result of City zoning regulations aimed at ensuring the densest areas of our city offer a measure of open public space and greenery. Thus POPS are important amenities for New Yorkers, commuters, and visitors.
To date, over 550 POPS have been built at over 350 buildings across New York City. These public spaces are primarily located in Manhattan, but are increasingly being developed in the other boroughs, particularly Brooklyn and Queens, as the commercial office markets expand. Combined, POPS provide nearly 3.8 million square feet of additional public space in the City – equivalent to roughly nine Bryant Parks or twenty-four Union Square’s!
The Department’s interactive map provides an overview of all POPS in the city, and includes information on location, size, hours of operation, amenities – and much more.
The POPS Program dates to 1961, when New York City’s Zoning Resolution was last overhauled. Then an innovative program, POPS have stood the test of time, and today there are more than 550 POPS, mostly in Manhattan’s dense urban core. When first introduced as a zoning tool, the program allowed developers to build more usable space (also known as floor area) or receive special waivers for a building if they also created plazas or arcades that are open to the public.
Since 1961, other types of outdoor and indoor spaces have been introduced in the Zoning Resolution as the Department of City Planning expanded the program and refined amenities and operational standards to meet public needs, changing tastes and technological advances. Learn about how POPS and their associated zoning regulations have evolved by clicking the “History” tab above. Today, two specific types of POPS, public plazas and arcades, can be built in exchange for bonus floor area.
POPS are required to be provided and maintained by the property owner in perpetuity according to the regulations they were built pursuant to and any City approvals.
The Department is committed to ensuring that all POPS serve the public, and continually enhances design standards so that POPS are of the highest quality, useful and inviting for the public. Our current public plaza standards can be found in Zoning Resolution Section 37-70.
Public Plaza Design Principles
Our current design standards are informed by decades of experience and are guided by the following principles: