Privately Owned Public Space

The “Primer on Plazas” provides examples from existing plazas to show the types of elements that make a plaza successful and well-used. For more information on the specific components of the standards, view the Current Public Plaza Standards.

Privately Owned Public Spaces, abbreviated as "POPS", are an amenity provided and maintained by a developer for public use, in exchange for additional floor area.

POPS typically contain functional and visual amenities such as tables, chairs and planting for the purpose of public use and enjoyment. Privately Owned Public Spaces are permitted in the City’s high-density commercial and residential districts and are intended to provide light, air, breathing room and green space to ease the predominately hard-scaped character of the City’s densest areas. Since 1961, the Zoning Resolution has allowed for several different types of privately owned public space, including plazas, arcades, urban plazas, residential plazas, sidewalk widenings, open air concourses, covered pedestrian spaces, through block arcades and sunken plazas. POPS are primarily procured through incentive zoning, however some POPS were created as part of a variance or special permit granted by the City Planning Commission or Board of Standards and Appeals.

The most popular and most visually apparent type of POPS are the outdoor spaces – plazas, residential plazas and urban plazas, sometimes called “bonus plazas.” The provisions allowing for these outdoor spaces have evolved immensely since 1961; starting from very modest design requirements to more fine-tuned standards that require well-designed amenities that benefit the public.

In 2007, the New York City Council adopted revised standards for all outdoor POPS, representing a significant update to and consolidation of all previous plaza design regulations into one outdoor plaza designation – the “public plaza”. The 2007 text is intended to facilitate the design and construction of unique and exciting outdoor spaces that are truly public. Since the adoption of the 2007 public plaza text, a follow-up text amendment was adopted by the City Council in June 2009, to clarify certain provisions in order to enhance the 2007 text. The Current public plaza provisions enable the creation of high quality public plazas on privately owned sites that are inviting, open, inviting, accessible and safe.

The current design regulations are guided by the following design principles:

Public Plaza Design Principles

Open and inviting at the sidewalk

  • Easily seen and read as open to the public
  • Conveys openness through low design elements and generous paths leading into the plaza
  • Visually interesting and contains seating
  • Enhances pedestrian circulation
  • Located at the same elevation as the sidewalk
Provides sense of safety and security
  • Contains easily accessible paths for ingress and egress
  • Oriented and visually connected to the street
  • Well-lit
Provides places to sit
  • Accommodates a variety of well-designed, comfortable seating for small groups and individuals