The evolution of privately owned public spaces in New York City
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New York City has actively engaged the private sector in providing publicly accessible spaces through the use of density bonuses and other mechanisms since 1961. In this article, we examine how the changing regulatory environment, promulgated by zoning reforms of the mid-1970s that advocated for increased amenity creation, has impacted the use, design and management of privately owned public space (POPS). We examine 123 POPS – 47 constructed before the mid-1970s reforms, 76 built after the reforms – using an index to measure levels of control or openness in publicly accessible space. We find that compared with pre-reform spaces, post-reform spaces encourage use through the introduction of design features and signage, but discourage use by decreasing accessibility of the space and increasing the amount of subjective rules and regulations. We also find that the reforms had no significant impact on use or sociability. Our findings can help guide planners and policymakers in New York City and elsewhere to understand how they can not only encourage better privately owned spaces, but perhaps even mandate them.
Keywordsprivatization public space New York City zoning
Partial funding for this research was provided by the University of Colorado's Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER).
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