Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS) have lately leaped into the daily lexicon, thanks to promotion from an unexpected source: Occupy Wall Street. Today, New York City has around 525 POPS, created as a result of the city’s 1961 zoning resolution granting zoning concessions in return for public space. Yet despite their considerable number, many of these spaces remain shrouded in obscurity.
“Occupy Wall Street did us a favor when they put the spotlight on Zuccotti Park,” said Jerold Kayden, founder of Advocates for Privately Owned Public Space (APOPS). “They reminded us that these spaces are there to be claimed.”
On October 18, Kayden and the Municipal Art Society (MAS) launched a new mobile-friendly website—apops.mas.org—to engage and inform the public by making data, photos, and site plans of the parks available in an easy-to-use format. The information was drawn from a comprehensive study in 2000 of the city’s POPS and from Kayden’s subsequent book, Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience.
On the website, users can browse detailed information on each POPS location, learning about its amenities, history, and hours of access. “We’re in the process of really bringing the information up to date,” Kayden said. “In 2000 it was in perfect shape, with incredible information, including all of the legal obligations attached to each of these spaces.” Mobile users can also geo-locate themselves to find nearby POPS to explore.
The public can participate in the project by ranking and commenting on POPS, making recommendations and announcements, posting photos, and reporting problems with the public spaces. Information submitted will appear online, but according to Kayden, future phases may involve more active communication among the public, property owners, and the city, especially in terms of reporting and correcting problems. “This isn’t a ‘gotcha’ thing, but it’s also not just allowing the owners to do whatever they want,” he said. “We plan to take these comments and forward them to the appropriate parties.
“At the end of the day, we don’t’ care about digital, we care about physical public space,” Kayden continued. “We’re inviting the public to be our eyes and ears as a means to make these spaces more of an asset for everyone in the city. And to make people in other cities realize they can do the same thing.”