The always inquisitive urban planner, Charles-Antoine Perrault, most well-known for his Paris-NYC mashup map, takes a photographic odyssey to systematically investigate POPS (Privately Owned Public Spaces), looking beyond figures at how zoning regulations shape the urban environment.
“Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS), are an amenity provided and maintained by a developer for public use, in exchange for additional floor area.”
– New York City Department of City Planning
New York City zoning rules set in 1961 incentivized the creation of privately-owned public spaces. The resolution had its greatest effect in Midtown Manhattan where the economic spur was strongest for developers to include publicly accessible space in their lots in exchange for height bonuses on their towers. The added public spaces could take various forms, from open plazas to covered arcades.
From a quantitative standpoint, this regulation has been very successful. More than 500 POPS have been created over the last 50 years, covering 82 acres throughout the city. However, as far the quality of these public spaces is concerned, achievements are way more questionable. While some POPS fulfill their original function, many are blamed for being either uninviting, inaccessible or not well maintained. A state of fact which is a direct byproduct of the POPS’ undemanding definition set in the zoning regulation, which lead developers to provide poorly designed public spaces in exchange for valuable added development rights. Zuccoti Park at Occupy Wall Street may be the posterchild of the anti-POPS movement, but midtown Manhattan is where POPS have their fullest expression. This is where the latest city initiative, 6 ½ Avenue, seeks to link the disconnected POPS that dot the area.
Paley Park, E 53rd St. , between Madison Avenue and 5th Avenue