In the News: Public Plaza Abuse

••• “A new audit completed by the office of the New York City comptroller, Scott M. Stringer [found] more than 180 properties where public spaces did not comply with the city’s rules—more than half of all locations with privately owned public spaces in New York, according to the audit. Privately owned public spaces, commonly known as POPS, are areas that developers have agreed to provide the public in exchange for leniency on certain zoning requirements. […] Auditors found restaurant tables at public spaces at 825 Third Avenue, 200 East 64th Street and 2 Gold Street. They also discovered signs that incorrectly informed people that the public spaces were for ‘members only,’ at 175 East 96th Street, or ‘private property,’ at 101 Barclay Street.” Regarding 101 Barclay: I assumed that meant the wide sidewalks along Barclay, Greenwich, and Murray, but it turns out that the lobby is supposed to be a publicly accessible space, too, and signs at every entrance insist that only BNY Mellon employees are allowed inside, with company ID displayed. I went inside to ask, and the guard insisted that only employees could come in. This is patently outrageous. Why does the city continue to give away development rights in exchange for spaces that, even when the buildings comply with the law, aren’t even useful? (What exactly are we supposed to do in the lobby of 101 Barclay? Although I am tempted to organize a meet-up….) So now the question is whether Springer has any power, other than a direct line to the New York Times (the source of these quotes). “The report also called for changes in the way the city polices the plazas. It recommended that the Buildings Department, which currently investigates only when prompted by complaints, investigate the plazas proactively, in addition to maintaining a more streamlined database of them. And it recommended that the City Planning Department better inform the public about the plazas through an advertising campaign and better signs around the plazas.” UPDATE: Found Stringer’s report. Re: 101 Barclay: “At 101 Barclay Street, the building owner benefits from increased height of the structure in exchange for a public lobby. Yet, the [privately owned public space] is entirely closed to the public, and auditors who attempted to inspect the site were stopped, prevented from taking photographs, and escorted to the security office where they were questioned. Building security informed auditors that this lobby had been closed to the public for at least 15 years.”

••• “Community Board 1 […] enacted resolutions opposing four requests [for street fairs], three of which sought to close a quarter-mile stretch of Broadway, between Liberty Street and Battery Place. It was here that the Ziua USA Cultural Foundation wanted to produce a Romania Day Festival on May 14; the Bowling Green Association hoped to host its Columbus Day Festival on October 9; and the Independence Plaza North Tenants Association was planning Veteran’s Day Festival on November 10. A fourth event, sponsored by Transportation Alternatives, was slated to close Beach Street (between Greenwich and Hudson Streets) on August 29.” Nowhere in the Broadsheet article does it note that, hypocritically, Community Board 1 still allows street fairs that benefit itself.

••• Crain’s says that the reason the Tribeca Film Festival has broadened its emphasis to include virtual reality, games, talks, and advertising is because attendance at film screenings has dropped dramatically.

••• From Curbed: Staten Island “Congressman Dan Donovan thinks it’s high time that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority considers reinstating a two-way toll on the Verrazano Bridge.” Hear, hear! And yes, this is locally relevant. From Downtown Express in February: “The Verrazano’s exorbitant $16 toll for Staten Island– and New Jersey–bound drivers sends hordes of outer-borough and Long Island motorists—especially trucks—pouring over the toll-free East River bridges into Lower Manhattan.” Specifically, Canal Street.

••• A day in the life of Kabir Ahmed, whose food cart is on Greenwich Street. —New York Times

16 Comments

  1. Re: public space. Speaking of being taken by developers, did we learn the dimensions of the public plaza in the building rising on the old St. Johns plot? Lets do a sit in!

    Re: slow ticket sales for TFF. It’s not inexpensive to go see these movies. Some of the movies are dated and of questionable quality. Also Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc. There are so many other ways to see new or interesting movies.They need to adapt, as does every other film festival. Better to try and stay relevant, then fall off a cliff in a few years.

  2. Re: plazas. Any update as to when the public plaza the Four Seasons built adjacent to the building will be open to the public?

  3. Is there a map showing the location of all these public spaces?

  4. Think it is time to get a list of the 180 POPS, with required amenity details, go visit – and call 311 with complaints, starting with BNY. This has been going on forever.
    Trusting DOB to police this is laughable, given the looooong history of building inspector corruption scandals.

  5. Regarding 101 Barclay, this may be a false memory, but I think before 9/11 there was public access to the lobby, which had foliage and tables/chairs and allowed a midblock cut-through for pedestrians. The lobby was significantly reconfigured sometime since then in a way that makes it unsuitable for a POPS

    • That is correct. It WAS previously accessible I remember it clearly.

    • I remember walking through it pre-9/11, when the trees were there. I don’t remember tables and chairs but there could have been. It wasn’t a pleasant kind of space for some reason–too cavernous, maybe?

  6. Channel 7 just did a story on POPS. 101 Barclay blamed closing on 9/11.

  7. Harley Davidson took over the POPs at 376 Broadway a year or so ago and it took a number of complaints to DoB, 311 and CB1 to finally have them stop using the POP as their private driveway.

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