6sqft recently covered the controversial proposal by the Alliance for Downtown New York (ADNY), the Department of City Planning (DCP), and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), to change zoning laws to allow property owners in the Water Street Subdistrict of lower Manhattan–at One New York Plaza, for example–to bring in retail tenants like restaurants and clothing stores in exchange for making improvements and upgrades to the public plazas and arcades adjacent to their buildings. Crains reports that the City Council passed a bill Tuesday that would allow the Financial District landlords to convert the public corridors in front of 20 buildings in the Water Street corridor to retail shops.
The public corridors, which cover ten blocks, were created when the Water Street buildings that abut them were built. Building developers agreed to create the public arcades and walkways in exchange for more buildable square footage.
The organizations supporting the bill have said that the public areas are underutilized, and in the words of Councilwoman Margaret Chin, D-Manhattan, are “just not working” in today’s lower Manhattan, when the mix of residents and business users would actually welcome retail establishments like cafes and dry cleaners. Business Improvement District president Jessica Lappin said the plan “will help bring a more vibrant Water Street to life.”
Critics of the proposal, such as the urban advocacy group the Municipal Art Society, say the ability to host profitable retail shops unfairly benefits the district’s property owners, who have already benefitted by being able to build taller skyscrapers–and takes away the public spaces that were supposed to be a permanent gift. The removal of public space to benefit developers, they say, sets a dangerous precedent.
6sqft recently mentioned another example of privately owned public spaces (POPS) not fulfilling their potential though developers used them to snag more building space: The gardens at Trump Tower are barely visible to the public, and the building’s atrium, which is only allowed to be closed four times a year, has been closed to the public whenever Donald Trump has a press conference at the building.
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Neighborhoods : Financial District