The Atlantic and the New York Times recently exposed the privately owned public spaces (known as “POPS”) in the Trump Tower as being far from “public.” As both journalists demonstrated, most of the Trump Tower public spaces were either cordoned off or non-existent, most notably, the case of the missing bench. A long bench was supposed to be available to the public in the main lobby but was removed as Donald Trump explained, “due to tremendous difficulties with respect to the bench—drug addicts, vagrants, et cetera have come to the atrium in large numbers. Additionally, all sorts of ‘horrors’ had been taking place that effectively ruined the beautiful ambience of the space which everyone loves so much.” In exchange for providing the POPS, the Trump Tower was able to add roughly 20 extra floors for the 66-story building by including a public atrium, restrooms, two upper-level public gardens and the now replaced bench. So what exactly are POPS, how are they monitored and is there a way to make them more successful?
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.
If you’ve never heard of it, that may be because this quarter-mile, pedestrian-only street is nearly hidden among the office towers of Midtown. Sixth-and-a-Half Avenue was the first fractional street in the city’s grid system, created in 2012 by the Department of Transportation to encourage people to use the public plazas and covered areas that form a path between 51st Street to 57th Street.