No, POP doesn’t stand for popular (though many of them are), it stands for Privately-Owned Public spaces. They’re found throughout Manhattan (a couple are in Brooklyn & Queens, but there are none in the Bronx or Staten Island), and they usually represent a deal by a developer to gain zoning variances, usually for a taller building than the code allows, in exchange for including and maintaing publicly accessible space. POPs have been in the news lately, as Zuccotti Park (home base of Occupy Wall Street) is a POP.
One of the many issues with POPs is that they very often do not live up to the promises (and renderings) of charming, welcoming, vegetated vest-pocket parks sprinkled throughout the city’s high-rise office districts to offer respite for weary workers from the endless concrete. Instead, they’re often open limited hours, closed entirely, or designed to be utterly inhospitable.
Of course this isn’t true of all such spaces — there are some truly lovely examples from atria to waterfall parklettes that function beautifully as publicly accessible spaces well maintained by owners of office buildings and condo towers. Still, though, with little or no enforcement, too many land owners get away with too much.
The first step toward enforcement is documentation, and WNYC & The New York World have started a crowd-sourced project to document the state of New York’s POPs. I highly recommend New Yorkers adopt a space or two, investigate, and report back. The map interface is a little wonky, but it’s a short, simple survey to fill out for each space. I’ll be stopping by the unvisited spaces near my work during my lunch break over the next week. Maybe I’ll see you there?
Here’s the map and survey:
Just the map of POPs:
More information about POPs from the City of New York here:
The deadline for the project is November 9th.