Thank you, Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, for alerting us to City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s new audit of the city’s POPs — and also for explaining what Privately Owned Public Spaces are.
The photo above of 200 E. 64th Street well illustrates the games building owners play. That area behind the planters is supposed to be open to the public. The developer received over 25,000 square feet of additional floor space in return.
Here’s the definition:
Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS) are outdoor or indoor spaces, open for public use that are built and are maintained by the developers and owners of private buildings. POPS are created by building developers in exchange for New York City allowing them to construct buildings at greater heights and densities (and as a result, with greater floor area) than would otherwise be allowed by applicable zoning regulations.
Less than 1 percent of the Upper East Side’s land area is parks or open space. Meanwhile, our desirable neighborhood is a magnet for developers hungry to build as big as the law will let them. They obtain the right to build bigger than zoning laws permit in return for creating and maintaining spaces open to the public.
Trump as serial abuser of the public space law
Perhaps the most high-profile case of POPs abuse involves now-President Donald Trump. In 1979, he received a zoning bonus to build Trump Tower more massively than the zoning rules allowed, in part for promising to create a public space in the lobby. The deal included a 22-foot-long bench that went missing. Last June, the city fined Trump $10,000 after his lawyers failed to show up for a hearing on the matter.
The January before, the city ordered Trump to remove two Trump Store counters from the so-called public atrium. They contained “Make America Great Again Hats” and similar treasures.
The appendix to Stringer’s audit lists POPs spaces and their current status regarding compliance with the law. Among the listings:
Trump Plaza at 167 E. 61st Street. Not in compliance.
Trump Tower at 725 Fifth Avenue. Not in compliance.
And in a shoutout to the West Side, Trump International Hotel at One Central Park West. Not in compliance.
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