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Privately Owned Public Spaces

Zuccotti Park and “Occupy Wall Street”: Public Space Amidst A Growing Storm of Discontent

By: Alexander Alvarado, Jose Sabal, and Stacy Wang

Imagine you’re walking up New York City’s Broadway on a Saturday morning to get breakfast at the nearest café. As you make your way towards Cedar Street, you hear a few voices around the corner that are louder than usual. In fact, it sounds like many voices; you guess twenty or thirty people. You’re anxious to see what is going on up ahead, so you walk a little faster. The sounds get louder as you near the end of the block. Turning the corner, you can hardly believe what you see. A scene of hundreds of people crowded in a tiny space you know to be Zuccotti Park greet your eyes. They are holding signs, chanting in unison, and distributing pamphlets to pedestrians walking by. Your curiosity starts to tug at you, and you immediately forget about the coffee you were about to buy. As you get a little closer to the action, you get a first glimpse at one of the signs. It reads: “I CAN’T AFFORD A LOBBYIST . . . I AM THE 99%.” You quickly look to the left and see uniformed men from an organization called “Iraq Veterans Against the War.” You turn to the right and see a man with a megaphone repeating the phrase “Hey-hey, Ho-ho; Corporate Greed Has Got to Go!” with dozens following suit. You simply do not know what to make of it all.

Such scenes as these can touch on the experiences of hundreds of passersby and city dwellers on the morning of September 17th, 2011. Taking root in Zuccotti Park, a privately owned public space that became an extremely vital component of the movement, “Occupy Wall Street” sparked a nationwide protest against the many difficulties and concerns facing American society—particularly economic inequality, corporate malpractice, and political corruption. In fact, the protest eventually won influence in places such as Germany, Spain, Holland, France, Italy, England, and Greece. Closely following the worldwide economic crisis that began in 2008 (now termed the Great Recession), Occupy Wall Street and its derivatives were largely a manifestation of the people’s discontent; it was often an outcry denouncing the forces and structures behind the faltering economy and an expression of frustration towards the consequences of unfettered capitalism. Read more…

POPS-Hopping in Midtown Manhattan

By: Alexander Alvarado, Jose Sabal, and Stacy Wang

Walking on the busy streets of Manhattan, you may come across an unusual scene of New York pedestrians leisurely lounging around, perhaps reading or having coffee. It can sometimes be accompanied by an atypical amount of greenery and copious seating arrangements. These scenes usually take place in small nooks and crannies in the city and may seem like an odd, but welcoming contrast to the otherwise gray and utilitarian streets of New York. The nooks and crannies described are likely to be public parks and squares, but it is also just as likely for these spaces to be private property. These are quite simply referred to as privately owned public spaces (also known as POPS).

An entire afternoon was devoted to trekking across the city to look for and then examine different privately owned public spaces (also known as POPS) in the area. POPS are spaces maintained and owned by a private entity for the general public to use. In exchange for maintaining the public space, the entity is granted rights by the city to build additional floor area beyond standard zoning capacity for their own private use. POPS are scattered all throughout New York City, but are generally more concentrated in the midtown and upper east sections of Manhattan. Read more…