In other words, the perception of Union Square as a publicly owned space is simply an illusion.
Since Zukin’s piece, published in 2010, the city has continued to hand off projects to private corporations, with increasing responsibility, as the Audit Report on the City’s Oversight of Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS) recorded last year in 2017. This transition; however, has not been handled well as the report states that POPS are in a number of violations for not effectively promoting their public spaces. Of the 333 POPS recorded in NYC, 275 POPs have been left unchecked by the Department of Buildings (DOB) in the last 4 years. The 58 POPS that had been inspected found 41 of them faced violations for restricting public access in one or more forms. Not only has the city failed to inspect these POPS within the required intervals, but it has also failed to keep track of the locations of these POPS. The DOB has an inaccurate database currently, meaning that certain private corporations would be able to dismiss certain public space regulations should they not be counted under the header of a POPS.
In Amanda Burden’s TedTalk in 2014, she presents the importance of public spaces within a city and how they function to produce benefits and make the city more desirable to live in. Working as the Director of New York City Planning Commission under Mayor Bloomberg, Burden was faced with the problem of a potential increase of around 1 million people in an already dense city. She had to establish new zoning programs to house the influx of people and promoted the transit system near new development areas. In order to understand the neighborhoods she was rezoning, Burden spent years walking through the neighborhoods and holding panels to establish trust within these communities to learn how zoning could benefit community concern. Her success presented itself when she rezoned 124 neighborhoods, 40% of the city, and around 12,500 blocks. She also made sure that 90% of all new development was located within a ten-minute walk from the transit system, decreasing the need for cars.
While rezoning was attempting to solve the problem of increase growth, Burden’s interests also lied with creating waterfronts and public spaces that would change the image of New York City. She worked on projects including Battery Park, waterfront parks in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, and the Highline Park and promoted the establishment of pop-up cafes, tables and chairs where Broadway used to run, and sidewalk cafes. She viewed these public spaces as areas that provide the city with an acquired aesthetic and improved the way New Yorkers felt about their city. Her passion was to make these areas an attraction to New Yorkers and tourists and leave them with a meaningful new perspective when looking at this city.
Business Improvement Districts are held all over New York City yet the reasons for their creation and outcomes after creation vary greatly. These two videos promote the establishment of BID’s in two separate parts of New York City, one in Chelsea and the other in Harlem, showing great contrast between BID’s throughout the city.
The first video is a promotion video of the Meatpacking District which demonstrates Sharon Zukins’ point on the effects that private corporations have on public space. The businesses taking part of the BID are all wealthy designers, investment bankers, tech moguls and can be considered, under Richard Floridia’s terms, as the “creative class.” The video promotes the Meatpacking District as the new public destination for New Yorkers to enjoy the culture New York City has to offer. What’s missing from this video is what went missing as well when Union Square became a public-private partnership, the meaning of a true public space. Although the video boasts about public attractions and open space for leisure, the “entire” public of New York City is not included. Zukin often mentions that the true meaning of a public space is one in which people from all classes inhabit the same space and interact, including the homeless. This video promotes an elitist city, with shots of people who seem like they have enough money to spend on the luxuries the Meatpacking District has to offer. The businesses in the Meatpacking BID also mention that they are happy what the BID is doing not only for business but also residential life. However, the Meatpacking district is no longer, “zoned for residences” (Mooney) and its main purpose is to feed to the night-life indulgences of New Yorkers. Continue reading “The Inequality Between Business Improvement Districts of New York City”