Are Privately-Owned Public Spaces Held Captive?

Anil Dash examines how public spaces are less valued when they are owned by private companies as evidenced in New York City.
March 13, 2012, 1pm PDT | Alesia Hsiao
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Since New York City adopted a zoning program in 1961 allowing commercial buildings to exceed zoning constraints if they accommodated Privately-Owned Public Spaces (POPS), only a fraction of the spaces contructed under that program can be considered valuable and deemed successful, writes Dash.

According to the NYC Department of City Planning, "Approximately 16 percent of the spaces are actively used as regional destinations or neighborhood gathering spaces, 21 percent are usable as brief resting places, 18 percent are circulation-related, four percent are being renovated or constructed, and 41 percent are of marginal utility."

Dash observes that most POPS in midtown Manhattan are housed in large office tower atriums with limited hours in which the space is available to the public. "These public spaces, then are Captive Atria. They're ostensibly "public" spaces which, by nature of being owned by a corporation, are held captive to that company and thus fail in their intended use as public space. "

Dash draws similarities between privatized physical space and the internet, where he sees a rise in virtual space being monopolized by private owners.

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Published on Monday, March 5, 2012 in Anil Dash
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