Regulating Place: Standards and the Shaping of Urban America

By Eran Ben-Joseph; Terry S. Szold | Go to book overview
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Using and Misusing Law to Design the Public Realm


In 1961, the City of New York impressed law to inaugurate a new category of public space, “privately owned public space, for use by its residents, employees, and visitors. Through a legal innovation subsequently known as incentive zoning, the city granted floor area bonuses and other valuable regulatory concessions to office and residential developers who would agree to provide plazas, arcades, atriums, and other outdoor and indoor spaces at their buildings. Private ownership of the space would reside with the developer and successor owners of the property, access and use with members of the public; hence the appellation privately owned public space. Cities across the country followed New York City's lead, encouraging their own contributions to this distinct category of urban space. 1

How has this legally promoted marriage of private ownership and public use fared over its four-decade term? This chapter discusses the results of a three-and-a-half-year comprehensive, empirical study conducted by this author in collaboration with the New York City Department of City Planning and the Municipal Art Society of New York, fully reported in the book, Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience. 2 Most broadly, the study found that law had a profound impact on the design of the city's ground plane, encouraging interposition of public space at the front, sides, and back of buildings for use by the public.

More specifically, the study found that, although New York City's law yielded an impressive quantity of public space-503 spaces at 320 office, resi-


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Regulating Place: Standards and the Shaping of Urban America


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