Public Space in a Private Realm

Urban Planning

Spring 2013

Ethel Sheffer + Doug Woodward, instructors

The occupation of Zuccotti Park, a privately owned public space (POPS) in Lower Manhattan, has focused intense attention on the existence of hybrid forms of public space in private stewardship in the city. In New York City, there are some 525 arcades, gallerias, plazas, concourses, and other public spaces that were created by private owners in exchange for floor area bonuses and other zoning benefits.

This course provided an overview of the planning and design issues in the use and control of public space at the intersection of public access and private ownership, including the limits of public activity, free speech, the role of government in controlling public space and the role played by physical planning and design in the reconciliation of competing claims on contested space.  There was significant direct interaction with planning officials, designers, civic groups and public space activists during the semester as well as the opportunity to focus on specific examples, as we investigated and developed a working definition of public space in the private realm.