Transforming New York’sPrivately OwnedPublic Spaceswith Technology.	 				Amaani HamidChris HolmesChris MichaudHuge Whitepa...
1Introduction.New York City is famous for its public spaces.                                   Diverse public spaces provi...
These spaces are intended to provide New York City              Despite City Planning’s efforts to improve POPS over      ...
2Methods & research.The Municipal Art Society (MAS), a non-profit organiza-       mediocre. Only 20 POPS were ranked as “i...
3Current interactionbetween POPS stakeholders.Communication between the main stakeholders in POPS           Often, owners ...
lower manhattan                                                                                   arcades modification    ...
Current POPS Relationship Ecosystem:As shown in the chart below, the only strong relationshipexists between the government...
4Supporting advocacywith technology.                                                                   Establishing a dyna...
city Government & Owner                                         for different amenities and uses, such as greenery, lunch ...
The APOPS website should also include an online press-               Advocate & User Relationship Improvements            ...
In addition to its website, APOPS should create a small,       ® Browse foursquare check-ins, Tweets, and Facebook/	dedica...
5Conclusion.Incentives for each type of stakeholder would also be                 Out of all the New York City residents H...
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Transforming New York's Privately Owned Public Spaces with Technology


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This report is a collaboration between Huge; the Municipal Art Society (MAS), a non-profit organization dedicated to improving New York City; and Advocates for Privately Owned Public Space (APOPS).

To compile this report Huge conducted user research, stakeholder interviews and location assessments to gain insights into the challenges and needs across Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS) and key stakeholders. The report summarizes the history of POPS, depicts the current landscape, and makes recommendations based on findings.

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Transforming New York's Privately Owned Public Spaces with Technology

  1. 1. Transforming New York’sPrivately OwnedPublic Spaceswith Technology. Amaani HamidChris HolmesChris MichaudHuge Whitepaper October 2012 1
  2. 2. 1Introduction.New York City is famous for its public spaces. Diverse public spaces provide refuge from overcrowded can help overcome those challenges. This report is a col-Residents and tourists retreat to places like Central Park, streets and sidewalks, venues for art and culture, open laboration between Huge, a global digital agency basedMcCarren Park or The Highline to find sanctuary from areas for exercise and relaxation, opportunities to be in Brooklyn; the Municipal Art Society (MAS), a non-profitthe hustle and bustle of daily life. These spaces, while closer to nature within an urban environment, and places organization dedicated to improving New York City; andopen and endearing, are enjoyed year-round and can for public discourse and community assembly. Better- Advocates for Privately Owned Public Space (APOPS).become overcrowded at times, somewhat defeating their conserved public spaces can lead to more connected To compile this report, Huge conducted user research,purpose. Recently, a different type of public space has communities, safer neighborhoods, and a better quality stakeholder interviews, and location assessments to gaincome to the forefront in NYC: the famed Occupy Wall of life. insights into the challenges and needs across buildingStreet movement used a privately owned public space, However, there are many hurdles to overcome in order owners, community advocates, public citizens, and theZuccotti Park, as its eventual home base, shedding light for NYC denizens to fully utilize POPS. Foremost, there is city. The report summarizes the history of POPS, depictson a little known treasure in NYC’s landscape.“ the current landscape, and makes recommendations The more successfully a city mingles everyday diversity of uses and users in its based on findings. everyday streets, the more successfully, casually (and economically) its people A definition and history of POPS thereby enliven and support well-located parks that can thus give back grace In 1961, The City of New York established a zoning pro- and delight to their neighborhoods instead of vacuity.” gram that offered private developers additional building –Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities space, as long as a certain amount was designated for a lack of awareness about their existence. Furthermore,There are, surprisingly, over 500 privately owned public public use. The program has since created 526 POPS many POPS are in a state of disrepair, have insufficientspaces, also referred to as POPS, in NYC, but many are in the five boroughs, equal to approximately 3.5 million amenities, and sometimes exist in inhospitable condi-unknown and unused by the community. In a city where square feet of public space.1 tions that prevent these spaces from being truly utilized.over 8 million people live in a densely packed environ-ment and where well-known public spaces are just as This report discusses the many benefits of POPS, ex-congested, POPS present an untapped opportunity to amines the aforementioned hurdles that prevent wider 1 Kayden Jerold. Privately Owned Public Spacesenrich city life. usage of these spaces, and describes how technology (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2000) pg. 44Huge Whitepaper October 2012 2
  3. 3. These spaces are intended to provide New York City Despite City Planning’s efforts to improve POPS over Kayden’s study in 2000 found that only 16% of POPSresidents with open spaces where they can retreat from the past 50 years with these amendments, a significant were used as a destination hangout, 21% were used asthe dense, overcrowded urban environment, especially in number of New York City POPS are currently in a state of short-term resting spots, 18% were used as pedestrianneighborhoods without nearby city parks. disrepair. Professor Jerold Kayden, Director of the Mas- passageways, 4% were under construction and 41% ter in Urban Planning Degree Program at the Harvard were only marginally useful.5 Sadly, subsequent investi-Initially, the zoning resolution did not stipulate strong de- University Graduate School of Design, is a leading expert gations have found that the state of the POPS has notsign guidelines, basic amenity provisions or a standard in the field and has conducted extensive research that changed dramatically since Kayden conducted the studyset of rules and regulations regarding usage. Thus, many found many of the POPS underutilized and inaccessible. 12 years ago.“first-generation spaces,” which account for one-thirdof current POPS, lack the fundamental assets that makepublic spaces appealing and practical for public use.2 kayden’s 2000 study on the state of popsMany of them lack adequate seating, greenery, shade,signage or accessibility. Further adjustments to thezoning resolution were made in the 1970’s and 1980’s,most notably after William H. Whyte’s research on publicspaces, which analyzed human behavior in urban set-tings.3 In 2007, the New York City Council modified thetext on the standards for the creation and design ofoutdoor POPS and followed in 2009 with an addition Under Construction: 4%to clarify and enhance the previous provisions.4 Both Marginally Useful: 41%sets of changes are intended to facilitate higher-qualitydesign and development of these public spaces in order Short-term Rest Spots: 21%to make them more inviting to citizens. Destination Hangout: 16% Pedestrian Passageways: 21%2 ‘Privately Owned Public Spaces’ accessed10/10/123 ‘Project for Public Spaces’ accessed 10/14/124 ‘Privately Owned Public Spaces’ accessed 10/1012 Sadly, subsequent investigations have found that the state of the POPS has not5 Kayden Jerold. Privately Owned PublicSpaces (New York : John Wiley & Sons, 2000)pg. 51 changed dramatically since Kayden conducted the study twelve years ago.Huge Whitepaper October 2012 3
  4. 4. 2Methods & research.The Municipal Art Society (MAS), a non-profit organiza- mediocre. Only 20 POPS were ranked as “inviting.” In Who are the core stakeholders in the POPS system?tion dedicated to the improvement of New York City, has terms of usage, only 15 POPS had a medium or high (3 Through our research, we identified four core stakehold-partnered with Kayden to form Advocates for Privately to 5 points) user flow score, while the rest were close to ers that are intrinsic to the POPS system.Owned Public Space (APOPS), in order to establish a set empty. More than 30% of these spaces had no signageof guiding principles for revitalizing POPS, encourage identifying them as a public space. Much of the signagethe creation of new POPS and strengthen the dialogue that did exist in the remaining POPS was hidden andaround public spaces in general. MAS and APOPS col- quite varied in style, size and information.laborated with Huge, a global digital agency based inBrooklyn, to explore these issues and investigate howtechnology might be able to help improve local POPS.Huge staffers conducted user and stakeholder research Huge Research Findingsin order to devise a strategic plan to employ technologyto support APOPS’s mission. Manhattan POPS in Study 70Huge researchers conducted 15 stakeholder interviews, Uninviting POPS 30facilitated 20 visitor discussions and collected data Mediocre POPS 20from 70 POPS throughout Manhattan. Participants wereasked to rate, on a scale of one to five, each space’s Inviting POPS 20attractiveness, pedestrian traffic and accessibility. Theteam also collected information about each space’samenities and POPS-specific signage.Out of 70 POPS, 30 were found to be uninviting to thepublic by being completely barren or limiting publicaccessibility, while another 20 spaces were consideredHuge Whitepaper October 2012 4
  5. 5. 3Current interactionbetween POPS stakeholders.Communication between the main stakeholders in POPS Often, owners would like to update their spaces but theyis lacking, and in many cases non-existent. Given the aren’t quite sure what exactly to do or where to incentives and resources dedicated to POPS The information related to this process is housed deepby the City and property owners, the existing interac- within the website and is difficult to find.tion between government, owners and users is mostlyfacilitated by advocacy organizations, such as business Owner & Advocate Relationshipimprovement districts (BIDs), community boards and The advocate group consists of multiple organizations,non-profit organizations. like MAS, whose missions revolve around the empow- erment and support of New York City residents andCity Government & Owner Relationship enterprises. The dotted double arrow above representsThe main line of communication that exists between a weak relationship between some owners and somestakeholders is from the Department of City Planning to advocates. Owners may approach organizations likeprivate owners. This occurs when City Planning informs APOPS for advice on their POPS and inversely, APOPSowners of the rules and guidelines for their particular may facilitate a dialogue and assist enthusiastic ownersPOPS and the overall POPS program. After that, when with the process of improving the space. BIDs repre-owners wish to update their spaces—even just to add sent the interests of companies within their designatedan extra tree—they must secure approval from City neighborhoods, so they have an excellent opportunityPlanning first. Furthermore, owners of spaces that were to broker collaborations between these businesses andbuilt before the 2007 amendment find it difficult to make POPS owners. Many owners view their POPS spacesadjustments without revealing a longer list of mainte- as lacking an essential return on investment and wouldnance updates required by City Planning. The process ideally like to rent out part of the space to vendors. An supported a zoning amendment that would allow tablesof obtaining approval could take months and eventu- example of this partnership can be seen in the Financial Dis- and chairs to be set up in the 17 empty arcades alongally ends with owners being forced to add features they trict, where the Downtown Alliance and Community Board 1 Water Street, between Fulton and Whitehall Streets.hadn’t intended, despite a lack of budget to fund them.Huge Whitepaper October 2012 5
  6. 6. lower manhattan arcades modification text amendment 6 1/2011Initially, these covered arcades, “continuous covered of buildings and neighborhoods. They do this mostlyspaces fronting on and open to a street,”8 were built for through their websites, publications or media outreach.the purpose of providing pedestrians with protection No simple, centralized method of disseminating thisfrom severe weather and overcrowded sidewalks, and information currently exists.they were prohibited from including any sort of furni- Advocates, such as Community Boards, also act asture or sit down café, so people could pass through the intermediaries between users and the city government,space easily. In 2011, New York City Government, with by communicating the public’s concerns to localthe help of the Downtown Alliance, City Planning and politicians. The main role of Community Boards is toCommunity Board 1, adopted an amendment that would address important grievances from community residentsallow owners to put chairs and rent out their arcade and bring them to the attention of City to cafes, as long as 40% of the furniture was There are 59 community boards throughout New Yorkavailable for public use.9 The Downtown Alliance also City, with up to 50 members in each board. Each boardassisted owners and local businesses by providing the is overseen by a District Manager in charge of improvingresources to find furniture for these arcades. the services provided by the City government to his or her neighborhood.10Advocate & User Relationship 6 ‘City Land’ 9 ‘City Land’ relationship between users and advocates is similar public-cafes-ok%E2%80%99d-in-water- public-cafes-ok%E2%80%99d-in-water- street-corridor-arcades/#more-2469 ac- street-corridor-arcades/#more-2469to the one between owners and advocates. Occasion- cessed 10/10/12 http://www.citylandnyc. ‘NYC Mayors Community Affairs Unit’ 10 org/public-cafes-ok%E2%80%99d-in-, advocates will inform users about matters related to water-street-corridor-arcades/#more-2469 about.shtml Kayden Jerold. Privately Owned Public html/cb/about.shtmlNew York City, from legalities to the historical importance 8 Spaces (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2000), 26.Huge Whitepaper October 2012 6
  7. 7. Current POPS Relationship Ecosystem:As shown in the chart below, the only strong relationshipexists between the government and the owners.Meanwhile, advocates are only connected to the other The City of New Yorkstakeholders—owners, government and users—via has granted more thanweak ties. There is no interaction at all on this subject 20 millionbetween users and owners or between users and citygovernment. square feet of floor area bonuses and other concessions to private developers in return for their provision of 503 public spaces. –Jerold S. Kayden Privately Owned Public Spaces11 Kayden Jerold. Privately Owned Public Spaces11(New York: John Wiley & Sons, :2000) pg. 43Huge Whitepaper October 2012 7
  8. 8. 4Supporting advocacywith technology. Establishing a dynamic, seamless digital platform can APOPS can reposition itself as a non-profit brand thatHuge has developed a framework improve the POPS relationship ecosystem. By strength- provides valuable services and establish its identityfor a centralized digital platform to ening the existing relationships, digital can also create with a new logo, destination website, spokesperson forimprove the following areas for these indirect relationships between users and owners and, appearances and media opportunities, and an advisorycore stakeholders: eventually, between users and the city government. board made up of influential community members. Once 1. Communication stream. Below are some examples of digital tools that can aid in the APOPs brand has been established, it can facilitate improving the POPS system and relationships between public engagement through several digital channels. 2. Incentives to better maintain, regulate & update POPS. stakeholders. These resources should be made available via an extensive new POPS website that would serve as 3. Information accessibility. a portal to any necessary digital materials. Lack of public engagement can also be attributed to 4. Unified POPS identity and public awareness. the absence of a larger POPS “brand” identity, lack of awareness and failure to provide the public with the proper platform for engagement. Non-profit organiza- tions have traditionally been wary of talk about branding but most have come to realize how important it is to achieving their goals. For example, Amnesty Interna- tional spent five years establishing its global brand. “ It would be so great if New Yorkers knew these spaces existed, that they were available to them for use. If there was a responbility on the part of the owner to welcome them into that space.” –Alyson Navarro, HugeHuge Whitepaper October 2012 8
  9. 9. city Government & Owner for different amenities and uses, such as greenery, lunch be solved with a robust resource library that contains anRelationship Improvements break or scenic view. A POPS Awards program that easy search mechanism and a specific filter scheme. If bestows annual honors upon these best-in-class POPS users could filter their searches by attributes like type® Resource library with robust search and filters would be a fantastic publicity opportunity for the spaces of space, location, size, desired amenities and intended ® Tips and ideas for updating a space and their owners, thus achieving two goals—awareness use, it would allow owners to efficiently find the informa- ® Directory of local developers, architects, of POPS and owner incentives. tion they need. landscapers and designers ® Rules and regulations for various types of POPS One of the reasons owners are hesitant to undertake the Owners could choose to Adopt a Space as Lincoln Cen- ® Furniture ideas and options task of updating their POPS is the lack of knowledge on ter did with the The David Rubenstein Atrium. The atrium ® Guidelines for maintaining POPS how to begin. Each type of space (arcade, plaza, circula- was first constructed as The Harmony Atrium but was ® Adopt a Space program tion or destination) has its own set of allowances and “adopted” in 2009 by The Lincoln Center due to neglect® ROI calculator application specific restrictions, in terms of size, location, neigh- and poor usage. Now, the Rubenstein Atrium serves borhood-specific zoning laws and more. Materials that as Lincoln Center’s “front porch,” providing free weeklyOver time, the amount of rent earned from the additional explain these details are located on the website performances, free WiFi, ample sitting area and a smallsquare-footage provided to developers and owners but, again, they’re very difficult to find. Owners lack easy food vendor.12when they agreed to participate in the POPS program access to information about inexpensive developers,becomes negligible. That additional revenue stream Making it easier for owners to maintain their POPS also architects or designers with public space experience,ceases to be connected to the public space, becom- benefits the government because a more success- or where they can purchase cheap and sturdy furnitureing integrated into the overall revenue made by owners. ful POPS program would encourage more owners to for both indoor and outdoor use. This challenge couldMany owners find the amount of time and money it takes opt into the program to create them. Plus, the revenueto preserve or renovate a space actually creates a nega- earned by owners from their POPS is funneled back totive return on investment. In fact, owners have no knowl- the government through taxes.edge of how much ROI (both tangible and intangible) adecent public space can bring to them. Unfortunately,there is no existing method of determining how muchrent money, publicity or community goodwill that ownerscan garner as a result of a well-maintained POPS.The envisioned solution would include the developmentof an online ROI Calculator application that would deter-mine user traffic, benefits to the public and the owners,and monetary ROI for particular spaces. The data col-lected by the ROI Calculator could also provide evidencethat the positive gains from a well-maintained POPS areworth the cost and effort. The city government could ‘Lincoln Center’ http://aboutlincolncenter. 12use these analytics to determine which POPS are best org/pdfs/transforming/factsheet-atrium.pdfHuge Whitepaper October 2012 9
  10. 10. The APOPS website should also include an online press- Advocate & User Relationship Improvements room that provides information, media coverage, social ® Social Media media profile links, a high-resolution logo, contact infor- ® Facebook mation for major players both inside and outside of the ® Twitter APOPS organization, press releases and any advertising ® foursquare collateral. This toolkit will keep the most relevant and ® Instagram trending stories related to POPS in one place that is easy to access and view. ® Empty Space for use ® About this Space APOPS could also display profile pages for various ® Map & Location Finder with Filters POPS on the site, to give owners the chance to show ® Schedule of Events them off and attract visitors. They could allow owners to ® Rate a Space claim ownership of their POPS profile page and update it whenever they have new information or photos, similar ® Report a Prblem to the way that business owners can claim and update ® Suggestions their pages on Yelp or foursquare. If owners have emptyOwner & Advocate Relationship Improvements Public engagement with POPS is fundamental to APOPS spaces they would like to offer to artisans to display mission. Yet, out of the four core groups invested in® POPS case studies their exhibits, digital installations or performing arts, they POPS, the users are the least involved and aware of the® Nearby vendor and local business guide for could post this on their POPS profile page to attract potential partnerships POPS system. Even though these spaces are ultimately proposals from possible partners. built for the improvement of resident livability, very few® Press kit user needs are actually taken into account when devel-® Affiliated programs oping these spaces. The majority of the New York City® Marketplace to rent/lend empty POPS space public is not aware that POPS exist.Ideally, APOPS would be in charge of maintaining thecentralized POPS digital platform and ecosystem. Advo-cate organizations like APOPS would provide the con-tent and assume responsibility for maintaining the digital privately owned public spaces, classified total: 503environment, including the development of POPS casestudies that could be updated quarterly or annually. Thecases would showcase the best POPS and inspire otherPOPS owners by demonstrating the opportunities for theirspaces. Much of the data used in these case studiescould be collected via the ROI Calculator tool, while local DE E E A G ON A IA R A DE A AC RS AZ IN AZ HEbusiness improvement districts could provide insight AZ AZ ER CA TI CA EN SP OU PL PL OT PL PL LL EC AR AR ID NC GA AN L N NN ED IA W BA K COinto neighborhood schools, vendors and businesses that RI AT CO OC NT K K UR OC ST AL EV R BL DE K AI DE BL W OC EL SI H DE EN PE BL UG RE Hare willing to collaborate on kiosks, cafes, events or other SI UG OP RO D H RE RO UG TH VE THaffiliated programs that would earn revenue. RO CO THHuge Whitepaper October 2012 10
  11. 11. In addition to its website, APOPS should create a small, ® Browse foursquare check-ins, Tweets, and Facebook/ dedicated team to develop, monitor and maintain a Instagram photos of the spacedynamic presence on various social media platforms, ® Schedule of upcoming eventssuch as Facebook, Twitter, foursquare, Instagram and/or Pinterest. Manhattan’s Bryant Park is a great example Users could use this application while on-the-go, toof a similar organization that uses social media well, as find a nearby POPS with the features they desire at theit has profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Flickr and time. For example, if a person is looking for an outdoorYouTube, plus a blog. Like Bryant Park, APOPS team space to relax and grab a snack, a quiet space to read,members would be constantly responding to users, or somewhere to sit and admire the view, the app wouldproducing and disseminating content, broadcasting provide directions to the closest ideal locale. By makingnews, generating conversation and positioning APOPS users’ lives easier, the app would make it more likely thatas an active thought leader in the field, in order to current POPS users would visit more often and tell oth-sustain and grow followers. The High Line has a multi- ers, thus increasing usage via word-of-mouth.platform social media communications strategy and Owner & User Relationship Improvementsits Facebook page has more than 58,000 fans, as aresult of its frequent updates with beautiful photos and Feedback and ratings on POPS provided by users in ainformation about the park. public forum—via the mobile app or website—would also create an indirect relationship between usersA smartphone application or mobile website that rewards and owners, through that feedback channel. Positivepeople for using it inside and outside the spaces would feedback from visitors would help demonstrate thealso be beneficial. The application could allow users to: community goodwill benefits to owners, while negative® GPS-enabled POPS location finder with robust feedback could inspire the owners to invest in making search and filters improvements. Content provided by owners and® See information about the space designed to inform users about events or empty spaces ® Owner contact information for use, for example, would establish a reciprocated ® Hours of operation online relationship. ® Amenities ® Visitor rules and regulations ® History ® Designer and architect Information® Read and submit reviews/comments ® Report a problemHuge Whitepaper October 2012 11
  12. 12. 5Conclusion.Incentives for each type of stakeholder would also be Out of all the New York City residents Huge approached likely to use his or her smartphone. These specific casesenhanced through the use of a digital system, seam- during the study, not a single one knew what privately of context will help identify what parts of the ecosystemlessly integrated across all platforms. A website for owned public spaces were. Awareness about POPS is need to be optimized for different platforms.POPS that is tailored to various use cases (owners, the first step in producing an engaged user group. This Given how much NYC residents need and use appealingBIDs, community boards, publics, architects, designers) includes creating an identity the public can relate to and open spaces, it is a shame to let available resources likewill be more efficient and effective in appealing to the engage with beyond the physical limitations of the spac- POPS go to waste. Well-designed, diverse open spacesdesired users. If digital can help reduce the amount of es. Even if all the proper digital tools are built, no one will are precious and essential to the improvement of overalltime owners spend trying to renovate their POPS, they use them unless they are launched in an identifiable and city livability. Technology can facilitate communicationmay be more willing to go through that process. Linking unique manner. An awareness campaign for POPS has between owners, city government, advocates and users,relevant vendors, artists, owners and organizations to to constantly connect with the rest of the POPS digital as well as provide information and incentives that will en-one another for collaborative opportunities can decrease ecosystem, including: gage the various stakeholders in improving POPS.the amount of money spent by one company and facili- ® Website that makes it easy for stakeholders totate ways to reinvent these spaces to make them more communicate and find necessary informationengaging, current and exciting for all parties involved.“ ® Optimized mobile website or app for users on-the-go It is not just the number of people and within the spaces using them, but the larger number ® Updated, contemporized logo and signage ® Fully developed and frequently-updated social who pass by and enjoy them media presence vicariously, or even the larger number who feel better about the city center It is imperative that context of usage for each stake- holder group is explored when developing this digital for knowledge of them. For a city, ecosystem. For example, a property owner is more likely such places are priceless, whatever to go to a laptop or desktop to search for a landscaper, the cost.” whereas a user looking for a place to eat lunch is more –William H. Whyte, ‘Project for Public Spaces’Huge Whitepaper October 2012 12