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Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience Hardcover – October 23, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0471362579 ISBN-10: 0471362573 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews


"This extensive work provides for the first time a detailed look at the city's experience, pro and con, through photographs, maps, site plans, observed behaviors, and extensive notes." (, 5/08)

"The Introduction to Privately Owned Private Space is a history of New York City's attempts at planning and zoning beginning in 1916 and continuing to the present. The detail of the history is sharp while not talking down to the novice, and the politics is fascinating." (, April 25, 2001)

"The book should also appeal to any enthusiast of urban spaces anywhere in the world, because the lessons learned in the "Big Apple" are applicable anywhere. This is a history book, an incredibly detailed map of the New York City, and a lesson in civics all rolled into one." (F.L. Andrew Padian,

"This long overdue collaborative effort among urban planning professor Jerold Kayden, New York City's Department of Planning, and the Municipal Art Society, and involving dozens of researchers, is one of the most important books to be published about New York City in years.... Along the same lines, in today's publishing environment, most commercial trade publishers would not likely be interested, and too many high-quality, general interest, New York City-related titles must vie for the limited resources of a few university presses or very small publishing houses that do not have the resources to take on this kind of project -- congratulations to John Wiley for publishing this book." (Bradley Beach Books, 9/01)

From the Inside Flap

As cities around the world seek new ways to improve their physical, social, and economic environments, they are paying greater attention to the value of public space. Provision of new plazas and parks, reclamation of existing waterfronts, and beautification of public streets are all increasingly viewed as important strategies for enhancing the quality of urban living. With scarce public dollars available, cities are teaming with the private sector in innovative public-private partnerships to fund these approaches.

One of the most significant public-private partnerships to obtain urban public space has been pioneered in New York City under the rubric of privately owned public space. Since 1961, hundreds of office and residential towers have received zoning floor area bonuses to encourage the provision of a wide variety of outdoor and indoor spaces - plazas, arcades, atriums - that are legally required to be open and accessible to the public. At their best, these spaces marry aesthetics with function, offering unique physical and social environments within a densely packed urban center. At their worst, they are barren, unusable surfaces or privatized-by-management spaces that diminish the spirit underlying the laws that created them.

Until now, comprehensive, systematic knowledge about this vast collection of public spaces has not existed, either for experts or members of the public. To remedy this gap, Harvard University professor Jerold S. Kayden, The New York City Department of City Planning, and The Municipal Art Society of New York have joined forces to research and write Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience. Through words, photographs, scaled site plans, maps, and analysis of newly assembled data, they examine the history, law, design, and use of the city's privately owned public spaces. Each of the more than 500 spaces is individually discussed to provide far-reaching comparative information about this unique category of public space.

In reading this book, designers, planners, lawyers, and academics will gain greater understanding about the possibilities and problems inherent in the design, management, and enforcement of privately owned public space. Public officials, private owners, and civic group representatives will learn more about their roles in ensuring public access and vitality of such spaces. Individuals will discover where New York City's public spaces are located and what amenities they offer. Everyone will comprehend more completely the contribution that privately owned public space can make toward open and attractive cities in which all individuals have access to a diversity of public places.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1st edition (October 23, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471362573
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471362579
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 1 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,178,151 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By "" on December 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book is divided into two parts. Part One (about 20% of the book) describes the history, law, and expeirence with publicly owned private spaces. Part Two describes and evaluates each of New York's 503 spaces.
You might think that a discussion of the law and history of publicly owned private spaces might appeal only to city planners, developers and lawyers. You would be wrong. It would be hard to find a more lucid and balanced discussion of what happens when politicians attempt to direct the course of urban development. Anyone interested in public policy will find this discussion illuminating.
The descriptions of the spaces in Part Two combine a critical examination of the architecture and design with a practical discussion of how well these spaces work or, in many cases, don't work. Anyone who lives in or visits New York City could spend a fascinating day visiting these spaces with this book in hand.
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Format: Hardcover
The wonder of this book is that it exists at all. The amount of research needed to put together descriptions, including map/layouts of 550 buildings is mind boggling. The fact the spaces exist at all adds to the allure. This hybrid solution is a way for developers to build higher than they would otherwise be allowed. In exchange, they agree to make public some of their street level space. Sometimes this just means an enlarged sidewalk. Sometimes it is an entirely enclosed atrium. In midtown, a number of buildings mid block between Sixth and Seventh have created broad passages, some interior, some exterior, through their buildings, so that pedestrians can walk right through five or six blocks without having to go to the corner and back. In blustery winter, they are a godsend.

In all cases, it means the space is open to all, meaning you don't need an employee pass or have to go through Security to enter. That some spaces are locked up in violation of the agreement should be no surprise. Unless you've read this book, there's essentially no way to know if you have the "right" to enter or not.

This is a classic New York solution: bizarre, convoluted and inefficiently enforced. But like everything else in New York, it works, adding to the fabulous livability reputation the city so deserves.

This book not only details the space, but also the agreements with the city, making it a hugely important document as time goes on and records are "forgotten". It's all here, in one well laid out, easy to read place.

David Wineberg
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