Signage and Penalties for Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS) Proposed by Council Members Kallos, Greenfield and Garodnick


New York, NY – Over 538 privately owned public spaces (POPS) attached to 329 buildings face new legislation which imposes steep fines for bad landlords who violate the terms of their agreements with the City. In exchange for turning part of the building lot into an open or green space for public use, developers are typically allowed to build taller than the zoning code allows. The building owner is responsible for maintaining the space. Despite this legal requirement, many building owners have illegally closed off these spaces to the public or sought to use them for another purpose. The legislation is authored by Council Member Ben Kallos with sponsorship by Council Member Dan Garodnick, who together represent the POPS-dense Upper East Side, as well as Council Member David Greenfield, Chair of the City Council Committee on Land Use.
In August 2016, Trump Tower Commercial, LLC, was fined $10,000 for violating its POPS agreement by having an unapproved sales counter in a space designated for the public. The New York Times highlighted the shortcomings and non-compliance of POPS in 1977, 1987, and 1998, followed by the publication of “Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience,” authored by Jerold Kayden and the Municipal Art Society in 2000. The legislation follows on the heels of the Land Use Committee’s oversight hearing on POPS and Int. 1219 in June of 2016.
The legislation targets bad landlords who fail to live up to their side of the bargain with fines of $10,000 for the first offense, $20,000 for each additional offense, and $2,500 for each month they fail to deliver. Additional legislation requires signage at all POPS detailing amenities and hours of operation, along with the website where the public can find more information, and a statement that the public can register complaints via the website or by calling 311.

  • Int 1487-2017. by Kallos would require all privately owned public spaces to display signage including the following information: a list of required amenities, a notice that the space is open to the public, and the contact information for making a complaint about the privately owned public space.
  • Int 1488-2017. by Kallos would increase from $4,000 to $10,000 the minimum penalty for a violation of the legal requirements applicable to a privately owned public space, add a second offense penalty of $25,000, and a continuing penalty of $2500 for each month during which the landlord is violating the agreement.

“Unless you are a landlord who happens to be running for president of the United States you won’t be under the same scrutiny as Donald Trump was,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Landlords get away without making good on their word to provide public amenities in exchange for more building and this legislation aims to put an end to that.”
"Without clear rules, privately owned public spaces have a tendency to lose their public character over time," said Council Member Dan Garodnick. "With this bill, we can make sure that property owners keep their commitments, and that the public understands their rights to the space."

“The pockets of open space amid our dense city give us a break from the bustle of the everyday, which is so important to the quality of urban life. POPS play an especially important role on the Upper East Side, where parks and open space represent just one percent of land use, but many people are unaware that these spaces are for the public,” said Franny Eberhart, President of the Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts. “Mandating detailed signage and holding building owners accountable for the maintenance of these spaces is a much-needed step toward improving access to high-quality public spaces across the city, and particularly on the Upper East Side.”
“New York’s network of POPS provides 80 acres of open space in some of the most congested neighborhoods in the city. Despite the best aims of the 1961 Zoning Resolution, the lack of a strong monitoring mechanism has allowed too many POPS to deteriorate,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, President of The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS.) “MAS applauds Council Members Ben Kallos, David Greenfield, and Dan Garodnick for introducing this bill—an important step towards ensuring that our valuable civic spaces are open, accessible, and well-maintained.”