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Merit Award - RESEARCH

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Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience

Jerold S. Kayden in collaboration with New York City Department of City Planning and Municipal Art Society of New York

Jerold S. Kayden
Associate Professor of Urban Planning
Harvard Graduate School of Design
48 Quincy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Tel. 617-496-0830;
Fax 617-868-2980
jkayden@gsd.harvard.edu


Project Purpose

The principal research purpose was to evaluate New York City's 39-year pioneering program of using zoning law to encourage the provision of 503 publicly accessible plazas, parks, arcades, atria, and other public spaces at private office and residential towers in the city's densest commercial and residential precincts. The other major purpose was to identify for the first time which spaces were, indeed, legally required to be accessible and usable by the public, and what legal obligations governing design and amenities such as seating, landscaping, water elements, and public art attached to such spaces. By creating this record, evaluating the spaces, and making the results of the research study available to members of the public, city agencies, civic organizations, owners, designers, and scholars through a book and computer database, the project intended to encourage greater use of existing public spaces, discourage privatization through design and operation by private owners, and instigate new research on better approaches to securing usable public space.

Role of the Entrant

The entrant, an urban planning professor with a planning and legal background, directed the research project and wrote the book, Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience (John Wiley & Sons 2000), that presented the results of the research study.

The entrant completed the research project and book in collaboration with the New York City Department of City Planning and the Municipal Art Society of New York.

Special Factors

Other than the inherent difficulty presented by the initial research task of collecting and analyzing thousands of plans, legal documents, and other data produced over a 39-year period and stored or missing at the offices of numerous city agencies, private architecture and landscape architecture firms, and building owners, there were no special factors or unusual problems.

Significance

The project has significantly enhanced public understanding of the role that public design standards conceived and implemented by designers and planners play in the creation, operation, and performance of public spaces in cities across the country. The project demonstrated that zoning law containing inadequate standards for the design of public space produces bad public spaces, and that intelligent design standards based on careful analysis of public space use would and did produce good public spaces.

 


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