By Paul Bisceglio
With Occupy Wall Street’s one-year anniversary celebration in the Financial District on the way, New York citizens and city officials are wondering if the NYC General Assembly’s merry band of protesters or other public advocacy groups might have anything else in the works this year to commemorate the movement’s inaugural September 17 occupation of Zuccotti Park.
Another occupation, perhaps?
Professor of Urban Planning Michael Levine doesn’t know when the next wave of public advocacy groups will hit, but he can say where in lower Manhattan occupation is most likely take place. Levine recently challenged his Pace University students to venture out into the city to find its most vulnerable plazas by identifying and surveying Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS) — publicly accessible outdoor places that, like Zuccotti Park, are owned by commercial companies, not the city.
POPS have been ubiquitous in Manhattan since the city’s 1961 Zoning Resolution introduced a floor area bonus program that allowed developers to build taller buildings if their constructions plans included outdoor plazas. They tend to be more occupation-friendly than city-owned parks because some are open 24/7, some fail to display rules and regulations that would prevent large gatherings and many are owned by the large businesses that public advocacy groups oppose.
Levine’s students rated 28 POPS south of Canal Street on a scale of 0 to 4, invulnerable to highly vulnerable. They based their rating on four categories: convenience, size, (lack of) signage and reputation of owner. The following three plazas scored over 3.0, making them the Top of the POPS — the three privately owned public spaces in lower Manhattan most vulnerable to occupation:
Area: 3,347 square feet
Student Nellyn Caraballo gave this plaza across from Zuccotti Park major points for its high traffic location along Broadway and its big time corporate owners, but noted that it is too small and busy for group occupancy — plus the owners were clever enough to post a sign prohibiting camping.
388 Greenwich Street
Owner: Salomon Smith Barney
Area: 51,635 square feet
A huge, visible area with benches, grass and trees makes this Tribeca park ideal for group gatherings, according to student Arlida Bucaj, and the park’s corporate owners make it all the more enticing. The location lost points for clear signage, though nothing is posted to prohibit sleeping.
59 Maiden Lane
Owner: Amtrust Realty Corporation
This capacious plaza surrounds part of the New York City Finance Department at the intersection of Maiden Lane and William Street. The plaza scored big on size, absent signage and suit-wearing owner. The majority of the plaza is open concrete, however, with scatterings of trees and benches on the ends, so student Erin Hanraty deducted points for convenience and comfort. The plaza might be a great place to occupy, but protestors better be sure to bring some chairs and padding, as well as well as watch out for trampling commuters.
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