Professor Jerold Kayden on occupying Wall Street at the public-private frontier

Oct 15, 2011
Occupy Wall Street

In future years, people will remember 2011 as the year in which physical public space reclaimed its lofty status in the public sphere thanks to the audacious actions of engaged individuals.

From Tahrir Square to Zuccotti Park, physical public space has aggressively reminded the world of its centrality in accommodating and nurturing political debate and protest.

Public spaces come in many flavors. They include city-owned streets, sidewalks, and parks. In New York and other cities, they also include a zoning-created variety known as privately owned public space. Through a technique known as incentive zoning, New York since 1961 has encouraged developers of office and residential skyscrapers to provide a now-substantial array of close to 550 plazas, arcades, and indoor spaces in return for valuable zoning concessions. The most valuable concession of all has been bonus floor area, and the City has thus granted more than 20 million square feet of extra building area for developers. Although the spaces differ in terms of the legal specifics that created them, the signature requirement is that they be usable by the public.

Zuccotti Park is one such privately owned public space, although referring to it as one in 550 understates the seismic role it is currently playing. The many actors in this unfolding drama—the activists of Occupy Wall Street using the space, space-owner Brookfield Properties, various agencies and officials of the City—including the police—as well as neighbors and other members of the public have a stake in understanding the possibilities and limitations for continued occupation. Initially at least, such greater understanding requires unearthing and characterizing the specific legal actions that created the space. Read the full article.

Excerpt from Architect's Newspaper, October 12, 2011, by Jerold S. Kayden, Frank Backus Williams Professor of Urban Planning and Design and Director of the Master in Urban Planning Degree Program

Photo credit: Tom Stoelker / AN


News: Professor Jerold Kayden on occupying Wall Street at the public-private frontier

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