The City Council passed legislation this week that will slap landlords with steep fines if they mess with their buildings’ privately-owned public spaces, also known as POPS.
The city currently has over 538 POPS attached to 329 different buildings. These types of spaces are often used as a bargaining chip for developers looking to build larger: They dedicate a portion of their property to the city for use as public space, agreeing to provide amenities like bike racks, seating, trees and drinking fountains; in return, the city lets them construct taller or more dense buildings.
But for years, landlords have fell short, or have not complied, on their promises in providing such space. This year Comptroller Scott Stringer audited 333 POPS and discovered that 275 had not been inspected by Department of Buildings in four years, while more than half failed to provide all the required amenities.
One such violator is Donald Trump, who helped bring attention to the issue in 2015 after a black marble bench vanished from the pedestrian atrium of Trump Tower and was replaced with an unapproved sales counter. It has since reappeared, but the Trump Organization was still fined $10,000. In response to the bench drama, three new bills to protect POPS were introduced in the City Council this year, sponsored by Council Members Ben Kallos and Daniel Garodnick.
The bill passed this week requires landlords to provide the amenities promised or face steep fines. Penalties are now $4,000 for the first offense, $10,000 for each additional offense, and a penalty of $250 for each month they fail to deliver.
Other legislation from Council Members Kallos and Garodnick requires additional signage in all POPS detailing amenities and hours of operation, as well as a website for the public to find more information or to register complaints.
A prior report in the Wall Street Journal found that the POPS throughout the city provide about 3.5 million square feet of public space, roughly equivalent to 10 percent of Central Park. (The Municipal Art Society even has a tool to find a POPS near you.) And in exchange, landlords have been given the right to build an additional 23 million square feet, more space than eight Empire State Buildings.