NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer is calling on the city’s Department of Buildings to do a top-down review of private-owned public spaces (POPS) in the city after his latest audit found that many buildings were still in violation of the laws, and obstructed or restricted entry to the public.
This is Stringer’s second audit of POPS sites within the same year. The results of the first audit were published this past April, and in it Stringer’s office found that of the 333 POPS sites they had surveyed 182 sites were non-compliant with the existing laws.
For the second audit, Stringer’s office looked at a sample of 34 POPS sites within that earlier group of 182 non-compliant sites. A staggering 32 were still non-compliant, according to Stringer’s analysis.
“New Yorkers are getting cheated out of public resources – and the developers are getting benefits and giving back nothing in return,” said Stringer in a statement.
Stringer’s latest report states that it had presented the DOB with the initial audit, but that the agency has declined to enforce POPS regulations since, or fine building owners who are in violation. The DOB will only perform inspections when an individual complaint about a specific site is made, according to Stringer’s office.
“DOB’s disregard of the facts, its denial of documented evidence, and its ineffective monitoring procedures enable building owners to break their agreements,” said Stringer, in a statement. “This is utterly preventable.”
In the sites that Stringer’s office surveyed, they noticed a variety of violations: in some cases access was restricted by a barricade or fence, in some cases there were signs that said “for private use only,” and in some instances restaurants were occupying these public spaces with outdoor seating.
Stringer is now asking that the DOB inspect all 333 locations, prioritizing the 182 non-compliant ones, that the agency have a strict monitoring policy, and that it should especially monitor them during warmer months when some outdoor POPS would be more readily visible.
This new audit follows legislation passed by the City Council last week that will slap landlords with heftier fines if they violate the POPS agreement.
UPDATE 11/22/17: The DOB issued the following statement to Curbed:
“We will be conducting regular inspections of all POPS in the city.”