Privately owned public spaces are great when they work. But many POPS are neglected or poorly designed. That’s why the City Council just allowed some along Water Street downtown to become retail spaces. Critics, including the Municipal Art Society, said the city gave away a public good without getting enough back.
Such problems are often addressed piecemeal, but POPS need a more comprehensive approach because the public benefit could be greater. The value of floor height is measurable, the extra tax revenue collectible. Some of that should be reinvested in the infrastructure that is strained when taller buildings bring more commuters and residents into neighborhoods.
The city’s infrastructure is crumbling: Transit is overcrowded, and old power lines and sewers remain vulnerable to outages and storms. The city can’t depend on Albany. But the private sector can step up—and benefit from the upgrades that could make New York a better place to live and work.