MAS Testimony to Land Use Committee regarding Water Street Upgrades Text Amendment N 160166 ZRM
June 13th, 2016, 10:17 am
MAS Testimony to Land Use Committee regarding Water Street Upgrades Text Amendment N 160166 ZRM. June 13, 2016 Position The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) is not aware of any revisions to the proposed Water Street Upgrades Text Amendment. As such, MAS reiterates that we are opposed to the proposed amendment without the inclusion of the recommended modifications outlined in our May 4, 2016 testimony, which are also included herein. Background MAS believes an abundance of high quality public space is essential to the well-being of our city. Truly accessible and connected public spaces that are well-designed and thoughtfully programmed add vibrancy to our streets, strengthens our civic culture, and enhances the value of neighborhoods. As such, MAS applauds the efforts of the Alliance for Downtown New York (ADNY), the Department of City Planning (DCP), and the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to improve the Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS) in the Water Street corridor. Many of the POPS in this area were built during an era that subscribed to different ideas about the role of cities, principles of urban planning, and approaches to the architecture of public space than we have today. As a result, most of the POPS in the Water Street corridor are considered by many to be uninviting, lacking vibrancy, an impediment to investment, and, in some cases, unsafe. In fact, as noted in Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience, a book jointly published in 2000 by MAS, DCP and Jerold S. Kayden, a qualitative assessment of the POPS in this area found that many received the worst rating. Thus, we are in favor of reimagining these POPS to ensure they are welcoming places for residents, workers, and visitors that offer space for respite and contemplation while also activating the street realm. MAS supports the important goals the project sponsors seek through this text amendment; however, we recommend the following modifications to the current proposal: Recommended Modifications Set a City-wide Precedent – There are 525 POPS across the City of New York and many of them are also poorly designed and maintained, and could benefit from similar creative solutions initiated for the Water Street corridor. The Water Street corridor represents only 3% of the total number of POPS in the city in need of activation or reimagining. We urge DCP and EDC to develop a city-wide approach that would provide all property owners the framework, tools, and incentive to improve their underperforming POPS. Establish a Public Review Process for Deaccessioning POPS – A public review process should be established to assess on a case-by-case basis each POPS proposed to be removed from the inventory, in which there would be:
- An expressed finding that no public interest is served by continued existence of the public space under review and applicants must explore all alternatives to eliminating the spaces, short of deaccessioning;
- A commitment by the property owner that additional public benefits will be secured by its removal;
- A quantitative assessment of any financial gain accruing to the owner from this action and a plan that no such gain will be larger than necessary to encourage the owner to remove the space and provide the additional public benefits; and
- The case-by-case assessment for each deaccessioned POPS should be conducted pursuant to a Chairperson’s Certification, if not a City Planning Commission Certification.