By Ron Hine | FBW | April 26, 2017
On July 20, 2016, auditors from the office of the New York City Comptroller arrived at 101 Barclay Street in Manhattan to perform an inspection of the ground floor public space. The Department of City Planning granted the owner additional height and density in exchange for an agreement to provide a public lobby.
Building security officials stopped the auditors from taking photographs and told them they were prohibited from making further entry into the building’s lobby. Building security informed the auditors that this lobby has been closed to the public for at least 15 years. A prominent sign on the door stated that the lobby is only open to Bank of New York staff and invited guests.
Sign at lobby entrance to 101 Barclay Street in Manhattan where owner was granted zoning bonus in exchange for agreement to provide public space at lobby level.
Auditors also inspected 175 East 96th Street in Manhattan where the property owner built an additional 68,157 square feet in floor area in exchange for an agreement to create a public plaza. A sign at the plaza’s entrance reads “Members Only.” A large wooden fence obstructed public access in one area. Cable fence barriers impeded numerous other entry points.
On April 18, 2017, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer released Audit Report on the City’s Oversight over Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS). Stringer’s office inspected all 333 POPS locations in New York City and found 182, more than half, failed to live up to their agreements. In some cases the promised amenities simply did not exist; in others, they were non-functioning. Often restaurants expanded their seating areas usurping or blocking entry to promised public areas.
The report states: “Currently property owners are benefiting financially from approximately 23 million square feet of additional (bonus) floor area in their buildings in exchange for providing POPS at 333 locations in New York City.”