Where to Occupy Next?
Planner looks at public spaces most vulnerable to an OWS takeover By Paul Bisceglio With Occupy Wall Street's one-year anniversary celebration in the Financial District scheduled for Sept. 17, New York city officials are wondering if OWS protestors might have anything else in the works to commemorate their inaugural occupation of Zuccotti Park. Another takeover, perhaps? Michael Levine, professor of urban planning at Pace University and director of planning for Community Board 1, doesn't know when the next wave of public advocacy groups will move in, but he can say where in lower Manhattan the occupation is most likely to occur. Levine recently challenged his students to venture out into the city to find its most vulnerable Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS), publicly accessible outdoor plazas that, like Zuccotti Park, are owned by commercial companies, not the city. POPS have been ubiquitous in Manhattan sincea 1961 zoning resolution introduced a program that allowed developers to construct taller buildings if their plans included outdoor plazas. They tend to be more occupation-friendly than city-owned parks because some are open 24/7, don't display concrete rules and regulations and are owned by the large businesses that public advocacy groups oppose. Levine's students rated 28 POPS south of Canal Street on a scale of 0 to 4, from invulnerable to highly vulnerable. They based their rating on four categories: convenience, size, signage or lack thereof and reputation of owner. The following three plazas scored over 3.0, making them the top of the POPS-the three privately owned public spaces in lower Manhattan most vulnerable to occupation. 140 Broadway Owner: HSBC Area: 3,347 square feet Score: 3.1 Student Nellyn Caraballo gave this plaza across from Zuccotti Park major points for its high-traffic location along Broadway and its big-time corporate owners, but noted that it is too small and busy for group occupancy-plus the owners have been clever enough to post a sign prohibiting camping. 388 Greenwich St. Owner: Salomon Smith Barney Area: 51,635 square feet Score: 3.2 A huge, visible area with benches, grass and trees makes this Tribeca park ideal for group gatherings, according to student Arlida Bucaj, and the park's corporate owners make it all the more enticing. The location lost points for clear signage, though nothing is posted to prohibit sleeping. 59 Maiden Lane Owner: Amtrust Realty Corporation Area: 32,604 square feet Score: 3.5 This capacious plaza surrounds part of the New York City Finance Department at the intersection of Maiden Lane and William Street. The plaza scored big on size, absent signage and its suit-wearing owner. The majority of the plaza is open concrete, however, with scatterings of trees and benches on the ends, so student Erin Hanraty deducted points for convenience and comfort. The plaza might be a great place for gathering, but protestors had better be sure to bring some chairs and padding, as well as watch out for trampling commuters.
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