Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS) in NYC

You may have never even heard of the acronym POPS, but if you live in NYC you will be thrilled to learn more. POPS stands for Privately Owned Public Spaces and what this boils down to are a scattering of both indoor and outdoor spaces from atriums to small parks, all provided for the public and maintained by private owners. Due to NYC zoning laws, private owners can gain access to bonus floor area or waivers in exchange for including these POPS in their property. It was introduced as an incentive to encourage spaces for public use and enjoyment—from the POPS website, “POPS are the result of city zoning regulations aimed at ensuring the densest areas of our city offer a measure of open public space and greenery.” With over 550 POPS throughout the city, there are various options to sit, relax, people watch, eat, and more.

Why are POPS so great?

I love these spaces for a few reasons:

Beautiful to enjoy the outdoor spaces on a nice day…

In addition to the lovely parks throughout NYC, many of the outdoor POPS are really nice places to enjoy a beautiful spring or summer day. For example, one of my favorites, The Elevated Acre (55 Water Street), is a few blocks from my apartment and it’s a nice place to sip a coffee or snack on a meal while taking in the sunshine on a nice day.

Great to seek refuge in the indoor spaces for rainy and/or snowy days…

Possibly my biggest selling point for finding indoor POPS in your area are saving them for a rainy day, literally. Whether you just want a place to sit and have lunch, to rest in between meetings, or whatever, it’s good to know where you can duck into to avoid the often less-than-ideal weather.

Perfect spots to work or take a lunch break from work…

Semi-related to the above, when I used to work in midtown (at several different jobs) I began to inadvertently find these spaces on my lunch and coffee breaks. Grab a meal to go, bring your coffee, and you could even bring your laptop and work for awhile, assuming you don’t need WiFi (though you could use the hotspot on your phone). I’ve also used them as a place to take phone calls or just to avoid going back to work (hey, if you’re going to give me an hour break, I’m going to use it).

Awesome photo locations…

As a photographer I am always in need of places to shoot! This one is a little dependent on the specific space, so be aware it’s a case-by-case basis and I have been asked to leave from a few, but I digress. I use them especially in the winter and on rainy days if I need to shoot because good indoor spaces are few and far between in this city.

Where can you find POPS?

The website actually provides a really useful interactive map of all the POPS in the city!

Click HERE to access the interactive map and see all of the rules and details about each space.


Some of the Best POPS in the City…

  • 55 Water Street (The Elevated Acre)

  • 180 Maiden Lane (The Continental Center)

  • 60 Wall Street (Wall Street Plaza)

  • 550 Madison Avenue

  • 590 Madison Avenue (IBM Plaza)

  • 875 3rd Avenue

  • 1114 Sixth Avenue

  • 55 E 52nd Street (Park Avenue Plaza)

  • 320 E 43rd St (The Ford Foundation)

  • 220 Vesey Street (The Atrium at Brookfield Place)

*note: I’m actually not sure if all of these are officially registered as POPS, but all serve the same function, so I included all the ones I know of regardless.

Did You Know?

  • The POPS Program began in 1961 and this innovation has helped create over 550 public plazas, arcades, and more, mainly throughout Manhattan.

  • These spaces are designed to be open and inviting, easily accessible, safe and secure, and comfortable and engaging. They will often feature various artworks or design projects.

  • Because of POPS, there is actually a way you can walk from Bryant Park to Central Park without ever having to cross to the end of the block… See if you can find it! ;)

  • Read more about these spaces over at the NYC Department of City Planning website.