Water Street proposal could change city’s privately owned public spaces

City Planning to vote on plan to allow restaurants and shops in FiDi plazas and arcades

Water Street City Planning NYC
32 Old Slip Plaza in the Financial District (credit: Alliance for Downtown New York) (inset: Carl Weisbrod)

There could be a retail renaissance coming to New York City’s privately owned public spaces. The City Planning Commission is voting Monday on a proposal that would change how such space in one area of Manhattan – Water Street in the Financial District – is used.

The plan, proposed by the de Blasio administration and the Alliance for Downtown New York, would permit retail developments like restaurants, shops and outdoor cafes in the “Water Street Subdistrict” in return for improvements like trees, lighting and bike racks.

Approval by the City Council, should the proposal make it that far, could bring further transformation to the city’s privately owned public spaces, or POPS, according to Politico. The Water Street area, in particular, currently holds 19 million square feet of office buildings but little in terms of retail amenities.

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While those in support say the plan would bring overdue upgrades to such areas, opponents claim the city is simply giving away open space without the public receiving enough in return.

The “Water Street Subdistrict’ currently contains 20 buildings holding roughly 225,000 square feet of public plazas and another 110,000 square feet of covered walkways known as arcades. Rudin Management, RXR Realty and Brookfield Property Partners are among the landlords.

The Water Street proposal calls for “retail uses that are typical or such streets such as Fulton Street and Broadway, but are intended to primarily serve nearby residents and employees,” according to city planning documents. [Politico]Rey Mashayekhi