Thursday, December 15, 2011

Strategies for Public Occupation: On The Question of #whOWNSpace

#whOWNSpace is joining the Storefront for Art and Architecture for two Strategies for Public Occupation events.

Saturday December 17th, at 12:00PM (PRESENTATION)
On The Question of #whOWNSpace 
The different groups that make up the #whOWNSpace are presenting the work we have done to reveal, question, and advocate for public space. Each group will also present some of their own work and how it contributes to the collective.

#whOWNSpace projects to be presented:
Collaborators presenting:
DSGN AGNC - Quilian Riano, Rena Mande, Dan Latorre, Amanda Rekemeyer, Phil Grimaldi
DoTank:Brooklyn - Aurash Kwawarzad
- Isabella Bruno
596 Acres - Paula Z. Segal
Monday December 19th, at 4:00PM (WORKSHOP) 
#whOWNSpace: Observe, Diagram, Intervene #STRFRNT

William Whyte
on urban space and the enforcement of undemocratic rules: “a stiff, clarifying test is in order.”

This Storefront for Art and Architecture workshop will use design and urban theory to critically study the design, ownership, and rules of New York City's open spaces as part of the #whOWNSpace project. The lens for the workshop will be on power dynamics around public space, focusing on the potential of open space to create democratic vitality. We are meeting at the
Storefront for Art and Architecture and then going to the POPS at the Trump SOHO Hotel and Petrosino Sq.

DSGN AGNC - Rena Mande, Amanda Rekemeyer, Phil Grimaldi, organized by Quilian Riano

Notice anything unwelcoming at Liberty Plaza? Occupy the NYC Department of Buildings' Inbox!


Liberty Plaza, also known as Zuccotti Park, is a Privately Owned Public Space (POPS). POPS were established as mechanism through which a property owner/developer that wants to build a structure that is taller, wider, or otherwise outside of the property’s zoning designation, can do so. In other words, by building POPS that are theoretically welcoming spaces, property owners/developers can increase the size of their building, and the size of their profit, beyond the standard limit.

Liberty Plaza was created through such an agreement. "One Liberty Plaza" was built larger than local zoning regulations permitted, and Lower Manhattan received a park in return.

The New York City Zoning Resolution governs the design of POPS. The Resolution has been revised several times in the last 50 years. With each revision, design specifications for POPS have gotten more detailed. The revisions are based on studies of what makes public spaces in cities functional. The original Resolution included the requirement that at least 50% of frontage between a POPS and the sidewalk be unobstructed. Revisions have added the requirement that paths must be provided through the space, and that those paths connect to adjacent sidewalks for circulation.

We are the public: the beneficiaries of the plaza-for-extra-space-building deal. For the last month, we have been noticing Zoning Resolutions violations at Liberty Park, a POPS that New Yorkers have found particularly functional this fall. We see obstructions that both violate the Resolution and make the plaza unwelcoming.
We see obstructions between the sidewalk and the plaza.
We see circulation paths that don't connect to the sidewalk

The plaza doesn't feel welcoming or useful
We are not getting our side of the bargain.

It is the job of the NYC Department of Buildings to enforce the zoning code. We haven't seen them at Liberty Park. We know they are busy. They don't inspect every building in the city every month. But they do respond to inspection requests and complaints from the public. It's their job

So -- here's what we're going to do: occupy the NYC Department of Buildings Commissioner's inbox. Follow these steps:

1. Point your browser here to reach Commissioner Robert D. LiMandri:

2. From the first drop-down, select "Inspection Requests/Complaints."

3. Enter your email address.

4. Cut and paste the message below into the Message box:

"I have observed a violation of zoning rules at 1 LIBERTY PLAZA (Manhattan Block 62; lot 7501). Rails on all sides of privately owned public space plaza are blocking nearly 100% ACCESS FROM the STREET; the same rails also block access to the circulation paths in the plaza. Design of the plaza is governed by the section of the Zoning Code that governs design of all privately owned public spaces. The sidewalk frontage of a public plaza is required to have a minimum 50% of its area free of obstructions (NYC Zon. Res. Art. 3, Ch. 7, S. 70, 37-721). The rails currently obstruct more than 50% of the frontage on all sides. Mandatory circulation paths are required to connect each of the street frontages (37-723). The rails currently interfere with path connection to the street frontages."

5. Submit.

6. When you receive an acknowledgement of receipt in your inbox, forward it to us at We want to know just how occupied the DOB gets. We will be issuing a press release next week and would like to know how many inspection requests the department is due to respond to.

7. If there are other POPSs in your life that are not as public as they should be, repeat steps 1-5. Put your DOB to work.


**All images by Paula Z. Segal and Quilian Riano, text by Paula Z. Segal with edits from Quilian Riano and a collective of legal, policy, and design experts.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

#whOWNSpace Non-Commercial Space and Sharing at Brooklyn Bazaar

Rendering of Brooklyn Bazaar provided by the Event Organizers and JDS architects
DoTank:Brooklyn, DSGN AGNC, and BRUNO are creating a #whOWNSpace booth for the bartering, lending, and sharing of books and information on urbanism and the urban issues that affect the public space of Brooklyn at the Brooklyn Night Bazaar. This space will counter the circus capitalism atmosphere of the market by offering a place for reflection while demonstrating how an economy based on collaborative sharing of information and skills could work.

The space will also be used to:
-Share the mission and work done by the #whOWNSpace collaborative
-Provide an opportunity for people to barter their skills and join the collaborative
-Provide a non-commercial space for rest, reflection, and collaboration

The booth will be present at the Brooklyn Night Bazaar space on December 15th and 16th.

More information:
-Core 77

Monday, November 7, 2011

#whOWNSpace: Observe, Diagram, Intervene


#whOWNSpace: Observe, Diagram, Intervene
November 19th, at Noon in the three locations indicated above. 
(RSVP to attend these classes) 

William Whyte on urban space and the enforcement of undemocratic rules: “a stiff, clarifying test is in order.”

This Public School NYC studio/class will use design and urban theory to critically study the design, ownership, and rules of New York City's open spaces as part of the #whOWNSpace project. It will occur at three sites simultaneously in order to focus on the varying centers of control in Manhattan--both public and private. The lens for the studio will be on power dynamics around public space, focusing on the potential of open space to create democratic vitality. 

The Financial District (#FiDi) group will focus on the area near the Goldman Sachs headquarters
Facilitators: Rena Mande and Amanda Rekemeyer
Twitter: #whOWNSpace #FiDi

The Midtown (#midtown) group will focus on Bryant Park and the privately-owned public spaces (POPS) around the Bank of America headquarters.
Facilitators: Quilian Riano, Phil Grimaldi, and Melissa Frost
Twitter: #whOWNSpace #midtown

The Upper East Side (#UES) group will focus on the civic center of power that dictates many of the rules and designs of New York’s public space: NYC’s Department of Parks and Recreation
Facilitators: Aurash Khawarzad and Daniel Latorre
Twitter: #whOWNSpace #ues

At 3PM All groups meet up at the POPS inside the Bank of America headquarters for the official launch of a #whOWNSpace crowd-sourcing map of Privately-Owned Public Spaces (POPS) and POPS, publicly-owned open spaces (POOS).

This collaborative studio/class has been organized and will be led by DSGN AGNCDoTank:Brooklyn, and Not An Alternative in collaboration with The Public School NYC


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

#whOWNSpace -- Mapping NYC

(print, photocopy and repeat as needed)

The double sided map above serves as a spatial visualization tool -- locating open spaces and comparing governing bodies of public and private control.
NOTE: The PDF has more detail, DOWNLOAD IT (

The 1% weOWNu map focuses on Privately-Owned Public Spaces (POPS) as well as institutions of private funding, specifying financial institutions that received bail-out funds in 2008.
The goal of doing so, is to direct attention to the constitutions that control the flow of capital. These funding institutions are essential in the transfer of ownership from the city to private interests.

The 99% weOWNu map focuses
on publicly-owned open spaces and the city agencies that control those holdings.

Both maps provide a framework for a larger study to:

-comparatively map POPS and publicly-owned open spaces, identify their intentions, and understand the political, corporate, and economic entities that control them
-organize with community and activist groups so that designers can collaboratively strategize to advance the use of these spaces.

In the next steps we will use interactive tools to gather information from a multitude of partners, lead an event with The Public School NYC to begin to make sense of the information, and work with designers and community groups to use public space for the public good.

More coming soon...

Maps designed and executed by DSGN AGNC


#occupywallstreet, Zuccotti Park NYC
#occupywallstreet began as an effort to hold accountable the institutions that caused the economic collapse the United States has experienced since 2008. In the process, however, the occupation has also brought up some important issues surrounding public space in the contemporary neoliberal North American city.

First, It has pointed out the obscure and conflicting ownerships and rules that govern urban open space. Zuccotti park was chosen because as a Privately-Owned Public Space (POPS) it is open 24 hours a day and thus an easier target for an occupation. In other words, a public demonstration would have been harder in a city-owned public space. Yet those rules can change suddenly and without public recourse as many current POPS owners are trying to do in light of what is happening in Manhattan's financial district. Thus, the occupation has shown that there are major problems with the way our open spaces, both public and private, are governed.

Second, #occupywallstreet has shown that coordinated and collective use can serve to change the rules and the way urban spaces behave. In this case it is a continuous occupation to call attention to political and economic inequity and injustice

#whOWNSpace is a collaborative started by DSGN AGNC in conversations with DoTank:Brooklyn and Not An Alternative and -- three organizations that have been dealing with spatial politics. Our goal is to gain many other collaborators and together learn from what has happened at Zuccotti park -- using design and art as an advocacy tool so that community groups and activists can continue to use collectively owned and organized urban spaces to further their political, social, and economic agendas.

Our goals are:

1- TO REVEAL conflicting rules and ownerships in the increasingly privatized and commercialized spaces that make up the contemporary neoliberal urban condition

2- TO QUESTION those rules and the current state of our "public" space; discussing the intentions and conditions surrounding our open spaces

3- TO ADVOCATE FOR AND PROPOSE new uses and designs that encourage more public and open spaces for neighborhood uses in accordance to the Call to Action for the Rights of Neighborhoods 

4- TO INTERVENE in urban spaces, turning ideas and research into material action

We Create Tools that Reveal Spatial Conflict
We Question Private Space
We Question Public Space
We Advocate for Change
We Conceive of Alternatives for Collective use