So what’s the problem? Developers often ask to build taller than zoning allows. The city then says: build us a public plaza and we’ll let you. The resulting “public private” plazas, or “POPS” are supposed to provide a public amenity. They vary greatly in quality. Jerold Kayden wrote a book documenting them all in New York City. Tribeca has quite a few:
- in front of 105 Duane
- in front of Citibank on Greenwich Street
- the ATT plaza between Thomas and Worth
- the plaza at the corner of Walker and Broadway
The last one – a measly affair – was part of “Mandarin Court”. It is shown in the picture above. There is a decent tree at the far end, but it is a place that cries out for a good landscape architect.
Then, two years ago, Harley Davidson asked for permission to redo the ground floor commercial space in front of the plaza so as to open a motorcycle store. Tribeca Trust objected loudly at Landmarks (the building is in Tribeca East Historic District). We said it was a great moment to get Harley’s charitable foundation and the owner of the building to redesign the plaza for better public use. Landmarks replied that this was beyond its competence, so Harley got to glassify the commercial space and now we get to look at their ugly showroom on what is otherwise a beautiful block.
Now it turns out, Harley has taken over the plaza for its motorcycles. When challenged, the manager outright lied and said the motorcycles belonged to customers parking there. He seemed not to understand that it doesn’t matter whose motorcycles they are, why take over the plaza? And neighbors have been documenting the abuse for a while. They supplied the photos.
Why doesn’t Harley do the right thing and help make a great public plaza there?