To facilitate pedestrian access to a public plaza, the following rules shall apply to the area of the public plaza located within 15 feet of a street line or sidewalk widening line:
(a) At least 50 percent of such area shall be free of obstructions and comply with the following provisions:
(1) at least 50 percent of the public plaza frontage along each street line or sidewalk widening line shall be free of obstructions; and
(2) such unobstructed access area shall extend to a depth of 15 feet measured perpendicular to the street line. The width of such access area need not be contiguous provided that no portion of such area shall have a width of less than five feet measured parallel to the street line, and at least one portion of such area shall have a width of at least eight feet measured parallel to the street line.
(b) In the remaining 50 percent of such area, only those obstructions listed in Section 37-726 (Permitted obstructions) shall be allowed, provided such obstructions are not higher than two feet above the level of the public sidewalk fronting the public plaza, except for light stanchions, public space signage, railings for steps, exterior wall thickness pursuant to Section 33-23 (Permitted Obstructions in Required Yards or Rear Yard Equivalents), trash receptacles, trees and fixed or moveable seating and tables. Furthermore, planting walls or trellises, water features and artwork may exceed a height of two feet when located within three feet of a wall bounding the public plaza.
For corner public plazas, the requirements of this Section shall apply separately to each street frontage, and the area within 15 feet of the intersection of any two or more streets on which the public plaza fronts shall be at the same elevation as the adjoining public sidewalk and shall be free of obstructions.
The level of a public plaza, inclusive of major and minor portions, shall not at any point be less than the average elevation of curb level of the nearest adjoining street nor more than two feet above the average curb level of the nearest adjoining street in front of the major and minor portions of the public plaza. However, a public plaza with an area of 10,000 square feet or more may additionally have a maximum of 20 percent of its area at an elevation more than two feet above, but not more than four feet above curb level of the nearest adjoining street in front of the major and minor portions of the public plaza, provided that such higher portion may not be located within 25 feet of any street line. Public plazas that front on streets with slopes greater than 2.5 percent along the frontage of the public plaza may not at any point be more than one foot below the curb level of the adjoining street.
Circulation paths within public plazas shall provide for unobstructed pedestrian circulation throughout the minor and major portions of the public plaza and shall, at a minimum, connect all streets on which the public plaza fronts and all major elements of the public plaza, including seating areas, building entrances, approved open air cafes and kiosks, and significant design features of the public plaza. A minimum of one such circulation path shall be provided of at least eight feet clear width. Circulation paths shall extend to at least 80 percent of the depth of the major portion of the public plaza, measured perpendicular from each street line. Through block public plazas shall provide at least one circulation path with a minimum width of 10 feet connecting each street on which the public plaza fronts. Trees planted flush to grade, light stanchions, trash receptacles, and public space signage shall be considered permitted obstructions within circulation paths; however, all trees located within circulation paths must comply with the regulations for flush-to-grade trees in Section 37-742.
Where an entry to a subway station exists in the sidewalk area of a street on which a public plaza fronts and such entry is not replaced within the public plaza itself, the public plaza shall be at the same elevation as the adjacent sidewalk for a distance of at least 15 feet in all directions from the entry superstructure. Such public plaza area around a subway entry shall be free of all obstructions and may count towards the required clear area requirements as specified in Section 37-721 (Sidewalk frontage).
Any steps provided within the public plaza must have a minimum height of four inches and a maximum height of six inches. Steps must have a minimum tread of 17 inches; steps with a height of five inches, however, may have a minimum tread of 15 inches.
(a) Public plazas shall be open to the sky and unobstructed except for the following features, equipment and appurtenances normally found in public parks and playgrounds: water features, including fountains, reflecting pools and waterfalls; sculptures and other works of art; seating, including benches, seats and moveable chairs; trees, planters, planting beds, lawns and other landscape features; arbors or trellises; litter receptacles; bicycle racks; tables and other outdoor furniture; lights and lighting stanchions; public telephones; public restrooms; permitted temporary exhibitions; permitted awnings, canopies or marquees; permitted freestanding signs; play equipment; exterior wall thickness added pursuant to Section 33-23 (Permitted Obstructions in Required Yards or Rear Yard Equivalents); permitted kiosks and open-air cafes; stages; subway station entrances, which may include escalators; and drinking fountains.
However, an area occupied in aggregate by such permitted obstruction shall not exceed the maximum percentage cited in paragraph (b) of this Section. In addition, certain of the obstructions listed in this paragraph, (a), shall not be permitted within the sidewalk frontage of a public plaza, as described in Section 37-721 (Sidewalk frontage).
(b) Permitted obstructions may occupy a maximum percentage of the area of a public plaza, as follows:
For public plazas less than 10,000 square feet in area: 40 percent
For public plazas less than 10,000 square feet in area with a permitted open air cafe: 50 percent
For public plazas 10,000 square feet or more in area: 50 percent
For public plazas 10,000 square feet or more in area with a permitted open air cafe: 60 percent.
The area of permitted obstructions shall be measured by outside dimensions. Obstructions that are non-permanent or moveable, such as moveable chairs, open air cafes, or temporary exhibitions shall be confined within gross areas designated on the site plan, and not measured as individual pieces of furniture.
Trees planted flush-to-grade in accordance with the provisions of Section 37-742 (Planting and trees) and tree canopies do not count as obstructions for the purpose of calculating total area occupied by permitted obstructions. Planting beds and their retaining walls for trees count as obstructions, except that lawn, turf or grass areas intended for public access and seating shall not count as obstructions, provided such lawns do not differ in elevation from the adjoining public plaza elevation by more than six inches. Exterior wall thickness added pursuant to Section 33-23 in any publicly accessible open area or public plaza built prior to April 30, 2012, shall not count as obstructions for the purpose of calculating total area occupied by permitted obstructions.
(c) Canopies, awnings, marquees and sun control devices
(1) Entrances to buildings located within a public plaza may have a maximum of one canopy, awning or marquee, provided that such canopy, awning or marquee:
(i) has a maximum area of 250 square feet;
(ii) does not project into the public plaza more than 15 feet when measured perpendicular to the building facade;
(iii) is located a minimum of 15 feet above the level of the public plaza adjacent to the building entrance; and
(iv) does not contain vertical supports.
Such canopies, awnings, and marquees shall be designed to provide maximum visibility into the public plaza from adjoining streets and the adjacent building. However, canopies, awnings and marquees associated with entrances to buildings containing residences located within a public plaza may project more than 15 feet into the public plaza and contain vertical supports if they are located entirely within 10 feet of the edge of the public plaza.
(2) Sun control devices may be located within a public plaza, provided that all such devices:
(i) shall be located above the level of the first story ceiling;
(ii) shall be limited to a maximum projection of 2 feet, 6 inches;
(iii) shall have solid surfaces that, in aggregate, cover an area no more than 20 percent of the area of the building wall (as viewed in elevation) from which they project; and
(iv) may rise above the permitted building height, up to the height of a parapet wall or guardrail, pursuant to Section 33-42 (Permitted Obstructions);
(d) Prohibition of garage entrances, driveways, parking spaces, loading berths, exhaust vents, mechanical equipment and building trash storage facilities
No garage entrances, driveways, parking spaces, passenger drop offs or loading berths shall be permitted within a public plaza. No building trash storage facilities are permitted within a public plaza, nor shall any building trash storage facility be accessed or serviced through the public plaza. If garage entrances, parking spaces, passenger drop offs, driveways, loading berths or building trash storage facilities are located near or adjoin a public plaza, they shall be separated from it by a barrier sufficient to substantially conceal these facilities and any vehicles therein when viewed from any point in the public plaza.
No exhaust vents or mechanical equipment are permitted on any public plaza or on any building wall fronting upon the public plaza, unless such exhaust vents are more than 15 feet above the level of the adjacent public plaza. All exhaust vents and mechanical equipment located adjacent to a public plaza shall be separated from it by a barrier sufficient to substantially, visually and audibly, conceal their presence and operation. Air intake vents or shafts shall be permitted within a public plaza, provided that such vents are concealed from public view by planting or other design features and that such vents do not impair visibility within the public plaza area.