37-70 Public Plazas
Public plazas are open areas on a zoning lot intended for public use and enjoyment. The standards contained within Sections 37-70 through 37-78, inclusive, are intended to serve the following specific purposes:
(a) to serve a variety of users of the public plaza area;
(b) to provide spaces for solitary users while at the same time providing opportunities for social interaction for small groups; and
(c) to provide safe spaces, with maximum visibility from the street and adjacent buildings and with multiple avenues for ingress and egress.
Corner public plaza
A "corner public plaza" is a public plaza that is located on an intersection of two or more streets.
Through block public plaza
A "through block public plaza" is a public plaza or portion of a public plaza that is not a corner public plaza and that connects two streets that are parallel or within 45 degrees of being parallel to each other.
A public plaza shall contain an area of not less than 2,000 square feet. In no case shall spaces between existing buildings remaining on the zoning lot qualify as public plazas. In addition, in order to preserve the provisions relating to the boundaries, proportions and obstructions of public plazas, on any one zoning lot, an open area which does not qualify for bonus floor area may not be located between two public plazas, or between a public plaza and a building wall or arcade.
Any non-bonused open area located adjacent to a public plaza, other than an open area bounding a street line used for pedestrian access, must either:
(a) be separated from the public plaza by a buffer, such as a wall, decorative fence, or opaque plantings at least six feet in height; or
(b) meet all requirements for minor portions of public plazas related to size, configuration, orientation, as specified in Section 37-716.
No public plaza, or portion thereof, shall be located within 175 feet of an existing publicly accessible open area or public park as measured along the street line on which the existing amenity fronts if the public plaza is to be located on the same side of the street, or as measured along the directly opposite street line if the public plaza is to be located on the other side of the street. Such distance shall include the width of any street that intersects the street on which the amenity fronts. However, such location restriction may be waived if the public plaza is located directly across the street from the existing publicly accessible open area or public park and if the Chairperson of the City Planning Commission finds that the location of the public plaza at such location would create or contribute to a pedestrian circulation network connecting the two or more open areas.
Additional provisions regarding the location of a public plaza are set forth in the Special Midtown District, the Special Lower Manhattan District and the Special Downtown Brooklyn District.
For purposes of the orientation requirements, a "north-facing," "south-facing," "east-facing" or "west-facing" street line means a street line facing within 45 degrees of the direction indicated. To front on a street means to be contiguous to the street line or to a sidewalk widening along the street line.
(a) Where the major portion of a public plaza fronts on only one street line, such major portion is not permitted to front on a north-facing street line of a zoning lot.
(b) No major portion of a public plaza shall only front on a west-facing street line or an east-facing street line if the zoning lot also has frontage that is 40 feet or more in length on a south-facing street line.
(c) A corner public plaza must have its major portion, as defined in paragraph (b) of Section 37-715, front on the south-facing street line. In the case of a zoning lot having frontage on a south-facing street line of less than 40 feet, or having its frontage at the intersection of a north-facing street line with either an east- or west-facing street line, the major portion must front on the east- or west-facing street line.
However, the orientation restrictions may be modified if the Chairperson of the City Planning Commission finds that the orientation regulations would conflict with mandatory street wall regulations or that the modifications would result in better access to light and air for the public plaza.
The major portion of a public plaza is the largest area of the public plaza and the area of primary use. Major portions shall be generally regular in shape, easily and directly accessible from adjoining buildings and public spaces, and continuously visible from within all portions of the public plaza and from adjoining public spaces. Major portions shall occupy no less than 75 percent of the total public plaza area.
(a) All contiguous public plaza areas on a zoning lot shall be considered as one public plaza.
(b) The shape and dimensions of a public plaza shall be such that all points within the major portion shall be visible when viewed perpendicular from each adjacent street. Corner public plazas that front on two streets that do not meet at a 90 degree angle must be fully visible when viewed perpendicular from one adjoining street and at least 50 percent of the public plaza must be visible when viewed perpendicular to the other adjoining street. For the purposes of this regulation, points that when viewed in plan may be joined by a straight line shall be considered visible one from the other; visibility between points shall not be affected by permitted obstructions or by changes of grade. Points within public plazas that front on three intersecting streets shall be treated as two corner public plazas.
The major portion of a public plaza shall be at least 75 percent of the public plaza's total area, except that in the case of a through block public plaza, pursuant to Section 37-717, a line drawn within 25 feet of the midblock line shall divide the through block public plaza into two areas that must separately meet all requirements of the public plaza regulations. The major portion of the public plaza shall be subject to the proportional requirements set forth in paragraphs (c) and (d) of this Section.
(c) The major portion of a public plaza shall have a minimum average width and depth of 40 feet. For public plazas that front on only one street, no more than 20 percent of the public plaza area may have a width of less than 40 feet. Dimensions shall be measured parallel and perpendicular to the street line on which the public plaza fronts.
(d) For major portions of public plazas, the maximum width measured parallel to any one street shall not be greater than three times the average depth of the public plaza measured perpendicular to the street line or the average width measured parallel to any one street shall not be greater than three times the maximum depth of the public plaza measured perpendicular to the street line.
Minor portions of public plazas are secondary areas that allow for additional flexibility in the shape and configuration of a public plaza. Minor portions shall not occupy more than 25 percent of the total area of the public plaza. The width of a minor portion shall be measured parallel to the line separating the major and minor portions. The depth of a minor portion shall be measured perpendicular to the line separating the major and minor portions. The provisions of Section 37-715 (Requirements for major portions of public plazas) shall not apply to such minor portions and the following regulations shall apply:
(a) The minor portion shall have a minimum average width and depth of 15 feet.
(b) The minor portion must be directly adjacent to the major portion.
(c) All points within the minor portion must be visible from within the major portion when viewed perpendicular to the line separating the major and minor portions.
(d) The minor portion must front directly on a street adjoining the major portion, unless the minor portion has:
(1) a width to depth ratio of at least 3:1; and
(2) its longest dimension contiguous with the major portion.
Through block public plazas shall be treated as two public plazas separated at a line drawn within 25 feet of the midblock line.
Where any building wall or walls adjoin a through block public plaza or through block portion of a public plaza and where such wall or walls exceed 120 feet aggregate length, a minimum 10 foot setback at a height between 60 and 90 feet is required for the full length of the building wall.
Through block public plazas shall contain a circulation path at least 10 feet in width, connecting the two streets on which the public plaza fronts, as specified in Section 37-723.
The paving of the public plaza shall be of non-skid durable materials that are decorative and compatible in color and pattern with other design features of the public plaza.
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.