About the Competition


Anyone who has spent time in New York City’s densest commercial and residential neighborhoods will have noticed street-level plazas, atriums, and arcades next to or within privately owned office and residential towers. Some of these spaces look like small parks, others are hardscaped expanses. Many are filled with people eating lunch, meeting friends, reading, or people watching, while others are underutilized. Most of these spaces, however, share one characteristic: known as privately owned public spaces (POPS), each is legally required to be open to the public and for public use.

Since 1961, New York City has offered floor area bonuses and other zoning incentives to private developers of office and residential buildings to encourage them to provide the more than 550 POPS that are scattered about the city, especially in the borough of Manhattan and increasingly in Brooklyn and Queens. Combined, the city’s POPS provide nearly 3.8 million square feet of additional public space – equivalent to nine Bryant Parks, 24 Union Squares, or 10% of Central Park. Each POPS has a distinct identity shaped by its design, location, applicable legal requirements, owner and manager, and users.

For POPS to be well used by the public, it is imperative that residents, workers, and visitors know which spaces are indeed POPS and what amenities are required. For example, during what hours is a space required to be open? Must it provide amenities such as seating, landscaping, water fountains, bathrooms, or bike racks? If members of the public have a question about the space, whom should they contact? The New York City Zoning Resolution, from 1975 onward, has obliged almost all POPS owners to post signage on-site, identifying the space as a POPS and specifying required hours of access and amenities. Signage must also include information about who owns and manages the space and to whom a complaint may be submitted.

In 2017, the City enacted a new law requiring that all POPS, including those previously not obligated to do so, display POPS signage. The adoption of the new law and the renewed attention it has brought to POPS afford an opportunity to reconsider more broadly the character of POPS signage. One element of special interest is the POPS logo. For many years, the Zoning Resolution has required POPS owners subject to the signage requirement to utilize a logo commissioned by the City decades ago from the graphic design firm Chermayeff & Geismar. As POPS have grown in number and diversity of design and use, the time has come to explore a new logo design that graphically represents the evolving nature of POPS and that creates a unified visual identity for the City’s POPS program.

Advocates for Privately Owned Public Space, the New York City Department of City Planning (“the Department”), and The Municipal Art Society of New York (the “Sponsors”) have joined forces to sponsor a design competition (the “Competition”) for a new POPS logo to be utilized on POPS signage throughout the city and to represent the face of New York City’s POPS program, with funding provided in part by Knoll. Submissions are invited from anyone or any entity worldwide. Submissions will be posted online and displayed at a public exhibition during the Competition. A seven-person panel, along with a public vote that will be counted in the panel evaluations as the equivalent of an additional eighth panel member, will select a maximum of three Awardees for their Submissions. The Director of the Department of City Planning (the “Director”) on behalf of the Department may then choose one of the Awardees’ logos to become the official New York City POPS logo. Awardees will each receive $2,000 and be honored at a public event. The Awardee of the logo chosen by the Director as the official New York City POPS logo will receive an additional $2,000. Submissions are due by Friday, March 15, 2019. Awardees and the Director’s choice will be announced on Monday, May 20, 2019.

A seven-member panel has been assembled to evaluate the Submissions, including the following:

  • Jerold S. Kayden, Frank Backus Williams Professor of Urban Planning and Design, Harvard University, and President, Advocates for Privately Owned Public Space (Presiding Panelist)
  • Glen Cummings, Creative Director, MTWTF
  • Katherine Farley, Chair, Lincoln Center Board of Directors
  • Elizabeth Goldstein, President, The Municipal Art Society of New York
  • Marisa Lago, Director, New York City Department of City Planning, and Chair, New York City Planning Commission
  • Kim Mathews, Principal Emerita, MNLA
  • Justin Garrett Moore, Executive Director, New York City Public Design Commission

Find out more about our panel members by visiting “Panel”.

Download the Competition Flyer



The Sponsors are:

Advocates for Privately Owned Public Space

Advocates for Privately Owned Public Space (APOPS) is a private, not-for-profit organization founded by Harvard University professor Jerold S. Kayden in 2005 to promote greater public awareness and use of New York City’s 550 or so zoning-created plazas, arcades, and other outdoor and indoor spaces known as privately owned public spaces. APOPS has worked diligently to ensure that comprehensive and accurate knowledge about POPS locations and legal requirements are available and that owners observe applicable legal requirements with regard to public access and use. Working with The Municipal Art Society of New York, APOPS introduced in 2012 the first-ever comprehensive website containing an interactive map and detailed profiles of every POPS in the city. APOPS engages cooperatively with owners, civic groups, city agencies, community boards, and members of the public to improve POPS.

NYC Department of City Planning Logo

The New York City Department of City Planning

The New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) is New York City’s primary land use agency and is instrumental in designing the City’s physical and socioeconomic framework. DCP works to make New York City a better, fairer and more equitable city for all to live, work and play. The 1961 Zoning Resolution inaugurated the POPS program by introducing the innovative incentive zoning tool that allowed additional floor area in a building when developers provided publicly accessible plazas and arcades. Over the intervening decades, many other types of outdoor and indoor POPS have been introduced in the Zoning Resolution as the Department of City Planning expanded the program and refined design and operational standards. The Department is committed to ensuring that all POPS are serving the public, and to continually enhancing design standards in order to ensure that POPS are of high quality, useful, and inviting for the public.

NYC Department of City Planning Logo

The Municipal Art Society of New York

For 125 years, The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) has worked to educate and inspire New Yorkers to engage in the betterment of our city. As a nonprofit advocacy organization, MAS mobilizes diverse allies to focus on issues that affect our city from sidewalk to skyline. Through three core campaign areas, MAS protects New York’s legacy spaces, encourages thoughtful planning and urban design, and fosters inclusive neighborhoods across the five boroughs.

Created in 1893 by Richard Morris Hunt and a circle of civic-minded activists, MAS was founded with a mission to beautify the city through public art. Our advocacy efforts have led to the creation of the New York City Planning Commission, Public Design Commission, Landmarks Preservation Commission, and the Tribute in Light; the preservation of Grand Central Terminal, the lights of Times Square, and the Garment District; the conservation of more than 50 works of public art; and the founding of such civic organizations as the Public Art Fund, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, P.S. 1, the Historic Districts Council, the Park Avenue Armory Conservancy, and the Waterfront Alliance.

Municipal Art Society of New York

Competition Funding


Knoll has provided generous funding for part of the Competition.


Knoll is a constellation of design-driven brands and people, working together with its clients to create inspired modern interiors. Its internationally recognized portfolio includes furniture, textiles, leathers, accessories, and architectural and acoustical elements brands. These brands — Knoll Office, KnollStudio, KnollTextiles, KnollExtra, Spinneybeck | FilzFelt, Edelman Leather, HOLLY HUNT, DatesWeiser and Muuto — reflect its commitment to modern design that meets the diverse requirements of high performance workplaces and luxury interiors. A recipient of the National Design Award for Corporate and Institutional Achievement from the Smithsonian`s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Knoll is aligned with the U.S. Green Building Council and the Canadian Green Building Council and can help organizations achieve the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) workplace certification. Knoll is the founding sponsor of the World Monuments Fund Modernism at Risk program.

NYC Knoll Furniture Company Logo

Competition Advisor and Advisory Committee


The Competition is advised by a Competition Advisor and Advisory Committee.


Competition Advisor:

Jerold S. Kayden
Frank Backus Williams Professor of Urban Planning and Design, Harvard University, and President of Advocates for Privately Owned Public Space


Competition Advisory Committee:

Tara Kelly
Vice President of Policy and Programs, The Municipal Art Society of New York

Stella Kim
Program Manager of Privately Owned Public Spaces, New York City Department of City Planning

Douglas Woodward
Senior Advisor, Advocates for Privately Owned Public Space