UPDATE: August 8th was the deadline for comment on new Plaza Event Rules introduced by the Street Activities Permitting Office (SAPO).
With the opening of Pedestrian Plazas to the jurisdiction of SAPO major thoroughfares and intersections will be a constant locus for large events and a new, highly lucrative venture for the City. There is still much to contemplate further – which was the overwhelming sentiment expressed in testimony to the Mayor’s Office of Citywide Event Coordination and Management .
The proposed SAPO rules indicate greatly increased use by the City of Pedestrian Plazas as commercial venues, especially in mixed use neighborhoods, if not also Plazas throughout the City. This initiative and its proposed rules require much more scrutiny than the 30 days offered for public comment and certainly for the Community Boards that are to be the primary point of review for their constituencies.
Among the serious issues
- Public Safety Risk. Constantly programmed open-air, vehicle and pedestrian accessible plazas are a natural target for hostile incursion and not easily defended: they have multiple points of entry; especially in the case of Astor Place and Cooper Square plazas, situated in high-transit locations; residential, commercial and institutional resident locations. With over 88 Plazas added to the hundreds of Street Fairs and Block Parties, these Plaza venues will place an out-sized burden on the specialized NYPD resources now, unfortunately, necessary to protect a high profile City.
2. Lack of sufficient review time and coordination with stakeholders. The SAPO guidelines do not provide sufficient notice to Community Boards, community leaders or even Plaza Partners of event applications and their desired features.
- In one section the guidelines state there will be 45 days notice for “C” plazas, like Cooper Sq. Plaza, (possibly 60 days for Astor Plaza); there is another section that says 30 days and then there is another that gives Plaza Partners 10 days notice to approve, object or SUGGEST modifications, with no provision for SAPO to informing of the final plan which only they approve.
- Community Boards have been given the primary responsibility for reaching affected constituencies. The proposal suggest that they pro-actively access a proprietary web-page for planned events in the approval process and then must inform community stakeholders; plan a hearing, and issue an advisory response. If that occurs on the first day of the month, it is possible to return an initial response within 45 days. Any application received after that will be difficult, if not impossible, to process within the deadline period.
- SAPO then has to return those responses to the applicant and then negotiate – IF POSSIBLE a satisfactory outcome. Since SAPO is collecting money on these events, there is no incentive to reduce or refuse an event.
3. There are no guidelines or controls on frequency, size, amplified sound for any given plaza or the neighborhood in which it resides. At a hearing in May, SAPO indicated that the number of events allowed on certain plazas would be limited and that, especially in plazas in mixed use neighborhoods, amplified sound would not be permitted. This has NOT made it to the proposed Plaza Event rules.
4. Lack of compensation to Plaza Partners. The constant imposition of SAPO approved events places undo burden on Plaza Partners for coordination with regularly scheduled maintenance and/or any contracted activities or concessions that they oversee. Again, the proposed rules cite 10 day notice to Plaza partners. While there are some provision for sanitation within the event contract with SAPO, there is no provision for excessive wear on the Plaza itself or the increased time and expense of personnel in managing it.
5. The addition of PRIVATE events to the roster of possibilities...news conferences, receptions, fund-raisers that come with tents and limos. This seems a direct affront to a Public Plaza.
What SAPO, and supposedly the City, has done here is open up roadway pedestrian plazas throughout the city as income earning venues, with little or no regard to the communities and stakeholders that surround them, or the partners who are to maintain them. It is not at all clear that NYPD understands or has approved of this additional burden for the limited presence SAPO assigns them and for which the applicant pays.
Download the proposed plaza event rules as well as the plaza tiers list. These rules are also available at http://www1.nyc.gov/site/cecm/permitting/permit-types/plaza-events.page.
- Email: Write your comments on-line to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mail: Michael Carey,C/O Citywide Event Coordination and Management 253 Broadway, 6th floor,New York, NY 10007