Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


David Humphries

Subject Categories



urban public space, privatization, globalization, Washington Square Park, New York University


Public space is often perceived as a space that is open to everyone and is meant for gatherings and interaction; however, there is often a great competition over the use and control of public places in contemporary cities. This master’s thesis uses as an example Washington Square Park, which has become a center of contention due to the interplay of public and private interests. In the center of the current confrontation is New York University’s plan to add 2.4 million gross square feet of new development by 2031 for academic use, faculty and student residential space, athletic facilities and a hotel on two primarily residential “superblocks” near Washington Square Park, which will turn the area into a de facto campus for the school. Nowadays, blending the public and private appears to be a logical result of the model of privatization, which was applied to many public places in different world cities, including New York City. Yet, it raises several questions: what is “public” about public space and who really controls it? The study suggests that public space plays an important role in modern cities; however, making a public place work in the right direction is a complex process that must be approached from different angles. By combining a theoretical background with qualitative research, this thesis aims to provide a better understanding of the underlying issues and draw conclusions about the future of urban public space.

Included in

Sociology Commons