Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


David Chapin

Subject Categories

Political Science | Sociology | Urban Studies and Planning


Democracy, New York, Politics of space, Privately owned public space, Public space


Shopping centers, hotel lobbies and - as was recently reported - McDonald's restaurants have been appropriated as social and political spaces by the public, but then encounter resistance by the owners of those spaces. Shopping centers, which have come to replace urban public space around the world, are notorious for limiting the modes of use and actively prohibiting forms of political expression. The legal status of commercial spaces that substitute for traditional public spaces is still unclear. Much of the critique of privatization of public space has been directed towards these enclosed spaces, the ownership of which is unambiguously private. This study uses as examples the privately owned public spaces (POPS) found in New York. These are privately built and owned spaces, but their public use is regulated through legislation (easements) or otherwise granted by the owner. Many of these spaces were notoriously poorly built, and the public component was neglected. This study probes the political dimension of "public space" from various perspectives and analyzes the potentiality of POPS as part of the political public sphere through examples. Thinking these spaces through theoretical concepts that are developed over the three chapters of this study, conclusions are drawn about the future of public space and the applicability of privately owned space as public space.