Section 3.1

Understanding the Policy and Regulatory Landscape

In crowded cities like New York, public spaces—including sidewalks, plazas, parks, and streets—are incredibly valuable. For centuries, they have been used by a web of individuals, businesses, and organizations for a variety of applications and are therefore highly regulated by local and state governments.

Depending on the type of space within the public realm, local stakeholders are often subject to a variety of permits and regulations. Each regulation has been established to address a mix of issues across public safety, public health, sanitation, and public order. Stoop line stands and street vendor licenses, for example, were first established decades ago to regulate crowding and sanitation on city streets and sidewalks following heightened complaints by the public.

DOHMH  Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

DOT  Department of Transportation

DCWP  Department of Consumer and Worker Protection

NYFD  New York Fire Department

NYPD  New York Police Department

SAPO  Street Activity Permit Office (Mayor’s Office)

Further complicating the web of rules that govern our use of public spaces is the fact that a variety of agencies interpret and enforce these rules, and levy fines, making it burdensome for local stakeholders to comply with regulatory frameworks.

Although many of these rules may have been established with good intent to protect public safety and health, many are inflexible. Some rules have not been adapted or revised in decades to reflect the new ways that our public spaces are being used—especially in commercial districts, where customer journeys and expectations have rapidly evolved.