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BY CYNTHIA MAGNUS | “I think we established a dialogue,” said Pat Moore, chair of Community Board 1’s Quality of Life Committee, about an informal meeting held on October 3 with some members of the Occupy Wall Street group who are camped in Zuccotti Park. The purpose was to discuss ways in which relations between the Downtown community and the protesters might be eased.
At the C.B.1 full board meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 27, Financial District committee chair Ro Sheffe introduced a proposed resolution during the new business session. It suggested that the board urge the mayor’s office to address the disruptions to area residents and local businesses caused by the occupation. It proposed that park owner Brookfield Properties take measures to re-open space in the park for use by local residents and workers, for the NYPD to enforce existing noise control laws, and for the Board of Health to designate the Financial District as a noise sensitive zone.
The issue was tabled until the committee’s public meeting on Oct. 5, to give members time for further discussion. A member of the Occupy Wall Street group’s community relations committee, Justin Wedes, was among those invited to attend the informal Oct. 3 afternoon meeting.
Sheffe said he raised four main issues related to the occupation: noise disruption, pedestrian and vehicular disruption, sanitation, and dual use for the occupiers and local park users. Sheffe said it was important for the protesters to understand the background of the community, which has grown by 300 percent in ten years.
“They are surrounded by people who are raising families in this neighborhood, not the barons of Wall Street,” said Sheffe.
The C.B.1 committee requested that the protesters remove the drummers which currently play in Zuccotti. One of the protesters suggested that the drummers might move to the southernmost area of Battery Park.
At the occupiers “general assembly” session held later on Oct. 3 they voted to pass Wedes’ proposal to change “quiet hours” from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m. They also voted to ask C.B.1 to support the group’s application to the NYPD for a sound permit that would allow the use of a megaphone in the park.
At the Sept. 29 1st Precinct Community Council meeting it was explained to the several protesters in attendance that the NYPD cannot issue a sound permit without permission from the owner of the property.
One protester named Katie complained about the way earlier arrests were handled, but noted that police have been “mostly helpful.” Another protester said that Occupy Wall Street is a decentralized organization and asked about the best way to have a discourse with NYPD.
Inspector Edward Winski said, “My community affairs guys have gone into the crowd since day one, and can’t find anyone to speak to. When there’s a leadership structure, we sit down and work it out.”
Wedes said that it is “in everyone’s interest” for the group to be approved for the sound permit, as the nightly general assembly meetings in the park would go faster, and that “a low megaphone would actually be quieter than the ‘people’s mic’ – a system in which a speaker’s statement is repeated loudly by the crowd so that everyone can hear.
Ted, a member of the protester community, stated his personal opinion when asked if the need for a megaphone might be eliminated if the drummers stopped playing during general assembly. Currently participants must shout over the drums. “It doesn’t make sense for people to be disruptive during GA,” he said, “It also means that the people at G.A. are missing the drum circle.”
Wedes said he does not think it is “plausible” to ask the drum circle to remove themselves from Zuccotti. “We want them with us. Maybe if we all move to Battery Park – we are getting bigger.”
Liberty Street residents Tony and Carla said that they and their children have lost all access to the park, which they say has been defaced and filled with garbage. “The city planners are making living here impossible,” said Carla. “After September 11 they said, ‘Come live down here.’ They have to provide residents some better level of protection and recognition.”
One produce vendor at the Tuesday green market at Zuccotti Park said that his business has been down by about 10 percent since the occupation. “The neighborhood business that usually comes, we’re not seeing them,” he said.
Aly, whose cart on Cedar Street sells only breakfast items said his business has been down by 40 percent since the occupation. He said his customers usually come through the park, and he usually sells out and leaves by 1 p.m. Now he stays longer to try to make money.
Cox, a WTC construction site worker, said he buys his breakfast daily at Aly’s cart, but that it is time-consuming now to walk around the park to reach it. “There should be a walkway through the park so we can get through,” he said.
The manager at one local fast food restaurant told the campers last week that they were unwelcome to occupy tables and use the toilets. He said they use the electric outlets for their devices, something that was always prohibited, and that the restrooms were defaced with stickers and graffiti. “Lots of tourists come to visit the [9/11] Memorial and want to relax and have lunch,” he said.
CouncilmemberMargaret Chin said, “My office is handling quality of life issues as they arise, and I urge all residents who are affected by the protests to contact my office.”
Chin’s spokesperson Kelly Magee said it would be helpful if constituents would forward any 311 complaint numbers to Chin’s office so they could follow up on them.
Protest supporter Vincent, a Greenwich Village resident, does not sleep in Zuccotti Park, but donated $1,000 online to Occupy Wall Street. Local worker Lucille said she hears the occupiers’ chants from her office across Broadway, but that it is not disruptive.
“I think it’s wonderful. I hope something really good comes out of it,” said Lucille.
The C.B.1 Financial District committee meeting is set for 6 p.m. Oct. 5, at 49-51 Chambers Street, Room 709.