A month in, O.W.S. and community trying to coexist

Members of O.W.S. spent last Thursday scrubbing Zuccotti Park after Brookfield Properties told the demonstrators to clear the park so it could be cleaned on Friday. Downtown Express photo by John Bayles

BY CYNTHIA MAGNUS  |  As Occupy Wall Street enters its second month, and demonstrators continue to reside in Zuccotti Park, elected officials, community stakeholders and the protestors are attempting to find ways to coexist.

“This is a neighborhood of working class people, the same people you represent,” said Pat Moore, chair of Community Board 1’s Quality of Life Committee, at the Occupy Wall Street General Assembly in Zuccotti Park on Oct. 15.

The topic of discussion was a reduction in the noise caused by the drum circle, which has disturbed area residents for up to twelve hours daily for almost a month. Moore told the assembly that she supports their movement, as do many of her neighbors.

Moore, however, added, “But please give us some relief.”

City Councilmember Margaret Chin said, “The single biggest issue is the drumming. So far, O.W.S. has been unable to limit the drumming. I know the drummers are a source of stress for the community and for people within O.W.S.”

Chin said O.W.S. has agreed to limits on the drumming, and they have to follow through and enforce those rules.

C.B. 1 Chair Julie Menin worked with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, NYS Sen. Daniel Squadron and Chin, as well as other representatives and stakeholders, to develop a “good neighbor policy” with O.W.S.

One of the challenges, according to Menin, was that the person initially responsible for relaying the concerns of the community board back to O.W.S. was not doing so — a problem that she said has now been resolved.

“We are addressing proactively concerns as they are brought to us,” said Menin.

Another concern has been sanitation in and around the park. Building residents and business owners have complained about public urination among other nuisances. Adrian, who refused to give his last name, is a maintenance worker for nearby Capital Properties. He said he has always hosed Thames and Cedar Streets between Broadway and Trinity, and along Trinity up to the churchyard. Since the occupation, he said, those streets are dirtier and take longer to clean.

“It is totally unacceptable,” Chin said, “that protesters have so far relied on facilities at local businesses, but primarily alleyways and streets. While I appreciate their plan to physically wash problem areas — like Liberty Street — this is not a long term solution.”

Residents at 114 Liberty St. are among those in the community who are experiencing quality of life problems as a result of the occupation. Building resident Howard, who also refused to provide his last name, said, “These shouldn’t be negotiations. We have rights.”

A previous regular park user, Howard said, “I want to be able to sit and play chess with my 13 year-old son in the park.”

Chin said, “I agree with residents that, in essence, their right to use the park has been taken away by the protesters. While pedestrians still have access to the park, I understand their reasons for not wanting to use it.”

“Residents and local businesses can’t be asked to live this way, and all of the stakeholders must quickly find a solution that meets the needs of the community,” said Squadron. “While some O.W.S. representatives have been working with us in good faith to respond to concerns, at this point they cannot ensure compliance with the good neighbor policy.”

A member of the O.W.S. media relations group, Bill Dobbs said, “Dialogue has been open and ongoing between O.W.S. and community members. That represents some progress.”

Han Shan, a member of the O.W.S. community affairs group, said they established an email address and phone numbers that residents and local business owners can use to make complaints directly to O.W.S. If they are “legitimate,” said Shan, “they will be discussed by the group.”

He said the contact information is available at the information tables in the park.

Chin said, “I believe that both the protesters and Community Board 1 have negotiated their agreement in good faith. However, we just passed 30 days with little progress to show. Community board members have worked tirelessly to make an agreement stick. O.W.S. maintains they are working on a solution but they are running out of time. Their promises are falling short.”

A public joint meeting of the C.B. 1 Quality of Life and Financial District Committees will be held on Thursday, Oct. 20, at 6 p.m., at 250 Broadway.

C.B. 1 Vice-Chair Catherine McVay-Hughes said, “It will be an opportunity for people to talk about the impact [of O.W.S.] on the 9/11 community which includes residents, small business owners, and others.”

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14 Responses to A month in, O.W.S. and community trying to coexist

  1. Scott Stringer and Daniel Squadron are among the officials who reportedly called Brookfield Properties to threaten the real-estate company if it followed through on its plan last week to clean the park. This is an outrage, both because they let their political sympathies with Occupy Wall Street trump their representation of the community they were elected to represent and for threatening Brookfield when the company was only trying to enforce its rules for the "privately owned public space." This is a residential neighborhood and Brookfield, the mayor and the police have a duty to enforce the rules at Zuccotti Park. End the Occupation!

  2. The area around Liberty Square is a Mixed-Use area, hard to label the site as a purely residential neighborhood. u00a0Get used to your new neighbors. u00a0They'll be around for a long time.

  3. I'm really sorry that Howard feels that his rights–to sit and play chess with his son in the park– have been "violated," but maybe Howard should use this as a teaching moment with his son–an opportunity for discussion about observable democracy and our Constitutional rights. I'd advise Howard to read "Why Don't We Complain?" by William F. Buckley, and then go out to the park with his kid and actually talk to a few people.

    • Howard is a devoted parent and, not that its any of your business,u00a0had that "teachable" moment when OWS began their Park usurpationu00a0over 4 weeks ago.u00a0 Heu00a0taught his sonu00a0that while there existsu00a0a constitutional right to protest, it isnt an unlimited right and it needs to be balanced byu00a0the safety, welfare and rights of the community and the necessary obedience to the law (including Park laws) that applies to everyone, otherwise there should be consequences.u00a0u00a0He was also taught thereu00a0is no constitutional right for tent cities.u00a0u00a0u00a0Nowadays, with the nonstop drumming going on duringu00a0his u00a0school days and past 10pm, all Howard wants is an opportunity for his son to study in school and at home without intrusive OWS disruptive noiseu00a0which extends beyond the Park and enjoy a peacful night's sleep so he is ready for his next teachable moments, hopefully while playing chess or readingu00a0au00a0book someday soon inu00a0Zuccotti Park.u00a0

      • Dear Howard fan,nIt would not be my business what Howard does with his son but for the fact that it's used as a point of discussion in this article. Now, it's a point of argumentative development. You speak of the law and safety and welfare of the community but make no mention of the fact that those laws you speak of are written and enforced by the people with the means ($$$) and privilege to write the laws which, in turn, favor those with means and privilege. Case in point: As of now, individuals are seeking to rewrite the laws to establish curfews in public parks–effectively ending the occupation. Those that have the power and means to use it will do so in order to undermine the means of the underprivileged to effectively challenge the status quo. We've seen this get worse and worse over recent years on the political stage where the convergence of wealth and power has cauterized. Those students in the plaza are all that's left of democracy, rather than political theatre. You should really go speak to them.

        • Stay on topic.u00a0 If those students are "all that's left of democracy," then they should learn to obey the reasonable laws that are set out for Park usage designed for everyone (without regard to privilege).u00a0Ironically, you're proposing OWS have the "privilege" of effectively usurping the Park and disobeying laws everyone else up until now has obeyed in the Park. u00a0If they wish,u00a0OWS can come to Zuccotti (or go tou00a0other Parks, whether public or privately owned Public Parks or, better yet, City Hall or Washington, DC) and spend the day exercising their Constitutionally protected (but not unlimited) rights to protest.u00a0 They needn't set up tents or occupy the Park in violation ofu00a0any reasonably designedu00a0laws mentioned above, including noise codesu00a0(designed for all without regard to privilege)u00a0againstu00a0disruptive and intrusive non-stop drumming.u00a0u00a0u00a0Then, the protestorsu00a0can go home and get a good night's rest and permit the surrounding neighborhoodu00a0residents — many of whom have alreadyu00a0endured far too much for far too long (perhaps the most beseiged community in America) as a result of 9/11 and the decade of Ground Zero reconstruction — to equally enjoy the rights they are entitled to of a peaceful evening and a good night's rest as well.

          • I don't know what you mean by "stay on topic." The protesters are obeying the law, but there is an attempt –by those with means and $$–to rewrite the laws. Simple as that. u00a0How is this straying from topic? Sorry that this protest is an agitation for you, but I doubt it's because of the drummers. I understand that the drummers to have been limited to 2 hours for some time now. I would think that the drilling at the construction site across the street (all night long) would be more of an issue.

          • And by the way, I lived and worked in that area during the Sept. of 2001 events you speak of–and long after. Even still, I would hesitate to call it the "most besIEged community in America."u00a0

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  5. Practice what you preach, you crooked politicians!!!!! What's the use of being rich and living in luxury if you are simply being greedy and oppressive?! If I were you, I would relinguish some of my money and give it to those in need; I'd rather be doing things for and by the people instead of scheming on others. We need some leaders who are godly, caring, and have genuine integrity- NOT those who claim to know or dictate right from wrong. Besides, there's nothing good about greed. It's not only wrong in the eyes of every pro-American but also in the eyes of God, which it a sin. I'm sure everyone has heard about The 7 Deadly Sins, and greed is one of them. Luke 14:13-14 says, "Invite the poor, crippled, lame, and the blind, and you will be blessed." Why not give them something to somebody who is poor and needy but instead give to the rich? For the rich have more than enough to spare! How much more do you rich people need when you can give as much of your wealth/bare necessities to those in need? Proverbs 11:24 says, "give freely and become moreu00a0 wealthy; be stingy and lose everything."

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