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BY CYNTHIA MAGNUS | Community Board 1′s resolution on the Occupy Wall Street demonstration is now official, but the question remains as to how the “good neighbor policy” it establishes, will be enforced.
At the full board meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 25, C.B. 1 Chair Julie Menin said, “What is important about the resolution is that it combines two relevant elements – the First Amendment, and quality of life for residents and small businesses.”
The resolution was the culmination, at least on the C.B. 1 level, of weeks of meetings with O.W.S. members. Three board members did not vote in favor of the resolution and some community members expressed concern over O.W.S. being able to control the different factions that are now occupying the park, as the demonstration enters its fifth week.
Following an earlier presentation of the resolution, first presented at a C.B. 1 joint-committee meeting Oct. 20, the board’s vice-chair Catherine McVay-Hughes said, “Finally there was an opportunity for community residents and small business owners to attend a public meeting to have their serious concerns regarding public safety, sanitation, health, and noise heard.”
The issue of the drumming at Zuccotti Park that has disturbed many neighbors remains a nebulous one, and is part of the “good neighbor policy” that is supposed to address issues of sanitation, health, and safety.
Han Shan, a member of the O.W.S. community relations group who spoke for O.W.S. at the Oct. 20 meeting, said, “I’m not making a promise,” but said the drummer’s group was working on a proposal to limit hours.
On Saturday, Oct. 22 the drumming continued until 10 p.m. despite an understanding by the drummers that it was to end by 6 p.m. Drummer Elijah Moses then said that the drumming was a protest, not against the O.W.S. general assembly, but against those who wanted to curb the drumming to two hours. He stated that the drumming hours would now be from 12 to 2 p.m. and from 4 to 6 p.m.
While this was approved at the protesters’ O.W.S. general assembly on Oct. 24, it was not discussed with the community board, nor is it part of the resolution that was passed on Tuesday night.
Shan told C.B. 1 that two phone numbers and an email address were established for O.W.S. to be able to accept complaints from the neighborhood. He also said that a community relations representative would be on site at all times to respond to problems, and that a mediation team would be on hand to enforce good neighbor rules.
On Saturday, Oct. 22 a number of O.W.S. members tried to reason individually with the drummers. Ted, a member of the O.W.S. community relations group said that he did not know how to find others in the park to help mediate, and that he did not have the newly established complaint phone numbers.
Shan did not respond to requests for comment.
Dan Levine a volunteer at the O.W.S. info desk also tried unsuccessfully to reason with the drummers. An exasperated Levine said, “They’re having a temper tantrum.”
C.B. 1 member Pat Moore said, “Every time the question has arisen – ‘How will you enforce the good neighbor policy?’ – they did not have a satisfactory answer.” Moore said, “I don’t believe it will happen. I don’t believe they have the ability or the will to do it.”
C.B. 1 member Linda Belfer said that O.W.S. must agree that there would be a committee that would enforce these rules, otherwise, “it’s a meaningless good neighbor policy.”
Area resident Linda Gerstman said, “The new O.W.S. hotline makes the situation even worse — now they can field the residents’ complaints and retain the support of the elected officials as the negative impact on the community will be contained in the park and not go on public record.”
Another problem area residents have complained to C.B. 1 about is urination and defecation in lobbies and on doorsteps. C.B. 1 member Mariama James, said on Oct. 20, “I don’t want e-coli from someone crapping in my lobby.” One neighbor told the board, “We should be able to walk to work and not have someone dumping a bucket of urine next to us.”
Menin and others have suggested finding space for port-a-potties that the demonstrators could use and that would be paid for by a third party.
On the issue of sanitation Shan said, “We can’t make promises. We’re at the beginning of a process.” He said that O.W.S. has been sending out teams with pails of hot soapy water and scrub brushes to clean neighboring stoops and doorways.
In fact, the only effort to do so was done as a pilot effort by one O.W.S. person, Max Hodes, head of camp sanitation on Oct. 18.
Protester Daniel Zetah, 35, said, “A lot of people are sadly missing the point when they complain about petty things like drum noise and urinating in the street.”
Neighborhood resident James Fernandez said, “To me this good neighbor policy is a farce This is not about politics, this is not about First Amendment rights, this is about common decency. This is the responsibility of the elected officials. Do your jobs and be able to enforce. The rules and regulations are there.”
Councilwoman Margaret Chin said, “Occupy has said they want to be better neighbors, but they have not followed through. I agree with what we heard from residents at the community board meeting, the protesters need to get organized, step up and accept responsibility.”
McVay-Hughes said that the “24/7 habitation” of Zuccotti Park is a problem. “It appears that there’s no end in sight and there’s no exit plan.”