Occupying Zuccotti in winter; city addressing safety concerns

[media-credit name=”Downtown Express photo by Cynthia Magnus ” align=”aligncenter” width=”600″][/media-credit]

Superheroes and supervillains converged outside of the New York Stock Exchange on Halloween morning for a piece of street theatre organized by performance artist and Occupy Wall Street activist Gan Golan (in orange).

BY CYNTHIA MAGNUS  |  The unexpected snowstorm on Saturday, Oct. 29 may have highlighted new issues of safety, sustainability, and liability for both the official owner of Zuccotti Park, Brookfield Properties, and the park’s current occupants, the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators. The FDNY’s removal a day earlier of fuel containers and generators from the park underscored concerns of city officials and stakeholders about safety conditions.

In the past week a veritable tent city has sprung up in Zuccotti Park, intensifying, especially at night, an already crowded environment. A number of park occupants would like to see the space reorganized with passable walkways, distinct “neighborhoods,” a social lounge area and space for shared public use by the community.

Mike Esperson, 22, heads the O.W.S. “town planning” working group. Part of an attempted reorganization effort last week was cut short due to a lack of coordination with other O.W.S. groups such as sanitation. Esperson would like to see a grid system established for the park to aid accessibility and cleaning efforts. He said that overcrowding is now a problem.

“What would be cool is if we had less people,” said Esperson, adding that an effort was underway to establish a “nomadic group” that would disperse campers to other parts of the city.

Meanwhile, Esperson and a number of others are endeavoring to conduct a census and an in-depth survey of park residents. “A lot of people feel excluded,” he said, stating that the one-to-one surveys are a way “to crystallize people’s concerns.”

Another O.W.S. planning volunteer, Audrey Hollingsworth, 19, said that the census would ask for the number of occupants in each tent, and would help planners “determine how many tents we have and how much space is available in the tents.” Hollingsworth said that earlier last week O.W.S. received a donation of 30 two-person tents, which were distributed. There are also a number of larger tents in Zuccotti. The census would also aid planning the installation of insulation material under the tents, said Hollingsworth. Planners are attempting to secure pallets, preferably scavenged from willing retailers glad to get rid of them, to get the tents off the ground.

One member of the O.W.S. finance working group agreed that a camp census would be useful in planning for the winter. Estimated costs for winter supplies could reach beyond $60K for the month of November, he said. These would include insulation-board for the tents, and materials to make reusable body-warmers, a project conceived by an M.I.T. student at the camp. The group is also working on getting a van donated for transporting supplies, and for evacuating people to NYC homeless shelters in cold-weather emergencies.

Various members of O.W.S., and their representatives, denounced the October 28 seizure by the Fire Department of the six generators and 13 fuel containers.

Frank Dwyer, a spokesman for the FDNY, said, “This is a public safety issue. We’re happy to return the items to the owners but they are not permitted in the park.”

Marc LaVorgna, a spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg, said that the office has been working closely with the community to address the quality of life issues surrounding the occupation, while supporting the right to protest. LaVorgna said that the confiscation of the generators and fuel last week, “was a fine example of how the city is handling the dynamic.”

Councilwoman Margaret Chin said, “We have to make sure that Zuccotti Park remains open and accessible to emergency personnel and fire inspectors. There are a lot of tents and concealed spaces in the park, and we must ensure that fuel, gasoline, and other flammable materials are removed by the appropriate agencies.”

Gideon Oliver, a National Lawyers Guild attorney who represents the several owners of the individual items seized by FDNY said that when the city takes property, it is supposed to be given back. He said of his group, “We’ve tried every channel we can think of,” to try to retrieve the seized items. Oliver faxed a letter to FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano on Oct. 29 demanding the return of the generators. He said he was told that it was forwarded to FDNY legal counsel, but that he was given no point person with whom to follow up.

Dwyer said the owners of the items may call 311 to inquire about instructions on how to retrieve them.

New York State Sen. Daniel Squadron said, “The fire risk from the gas and the generators affected the protesters and the community. I’m glad the removal went off without incident.”

Dealing with weather-related issues in the coming winter months is foremost on the minds of many O.W.S. demonstrators.

Maria Fehlig, a registered nurse from Nevada, and a member of National Nurses United, a group that supports O.W.S., says she has been at Zuccotti Park since the start of the occupation.  She said of the Oct. 29 snowstorm, that during a 24-hour period from Saturday morning to Sunday morning, the O.W.S. medical group in Zuccotti saw 150 patients, including 45 hypothermia cases.

On average, the group treats about 100 people per day, according to Fehlig, who also said that all members of the medic team have some medical training. She stated that while conditions in the park are crowded, that people usually make way for the medics if they need to reach someone in a hurry.

Councilmember Chin said, “Space in the park is already at a premium. The population swells on the weekends and as such we have to keep a close eye on issues related to capacity in order to avoid a potentially dangerous situation.”

“New York City safety regulations were developed for a reason,” said Catherine McVay-Hughes, co-chair of Community Board 1. “We have seen the tragic consequences when they are violated. We want everyone to be safe Downtown.”

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7 Responses to Occupying Zuccotti in winter; city addressing safety concerns

  1. They want to use homeless shelters in an emergency?u00a0 There is already too little space for the REAL homeless!u00a0 Forty-five hypothermia casesu00a0after one afternoon a light dusting of snow?u00a0 These people are unprepared to be here, Mayor.u00a0 Throw them out before they turn around and sue you.!

  2. Can you believe these people like they own the Park I am sick of the OWS I think it is time for them to go bunch of phonies. Don't want to share the good stuff with the homeless plus the park is spilit into two women being raped and not being reported. You have homeless who were mental patients there they can't control people their all of them should be gone. Mayor Bloomberg is doing nothing should get rid of sleeping bags, tents I hate Mayor Bloomberg bought third term. only won by 5%. If Mayor Guiliani was Mayor he would not put up with this shit.

  3. nSure the protesters are becoming a pain downtown, but does Mayor Bloomberg really want as part of his legacy the violent eviction of mostly peaceful protesters from Zuccotti? u00a0The eviction will go viral worldwide — it will be filmed and be up on You Tube instantly even if he tries it at 4 in the morning. NYPD does not have the luxury to use force against OWS without video recording (from numerous angles!), as we have already seen. The Mayor will henceforth forever be known as the man who used force to remove the Occupy protest. u00a0The majority of Americans think that what they are protesting is important, from what I read in the polls. u00a0This is the same Mayor whose defining moment (one of many) was standing in front of the Statue of Liberty and defending the right of Park51 to express their ideals without political interference. That was a great NYC story, and did our city credit worldwide as a place of tolerance and freedom. u00a0Let the winter wind down OWS, and spare us, Mr. Mayor, the brutality and spectacle of a forceful eviction. Don't make their five minutes of fame be eternally remembered for your precipitating a violent eviction.u00a0nnnnnnnnn

  4. Pingback: An Occupied Halloween | Center for Artistic Activism

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  6. that eurobonds or the pooinlg of eurozone debt would be a powerful tool in resolving the crisis, despite fierce German resistance to the idea.It calls for more intrusive control of national budgetary policies by the EU and lays out various options for enforcing fiscal discipline supra-nationally.The two-page paper, obtained by the Guardian, is to be discussed on Wednesday among senior officials in an attempt to build a consensus ahead of the summit. It may instead set off an explosive rebellion by eurozone countries balking at the options outlined by Van Rompuy, who heavily emphasises the need for a new punitive regime overseen by EU institutions that would be given new powers of intervention. [more][The Tin Foil idea of a New World Order doesn’t seem so Conspiracy Theory-ish after reading this. The bankers taking over!]

  7. I could not agree with this article more. In the 40’s thougrh the 50’s and part of the 60’s people dressed well. I remember my mother putting on a special hat and gloves to go to the grocery store. It was a time of elegance, wehn people took pride in how they looked, and how they presented themselves to the world. How I miss those days. Now, sloppy, torn, wrinkled seems to the be the order of the day. What a sad reflection on the realities present in our Western culture (or, lack of culture).- David

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