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.”