After weeks of sustained pressure from Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protesters, the owners of Zuccotti Park plan to close portions of the protest grounds for cleaning, starting at 7 a.m. Friday. They will likely face push back.
In a flyer distributed throughout the park, the proprietors, Brookfield Properties, explained that one-third of the park will be cleaned at a time. During the cleaning, members of the public — i.e. the protesters and their belongings — must leave the area. The group estimates that each section will take approximately four hours to clean.
In a written statement, Brookfield explained that while the organization respects free speech rights, the park — which is normally cleaned daily — has deteriorated significantly.
“Brookfield respects the rights of free speech, assembly and peaceful protest,” Brookfield wrote. “The manner in which Zuccotti Park has been used for the past several weeks has created unsanitary conditions.”
The company further highlighted the need for protestors to follow park rules, which include the prohibition of tents, sleeping bags, sidewalk obstructions, laying on benches, and the storing of private property on the grounds. All of which are activities the protestors have engaged in.
“Our goal is to keep the park clean, safe and accessible to all,” Brookfield added. “As sections of the park are cleaned, they will re-open to the public. All are welcome to enjoy the park for its intended purpose as an open neighborhood plaza, in compliance with posted rules. Brookfield appreciates the cooperation of the protestors, the [New York City Police Department] and the general public in this effort.”
Brookfield spokeswoman Melissa Coley declined to comment further. (RELATED: Anti-Defamation League keeping an eye on ‘Occupy Wall Street’)
Thursday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg went to Zuccotti Park to inform the protestors of the coming clean up, according to Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway.
“Brookfield has expressed concern about its inability to clean the park and maintain it in a condition fit for public use,” Holloway said, adding that while Bloomberg is a believer in free speech, “the last three weeks have created unsanitary conditions and considerable wear and tear on the park. This situation is not in the best interests of the protesters, residents or the city.”
OWS has not taken the coming closure lightly. On the unofficial protest website, the blog surmised that the clean up is being used to get protestors out of the park.
“Bloomberg says that the park will be open for public usage following the cleaning, but with a notable caveat: Occupy Wall Street participants must follow the ‘rules,’” the site posted, referring to the Brookfield rules. “These rules include, ‘no tarps or sleeping bags’ and ‘no lying down.’”
According to the protestors, if the goal is sanitation the city should provide them with materials necessary to fulfill that end.
“If Bloomberg truly cares about sanitation here he should support the installation of portopans and dumpsters … We won’t allow Bloomberg and the NYPD to foreclose our occupation. This is an occupation, not a permitted picnic,” the statement continued.