Bloomberg says there’s no daylight between the city and Brookfield, touts Yelp expansion

Bloomberg and Sterne last year. (Dana Rubinstein)
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Mayor Michael Bloomberg reiterated this morning that Brookfield Office Properties, rather than the city of New York, has the ultimate say in how to manage the Occupy Wall Street protesters camped out in the landlord's privately owned, publicly accessible Zuccotti Park.

Outlining a policy that might be described as leading from behind, the mayor said the city stands ready to assist the landlord in any way it can, should the landlord ask for help.

"They have to enforce those regulations," said Bloomberg. "And if they choose not to, then they can call the city and say, ‘We have people who are not complying with our regulations, they are therefore trespassing,’ and do something about it."

The mayor added, "Now that’s not to say we don’t work with Brookfield. It’s a company that has a lot of real estate here. And we love to have Brookfield here and we’ll do everything we can, consistent with all of our other obligations, to help them. And we are in constant contact, you can rest assured."

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Brookfield, a subsidiary of the Canada-based Brookfield Asset Management, owns 6.2 million square feet of real estate in Midtown and 12.8 million square feet in lower Manhattan, most of it in the World Financial Center across from Ground Zero.

As illustrated by the aborted "cleanup" effort two weeks ago, neither Brookfield nor Bloomberg particularly wants to play the heavy in removing the popularly supported protesters from the park. The threat of violence, not to mention the threat of some really bad press, are serious concerns.

So the two sides have been negotiating, and playing a waiting game. Brookfield appears to be waiting for New York City's elected officials to chart a way forward—perhaps by relocating the protest to a more convenient public space—and the city appears to be waiting for Brookfield to get so fed up that it decides to make a move of its own.

In the meantime, the local community board yesterday reached something of an agreement on noise and sanitary conditions with the Occupy Wall Street protesters, thereby lessening the ability of either the city or the landlord to use the community-is-fed-up rationale to force a squashing of the protest.

"To the best of my knowledge, there are certainly no disagreements," said Bloomberg this morning, at a news conference marking the opening of Yelp's East Coast headquarters, on Fifth Avenue near Union Square. "We talk all the time, and I don’t know where those stories come from. But Brookfield knows what we’re working on. We know what they’re working on. We want to help Brookfield’s business. At the same time, we have to make sure that people who want to protest have the right to protest. And so far, we have certainly done that. We expect to continue to do that. So thank you very much, all of you, and you should take a look at Yelp if you haven’t used it."

The purpose of the press conference was to mark the expansion of Yelp in New York, which the mayor presented as evidence that his administration's efforts to expand the tech sector here are working. He was accompanied by Yelp C.E.O. Jeremy Stoppelman, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, city chief digital officer Rachel Sterne and city Economic Development Corporation president Seth Pinsky.

"High-tech jobs in our city have grown by 30 percent in the past five years," said Bloomberg.

"By providing funding and incubator space for start-ups, we’re fostering that growth," he continued. "And with top universities bidding to build a new science and tech campus here, our long-term digital future, I think, looks as bright as it could be for any place in this country. We’ve already passed Boston, my former hometown, in digital venture capital investment. And we’re gaining on Silicon Valley, and we will not rest until we are number one."