The decision to postpone the cleaning of Zuccotti Park was, technically, made by the company that owns it, Brookfield Office Properties. But, as the New York Times and Daily News (and Drudge) are telling it, City Hall had skin in the game too. The short-hand narrative for what happened today is that the administration faced off with Occupy Wall Street and then backed off.
At 7 p.m. on Thursday night, 12 hours before the city was to facilitate a scheduled “cleaning”of Zuccotti Park by its owners, Jordan McCarthy, the de facto head of Occupy Wall Street's Sanitation Working Group, was at work making the place shine.
The park's owners, Brookfield Office Properties, had, with the city's blessing, directed that the protesters make way for a day-long cleaning. Brookfield had promised that the demonstrators would be able to return after the cleaning, but that they’d have to abide by a new set of rules that precluded, among other things, possession of sleeping bags and laying down.
At this point, no one with any say whatsoever in what's going to happen in Zuccotti Park is saying anything about keeping protesters out, once they've been temporarily shifted to allow the park to be cleaned. The dispute is about what rules they'll have to abide by thereafter.
Some lawmakers who are not the mayor, and who were initially reluctant to associate publicly with the leaderless, goalless protest, now want the protesters to be able to stay in the park past the mayor's cleaning deadline tomorrow morning with their sleeping gear.
Robert Jackson isn't a threat to public safety. He's a three-term city councilman from Harlem, chairman of the education committee, and he enjoys running for exercise. He also happens to be a Muslim.
But, he said, he is not entirely averse to being subjected to extra scrutiny by the police.
"Let's assume that they they felt I should be surveilled, or under surveillance, because I am the only Muslim on the City Council," Jackson told me in a recent interview. "I have no problem with them doing that."
But "once they determine" he's not a threat, Jackson said, "they should stop."
Brookfield's chief executive officer Richard Clark said a woman complained to the company that she had been "verbally abused in front of her 5-year-old child" and "that she had a package stolen from her as she tried to cross the Park." He also said the area was unsanitary.
"In light of this." Clark wrote, "we are again requesting the assistance of the New York City Police Department to help clear the Park so that we can undertake work at the earliest possible time. We will defer to the Department's judgement on how best to accomplish this, but the Department intervention is necessary both to ensure our ability to comply with our obligations as owners and to make the Park safe for the neighborhood and public."(19)
Rep. Jerry Nadler did more than come to the defense of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators with his comments to the Washington Times today. The liberal Manhattan-Brooklyn congressman, whose district includes Wall Street and Zuccotti Park, also called into question the way police officers have responded to the four-week-long series of demonstrations.
"First of all, I know what it is to be a student and had to deal with being [under] surveillance," he said. "When I was at City College, they put a device in front of the men's room by the student group that we used to have, in our campus."
He added, "There was a device inside the smoke detector in front of the door."
Michael Bloomberg has the authority to tell the NYPD to shoot down (small) aircraft over New York City. But when it comes to the people trying to "destroy" New York's jobs, tourism, economy and whole way of being … they can stay "indefinitely."
The mayor's comments today seems to confirm yet again what we reported here, which is that the combined approach from the city and Zuccotti Park landlord Brookfield Office Properties—which technically is the entity that gets to decide how long the demonstration can be based there—is one of conditional accommodation: The demonstrators can stay as long as they don't break the law.
As New York City's economy chugs along, the mayor is painting the protesters as people who could, possibly, make things worse. Already, the NYPD has spent $2 million on overtime in response to the demonstrations.
Two of New York's top law enforcement officials could be on a crash course, now that a handful of lawmakers are asking for the state attorney general to investigate the NYPD's surveillance program.
Attorney General Schneiderman didn't campaign as a tough-on-crime crusader, but rather, as a more sympathetic administrator of public policy, looking to remedy problems in the criminal justice system. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly has carved out his own unique profile, unapologetically targeting high crime areas with aggressive police tactics, while quickly opening internal investigations into alleged wrongdoing. The combination helps explain his ability to maintain high public approval ratings despite a bevy of outcries from recent police controversies.
"Finally," Gale Brewer wrote in a latter to Ray Kelly, "after an hour and a half, an HPD officer of a higher rank came by and had me released. However, this was only after Council staff spoke by cell phone to parade organizers, who had to communicate my situation to this NYPD individual."
NYPD's pepper-spray use comes into question, and so do the numbers attached to a city-backed jobs program
The number of job seekers who found employment through city-backed job centers has reportedly been overstated. Michael Powell details in his column what seems to be a systematic effort to bump up numbers and make it appear that nearly everyone handled by the organization was placed into work.
Last night, 60 Minutes went inside the NYPD's counterterrorism operation, shadowing Commissioner Ray Kelly in his new joint operations center and riding along in the heavily fortified back seat of his mobile command unit. The program went for a behind-the-scenes look at Kelly's efforts to keep the city safe, pegged to the strategic challenges of hosting the U.N. General Assembly.
On Saturday, I watched a handful of Japanese tourists peering over a low metal barricade slung across the top of Wall Street, at Broadway, trying to catch a glimpse of the fabled stock exchange. The street, they had been informed, was closed because a group of people wished to use it for a protest. One of the Japanese approached a police officer stationed in front of the barrier. What, she asked in fractured English, did the protestors want?
The co-chair of the largest bloc of members in the New York City Council, Robert Jackson of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, said the group is likely to call for a formal probe into the NYPD's conduct after last week's parade.