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Occupy Wall Street Neighbors: 'We're Under Siege'

  • Peter Fedynsky

The Occupy Wall Street protest in lower Manhattan has not actually occupied the street that is synonymous with American finance, but rather a park several blocks away. The area's small business owners and residents feel under siege.

Virtually constant drumming from mid-morning until late at night, for nearly a month now. Neighbors are not pleased. Steven Abramson is among them.

“There are families in this building with young children,' he said. "There are some older people who live here as well that would like some peace and quiet.”

“We are here to support a movement! Drumming helps that movement." said a drummer.

This drummer is reacting to yet another request by residents to stop. He refuses, saying drums are the heartbeat of a movement aimed at helping all Americans, including nearby apartment residents.

Many protesters say they understand the plight of the locals, just as many residents and shopkeepers say they support the movement. Nonetheless, neighbors complain their grievances are ignored. Stacey Tzortzatos and her husband own the Panini and Company Café across the street from the protest park.

"Somebody told me yesterday, well, I’m just collateral damage, because of my location," said Stacey Tzortzatos. "I shouldn’t be collateral damage.”

Despite all of the people in the park, nearby restaurant owners complain business is down. Tzortzatos says one reason is the police barricades that block access through the park for customers. Even food vendors in the park say tourists are doing most of the buying because protesters enjoy donated food. Sean Harper, a protest volunteer, dismisses the concerns of business owners.

“They have the right to not like it, but we have a right to deliver free food to the people," said protest volunteer, Sean Harper. "That’s what we’re doing. If that's an effect, it's an effect.”

The lobby of Steven Abramson’s apartment building is pungent with the smell of disinfectant to disguise the stench of urine outside. He says some protesters relieve themselves in the area at night. The problem - no portable toilets at the park.

“There’s a lot of people across the street - hundreds of people, but out of the hundreds of people, maybe 10 will come and eat here," said Tzortzatos. "Other times, they just want to use the facilities and wash themselves and brush their teeth and take showers in the restroom.”

Many nearby restaurants have closed their restrooms. Owners say their facilities are not equipped to handle so many people.

Unsanitary conditions prompted New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to order the park closed in stages on Friday for a cleanup. Bloomberg says the city is trying to protect the rights of protesters, as well as the rights of people who live and work in the area.

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