It’s not widely known, but these days, the Wall Street area is largely a residential neighborhood. After 9/11, most of the financial institutions that were based downtown moved to midtown. The old office towers were converted into residential buildings, which garner some of the lowest real-estate prices in Manhattan. These cheaper lodgings, in turn, have attracted the typical assortment of ordinary, young, middle-class families.
I’m more aware of this than most because I happen to live on Wall Street, and navigate daily the maze of barricades that have been set up down there to prevent protesters from occupying the actual Wall Street (as opposed to Zuccotti Park, a few blocks north). It’s a minor inconvenience for me, but a major one for local businesses. The owner of a wine shop in my neighborhood told me that his business is down 50 percent since the protests started.
The local community was unruffled when it appeared that the protests would last for a week or two. But now that the “occupiers” are promising to camp out through the winter, residents are beginning to revolt. An acquaintance of mine in a neighboring building, called Liberty Tower, passed along a letter that the building’s Board of Directors sent to Mayor Bloomberg last week. The letter complains that the “many infants and children” who live there can’t sleep at night because of the protesters’ disturbances:
Dear Mr. Mayor:
We represent the residents of Liberty Tower, which is located one block east of Zuccotti Park, making it one of the closest residential buildings to the park. Liberty Tower was one of the first conversions of an office building into apartments to have been completed in the Financial District. Our apartment building, now over 100 years old, and a residential building since 1979, is suffering from the use of Zuccotti Park by the “Occupy Wall Street” participants.
As you know from the many complaints from residents of the building to the New York Police Department and the city’s 311 hotline, the Occupy Wall Street participants for several weeks have created the nuisance of playing loud music in the park during the evening and at night. This creates an unacceptable situation and an unlawful nuisance, especially for the many infants and children who live in this building. Many of the children have 8:00 pm bed times in order to be ready for school the next day, so noise from the park needs to end by then.
There is a time, manner and place for demonstrations, but the Financial District is one of the fastest-growing residential communities in the U.S. and should not be subject to loud gatherings that undermine the residential nature of the community. Brookfield Properties, which owns Zuccotti Park, has acknowledged through news releases that its rules for the park are being violated. The New York Police Department has not enforced these rules or city laws.
We do not understand why the city has failed to enforce the laws. The city parks that our children visit close at dusk, and our children must obey the rules of the parks or be subject to removal. Why should the Occupy Wall Street group be permitted to sleep in Zuccotti Park, violate other rules of the park and disturb the neighbors?
We expect you to do your duty by enforcing the rules that apply to use of Zuccotti Park and to the behavior of the Occupy Wall Street group.
Board of Directors, Liberty Tower
In my own building, someone recently posted a note on our electronic bulletin board, which encouraged residents to take a more active role in resisting the occupation:
Best way to help at this point is to call 311 daily to share your concerns, by corresponding with all news media, and — most importantly — by attending upcoming meetings of Manhattan Community Board 1, when we will discuss these issues in a public forum.
Next up is a joint committee meeting, on Thursday evening, at 6 pm. News media will probably attend. It’s important to let them know our concerns.
So far the media are reporting “Youth in Revolt.” We need this story shifted to, “Community in Distress.”
We need many people present in this meeting to convey that message. And to make it clear that we’re not billionaires, just middle-class residents living in an already deeply distressed neighborhood.
We’ll see how this develops.