New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been mildly critical of the Occupy Wall Street protesters, suggesting they don't have an open invitation to stay in Zuccotti Park but stopping short of any kind of ultimatum or even aggressive condemnation. That's because the city has no jurisdiction about who can stay in the privately owned park. The park is actually owned by a real estate giant Brookfield Office Properties. And, as Capital New York pointed out on Thursday, the police can't forcibly evict the protesters until Brookfield declares them trespassers, and the company hasn't signaled that it's ready to do that. Its U.S. chairman (and the park's namesake), John Zuccotti, said on Wednesday he was happy with the "festive" atmosphere in the park. But when and if the company is ready to call off the encampment, it has a direct line to the mayor: As the LittleSis blog pointed out, Bloomberg's domestic partner, Diana Taylor, sits on Brookfield's board of directors.
Taylor, whose day job is as the managing director for Wolfensohn & Company, of course does not have any kind of unilateral decision-making power at Brookfield. And she hasn't said anything publicly about the protest encampment, though she's been featured in several profiles since the occupation started. The New York Times ran a story on her work as the chair of a microfinance group that's working in Brazil, a lengthy interview with the New York Observer presented her as "The First Lady of New York City." The chairman of Brookfield's board, Gordon E. Arnell, lives in Toronto. So does Richard B. Clark, the company's president and CEO.
So far, Brookfield's response to the protesters has been subdued. Capital reported: "In public statements, Brookfield has gently suggested to the city that it is past time to restore the space to its normal use, and has posted signs in the park objecting to the sleeping bags, tarps, and use of benches as beds throughout the space." But if it wants to force the protesters out, Brookfield will have to formally complain to the police about them, and a representative will have to walk down to the park and tell the protesters to leave, New York Police Detective Rick Lee told a meeting of Manhattan Community Board 1, according to DNAinfo. We reached out to the company to see who, if anyone, held the decision-making power to lodge such a complaint, and so far we haven't heard back from them (Update: They sent us a statement, which you can read below). However spokeswoman Melissa Coley declined to comment on that matter with DNAinfo, saying only, "We continue to work with the City of New York to address these conditions and restore the park to its intended purpose."
In his mini-profile with The Times City Room blog on Wednesday, Zuccotti suggested he didn't have a final say over the company's decision on the protesters, either. "my guess is that we basically look to the police leadership and mayor to decide what to do," he told Sam Roberts. But he suggested an eviction would happen eventually if the protesters didn't leave on their own. "Sooner or later we’re going to have to get in to clean [the park]. With gas generators and other things there, we don’t want anybody to get hurt."
But the neighbors are getting restless. Downtown residents have long complained that the protesters were too noisy, and they continued to press that message at Wednesday night's community board meeting. According to one letter from a resident quoted by Capital, it's not an ideological difference, but a problem of proximity: "The current financial system is not fair. But neither is taking over one of the few small parts of our quality of life that is a plus, and not a minus, in this tourist-inundated construction site we call home."
Update (5:10 p.m. EDT): Brookfield spokeswoman Melissa Coley sent us this statement from the company:
For more than two weeks, protestors have been squatting in the park. Brookfield recognizes people’s right to peaceful protest; however, we also have an obligation to ensure that the park remains safe, clean, and accessible to everyone.
Basic rules intended to keep the park safe, open, clean, and welcoming to all visitors are clearly posted. These rules include bans on the erection of tents or other structures, as well as the placement of tarps, sleeping bags or other coverings on the property. Lying down on benches, sitting areas or walkways is likewise prohibited. Unfortunately, many of the individuals currently occupying the grounds are ignoring these basic yet necessary requirements, which interferes with the use of the park by others, including local residents, office workers, and visitors.
Sanitation is a growing concern. Normally, the park is cleaned and inspected every weeknight. This process includes power washing, litter removal, landscaping and other maintenance as required. Because many of the protestors refuse to cooperate by adhering to the rules, the park has not been cleaned since Friday, September 16, and as a result, sanitary conditions have reached unacceptable levels.