Mayor Michael Bloomberg has shifted gears a few times during the lifespan of the Occupy Wall Street encampment, but of late he's settled into a wait-and-see attitude that relies on outside factors such as the weather to help him end the situation. The problem for the mayor is that these factors are not cooperating. But as The New York Times reports on Friday, disease might be what finally does in the protesters, who've developed a wheezing condition they're calling "Zuccotti lung."
He's been critical at times, confrontational at others, but since an aborted attempt to clear the protesters out for a park "clean-up" on Oct. 14, the mayor has shied away from taking unilateral action against the encampment. Last week, Bloomberg criticized the encampment, saying, "This isn’t an occupation of Wall Street, it’s an occupation of a growing, vibrant residential neighborhood in lower Manhattan." But on Thursday, he had very different comments in an interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe: "If you go one block away from this park, you would never know it exists," he said, according to the New York Daily News. " And despite the New York Post's ongoing insistence that the park is a den of criminals, Bloomberg said, "I will say in all fairness to the people down there — we watch very carefully — they generally do not break the law." When asked about his plan for the encampment during his weekly radio appearance on John Gambling's show, Bloomberg said, "We are watching it. We will do what's appropriate, when appropriate. Let me just leave it there," according to a tweet from New Yorkist.
The action Bloomberg has taken so far consists of low-level pressure that relies on outside elements such as the weather. The confiscation on Oct. 28 of the park's generators, the day before a freak snowstorm, certainly gave protesters a chill. But since then, the weather's been fine and the forecast calls for temperatures in the 50s at least through Nov. 20. Bloomberg has said he thinks winter will oust the protesters, but they've erected some pretty heavy-duty tents to weather the cold months.
The other outside factor that would give Bloomberg a mandate to clear out the park is the park's owner, Brookfield Office Properties, which backed off its request for the police to clear out the park in October, and since then has not asked for any further city action at the park.
The mayor would surely like to be rid of the headache in Zuccotti Park, but without the help of the weather or a mandate from the landlord, he'd have to order the police to go in and clear protesters out manually, which would definitely cause a messy confrontation. This, of course, annoys the Post, which wrote in an editorial on Friday, "Mayor Mike never could’ve pulled off Rudy’s feat of taming out-of-control crime and reclaiming the streets," because Giuliani wasn't afraid to be called "Adolf Giuliani."
But as The New York Times points out on Friday, there's no end of hardship that can befall the Zuccotti protesters, including disease. One protester told The Times, "Pretty much everything here is a good way to get sick ... It’ll definitely thin the herd." In the end, a minor public health crisis may turn out to be a help to the mayor. That would be weird.