Occupy Wall Street Faces Its Neighbors At Contentious Community Board Meeting

Drumming_ZoeSchlanger.jpg
Zoe Schlanger
Drumming is one of the biggest problems neighbors have with Occupy Wall Street.
Last night, the Quality of Life and Financial District sub-committees of Community Board 1 held a hearing in Lower Manhattan. The topic was Occupy Wall Street, specifically the tense relationship the nearly five-week-old occupation has developed with its neighbors downtown.

OWS'ers Han Shan and Nelini Stamp represented the group and took questions from the board as the fired-up crowd of downtown residents and a smattering of occupiers cheered and booed. By the end of the evening, the committees had approved a number of resolutions concerning some of the biggest issues: OWS's drumming, its bathroom needs, and the barricades up all over the Financial District.

Shan, who wore a suit and earrings, described Occupy Wall Street's Good Neighbor Policy, which lays out behavioral guidelines for the occupiers. He also noted the existence of the Security Working Group and talked about its efforts, saying that it wasn't just "empowered alpha males."

Many of the Community Board members voiced their support of the occupation. Mariama James, a member of the Financial District committee, said that she wouldn't vote for measure that was "minutely indicative of being in opposition to the protest."

Some were less enthusiastic, like board member 15 Broad Street Board of Managers member Linda Gerstman: "Quite frankly I don't care about a Good Neighbor Policy," she said. "The occupiers are not our neighbors. Neighbors do not urinate and defecate in the street."

The hearing got rowdy when members of the crowd got in line to make speeches. More than 100 people had signed up to speak (though not all of them did, and in contrast with a typical OWS General Assembly, speaking time was limited to one minute).

The people who spoke were split down the middle between those who support the occupation and those who are fed up. There was 26-year-old Frank Calvosa, a recent law school graduate, who asked the occupiers to "Please take me out of your 99 percent" and described the Good Neighbor Policy as "laughable."

And then there was Garrett McConnell, an Exchange Place resident: "This is New York. It's loud, it's dirty, it's fabulous. If you thought it was going to be really quiet for your kids, you're in the wrong place."

The room erupted when occupier Ashley Love, 31, stood up and not-so-implicitly accused the board of racism for trying to place limits the drummers, noting that many of them are people of color and that "slaves built Wall Street." At that point someone in the crowd actually yelled "race card!"

Drumming was one of the biggest issues at hand, along with the barricades and the public urination and defecation. In the end, the committees voted unanimously on a resolution including limiting drumming to two hours a day, arranging access to bathrooms, working out arrangements with area small businesses, and taking down some of the barricades. The resolution will be polished and put to a vote before the full Community Board next Tuesday, October 25, according to Quality of Life committee chairwoman Pat Moore.

The hearing, which was the ninth meeting between OWS and CB1, was the largest to date, Moore said. She added that "I'd venture to say this is a very unique situation."

[rgray@villagevoice.com] [@_rosiegray]

Go to Runnin' Scared for more Voice news coverage.


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4 comments
Madeline
Madeline

Menin is a joke.  She cares more for these protesters than the people she represents. 

Grace
Grace

I support the Occupy Wall Street Protesters 100%, but understand the need for sanitary conditions for the protesters. I suggest the supporters help by using portable bathroom and shower facilities and having them set up in the Wall Street Area. Using portable sanitary stations will alleviate the protesters' needs to use public restrooms such as Starbucks, etc. and keep the neighborhood sanitary. There are two companies that come to mind immediately - Call-A-Head located in Broad Channel and Port-O-Potty. These companies may even donate some bathrooms as an advertising ploy or they may be in favor of the protesters' movement and this would be their way of showing support. Please post my suggestion. Thank you.

TomReagan
TomReagan

What a joke! These are the same jerks that wanna close down bars; private, licensed businesses that add to the tax base, because they might be too loud or cater to the "wrong" customers. Seriously, is being a hypocrite a prerequisite to being on a Community Board?!? Community Board members from CB #1 that are for this protest DESERVE to have people pissing and defacating on their stoopes!

Miso Susanowa
Miso Susanowa

It's my understanding that most of the barricades were placed there by police attempting to skirt around, play words games with or otherwise restrict First Amendment rights.

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