Occupy Wall Street Protesters Acknowledge Neighbors' Quality of Life Concerns

Protesters agree to try to limit noise, address sanitation issues

Frustrated residents and business owners near the Occupy Wall Street headquarters downtown met Thursday night, complaining that the gathering has sent their quality of life into rapid decline.

Health and sanitation issues, public safety dangers and high noise levels were among the top grievances of neighbors at the packed Community Board 1 meeting. 

"The occupiers are not our neighbors," said Linda Gerstman, who lives on Broad Street. "Our neighbors do not beat on drums while children are sleeping. Our neighbors do not verbally attack people on their way to work."

The loud repetitive drumming is also a big source of irritation, said neighbors who live near Zuccotti Park.

Some said the inconvenience associated with the protest is more a product of the police response. Vincent Alessi, who helps manage Bobby Vans Steakhouse, said business was down 50 percent at certain hours because police have placed metal barricades in front of his restaurant.

"That's the NYPD," Alessi said. "The protesters have been peaceful. They march by the restaurant, no one causes any damage."

A spokesman from Occupy Wall Street, Han Shan, came to the board meeting and promised negotiations were under way to limit the noise.

"I know that there's a growing consensus, if not a true consensus among everyone there, that we need to be better neighbors," said Shan.

He said he would bring the proposal of a good neighbor policy back to the general assembly at Occupy Wall Street.

A resolution passed by Community Board 1 during the meeting recognized Occupy Wall Street's First Amendment rights to protest and to assemble, and said it opposed the use of force by the city or by Zuccotti Park's owners to address the community's concerns. 

But the resolution also called for protesters to help address the residents' health, public safety, noise and sanitation concerns.

Among the goals detailed in the resolution: 

  • limiting the use of drums, trumpets, bugles and air horns to two hours a day, during midday;
  • arranging access to bathrooms off-site to eliminate urinating and defecating in doorways of retail shops and residential buildings;
  • removing police barricades that block access to homes and businesses

In a joint statement released Thursday, State Sen. Daniel Squadron, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said the resolution "is an attempt to establish a sensible framework that respects the protesters’ fundamental rights while addressing the very real quality of life concerns for residents and businesses around Zuccotti Park."

"Protecting the needs of Lower Manhattan and the rights of OWS do not need to be mutually exclusive," the statement said.

It seemed to be a sentiment both protesters and neighbors could agree on.

"Let us work something out together," said one Occupy Wall Street member at the meeting. "Please, try to give us a chance. "

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