Lower Manhattan’s Local News
Welcome to the Occupation
Protestors Driven from City Hall Park Consider What They Accomplished, and What Remains to Be Done
The Occupy City Hall encampment, which was demolished by police on Wednesday.
In the hours before dawn on Wednesday morning, NYPD officers in riot gear swept through the pedestrian plaza at the corner of Centre and Chambers Streets (between City Hall and the Municipal Building) and forcibly removed more than 100 protestors who had been camped there since early June, under the rallying cry of “Occupy City Hall,” to demonstrate their support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Later that morning, the Broadsheet spoke to a group from the encampment, who (using first names or pseudonyms) reflected on their time within the improvised commune they had come to call “Abolition Park.”
Mr. Familiar: “There’s only so much you can do to a people until they say, ‘no more.’ And we’re not going to stop until these injustices are no more. So long as I have breath in my lungs, this ain’t over.”
Mr. Familiar, who served as a de facto facilitator among the avowedly leaderless community that sprang up in the park, says, “everything we’ve been fighting for was accomplished right there. In that space, we had equality and democracy—literally. No matter what issue arose, we came together as community and found a resolution. There were no shootings or stabbings. It was a place of love. We had set up a library and internet access, and we had food services established, serving hundreds of meals per day.”
“When people say they don’t need the police,” he continued, “this is what they mean. We proved it. We were people who came from bad neighborhoods in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. And we sat here in the Financial District, with very wealthy people walking past, seeing what we were building, who then returned and took time out to leave their penthouses to come spend nights with us.”
Relly says, “I came from New Jersey when I heard this was happening. I got here on the second day, listened to several speakers, and some people suggested I stay the night. So I joined the team, and I made a job for myself breaking up conflicts and deescalating.”
Winston: “By taking away that space, with its inspiration and freedom, the only thing they’ve accomplished is to scatter the seeds of this into dozens of new, smaller organizations.”
Winston reflects that, “what we established in the space was inspiration—for artists, for reformers seeking social justice. The community we created inspired people to become better human beings, to grow with each other, regardless of their differences or their backgrounds. The space and what happened there taught people that change is possible. And then it got shut down, to take away that hope.”
Rogue observes that, “this was a radical social experiment. The space has really been an exercise in understanding the trauma of marginalized people—queer and trans folks, the homeless, black and brown folks, and the intersections where those communities overlap. This space was created to protect and serve those people, all of whom have been pushed to the side with state-sanctioned violence, as a byproduct of the capitalist system.”
“The nature of the occupation shifted over time,” Rogue continues. “It was originally focused on protest against violent harassment of these marginalized groups. But as time went on, and we thought about models of sustainability, it evolved into a community experience and a form of sharing resources—not just food and shelter, but knowledge. It also changed from a protest about the injustices perpetrated against people of color, into a venue for sharing moments of Black joy. I learned more in these last few weeks than in years of schooling. I have been looking for truth in books, but I found it in the streets.”
Rogue: “This was a radical social experiment, an exercise in understanding the trauma of marginalized people—queer and trans folks, the homeless, black and brown folks—created to protect and serve those people, all of whom have been pushed to the side with state-sanctioned violence.”
Mr. Familiar laments that, “the narrative has been about riots during the first day or two. But for months now, there hasn’t been any rioting. The only violence here since then has been by the police.”
“Over the last few weeks,” he says, “we asked dozens of the police officers who surrounded us to recite the oath they swore on their first day. Most of them could not remember the words. How can they live up to that promise if they don’t even know what it is? Why do police officers who commit violent crimes get a paid leave of absence, followed by a transfer to another precinct, when a homeless man who does the same thing goes to jail for years? The police must be held to the highest possible standard.”
“There’s only so much you can do to a people until they say, ‘no more,’” he adds. “And we’re not going to stop until these injustices are no more. I’m a young black man from the ’hood. I’ve had to fight since I came out of the womb. I’m tired to fighting. I’m a father of four, and my daughter is on her way to college this year.”
“Regardless of skin color,” he says, “we need to treat each other with respect, with kindness, with love. And that’s what we created with Occupy City Hall. This occupation began as a protest about the City budget. But it became much bigger. We are supposed to protect each other.”
A group of protestors (along with local supporters) gathered Downtown after being driven from the park.
“So long as I have breath in my lungs, this ain’t over,” he insists. “I will keep fighting.
Winston notes that, “people complained about the graffiti on the pavement, on the buildings. But that was art work, statements about freedom, liberty, justice—all the things that this country is supposed to represent.”
“For me personally,” he notes, “this fight isn’t over. I just have to take it somewhere else. The space we created was about unity and harmony, to show that we are more than what the world thinks we are.”
“By taking away that space,” he reflects, “with its inspiration and freedom, the only thing they’ve accomplished is to scatter the seeds of this into dozens of new, smaller organizations.”
text and photos by Matthew Fenton
Long-time Lower Manhattan resident Esther Regelson writes:
“Biking around since the pandemic began, I couldn’t help but notice the ubiquitous and disturbing proliferation of gloves and masks strewn everywhere throughout the city and I documented it in an animated form.”
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Weir and When
Thursday Meeting Reviewed Resiliency Plans for Northern Battery Park City
One design concept under consideration for the Esplanade on Battery Park City’s northern edge would extend the walkway more than 20 feet into the water, creating space for new anti-flooding infrastructure, as well as new amenities.
On Thursday, July 23, the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) and Community Board 1 (CB1) co-hosted an online public meeting focused on the North Battery Park City Resiliency Project.
The meeting was a follow-on to a public discussion held last February, at which preliminary options and design concepts were reviewed by the BPCA, along with the team of engineers and architects who will be conceiving the measures intended to make the northern edge of the community resistant to sea-level rise, climate change, and future extreme-weather events.
Get Out on the Water from North Cove
Need a safe and breezy break from your apartment? Several cruise operators have reopened in North Cove and are offering opportunities to get out on the water, including Tribeca Sailing
and Classic Harbor Line
. All cruise operators are adhering to social distancing guidelines; check individual websites for details.
‘I Can’t Rule Out Sleeping in the Streets If I’m Forced Out of Here’
Group of Elderly Battery Park City Residents Face Eviction, Homelessness as Affordability Protections Sunset
More than dozen elderly residents of Battery Park City are facing imminent eviction—and in some cases, the possibility of being made homeless—as longstanding affordability protections lapse on their apartments, triggering rent hikes of thousands of dollars per month.
These tenants (a racially diverse group, two of whom are disabled, and several more of whom suffer from September 11-related illnesses) reside at 225 Rector Place, in a cluster of 17 apartments, which are all that remain of more than 60 units once set aside as low- and middle-income dwellings, when the building (originally known as Parc Place) opened as a 305-unit rental tower in 1986. The original developer, the Related Companies, accepted substantial government subsidies in exchange for participation in the so-called “80/20” program, which called for one-fifth of the apartments in a building to be reserved for people of limited means, while four-fifths were allowed to be rented at unrestricted, market rates.
Quasi-Rent Stabilization Ends at Gateway Plaza
Affordability Protections Replaced by Ten-Year Cap on Rent Increases
The Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) announced on Wednesday an agreement with the LeFrak Organization (operator of Gateway Plaza, the community’s largest residential complex) that will roll back affordability guarantees for the dwindling cohort of tenants who have been protected for decades by caps on rent increases.
According to a statement by the Gateway Plaza Tenants Association (GPTA), the deal will limit rent hikes to 2.5 percent per year (for one-year lease renewals) and 3.78 percent (for two-year renewals) through 2030 for the roughly 600 households that were previously covered by a program known as “quasi-rent stabilization” (QRS). That plan mandated that rents for Gateway residents who were protected could not be raised by more than the increase allowed for rent-stabilized apartments elsewhere in the five boroughs by the City’s Rent Guidelines Board (RGB).
This arrangement is likely to disappoint Gateway residents and affordable housing advocates for several reasons. Chief among them is that if the QRS agreement had been extended, covered residents of Gateway Plaza would likely be facing significantly smaller rent hikes.
Who Got What: Battery Park City
Federal Loan Program Bails Out Local Small (and Not-So-Small) Businesses
(Editor’s Note: This is the first in an occasional series of stories detailing the impact of federal bailout funds on Lower Manhattan businesses.)
The federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has disbursed more than $600 billion in roughly 4.9 million loans to business around the nation, in response to the economic slowdown triggered by the pandemic coronavirus. In Battery Park City’s three zip codes, 285 businesses and non-profit organizations received loans totaling more than $10 million, based on the possibility of saving more than 2,900 jobs, according to data recently released by the federal government’s Small Business Administration (SBA).
Higher, Wider, Handsomer
Finalists Announced in Design Competition to Improve Pedestrian Access to Brooklyn Bridge
On some weekends, as many as 15,000 pedestrians and 3,600 cyclists compete with each other and souvenir vendors for as little as 10 feet of width on the deck of the Brooklyn Bridge, creating an unpleasant and potentially unsafe bottleneck.
The City Council and the Van Alen Institute (a New York nonprofit architectural organization, dedicated to improving design in the public realm) have named the shortlist of contenders in a contest that aims incubate fresh ideas for better pedestrian access to the Brooklyn Bridge.
Lights, Camera, Violation
Local Traffic Monitoring Device is Part of City-Wide Expansion
A work crew installs a new traffic monitoring device at the corner of West and West Thames Streets.
Lower Manhattan residents may soon be slightly safer, if lighter in the pocket, thanks to a new traffic monitoring device that has been installed at the corner of West Street and West Thames Street. The camera and radar unit, mounted on a silver pole, combines red light monitoring with speed enforcement for vehicles proceeding south along Route 9A (West Street).
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Amelia Earhart, pilot and author born today in 1897
1148 – Louis VII of France lays siege to Damascus during the Second Crusade.
1487 – Citizens of Leeuwarden, Netherlands, strike against a ban on foreign beer.
1847 – After 17 months of travel, Brigham Young leads 148 Mormon pioneers into Salt Lake Valley, resulting in the establishment of Salt Lake City.
1866 – Reconstruction: Tennessee becomes the first U.S. state to be readmittedto the Union following the American Civil War.
1911 – Hiram Bingham III re-discovers Machu Picchu, “the Lost City of the Incas”.
1929 – The Kellogg–Briand Pact, renouncing war as an instrument of foreign policy, goes into effect (it is first signed in Paris on August 27, 1928, by most leading w
1943 – World War II: Operation Gomorrah begins: British and Canadian aeroplanes bomb Hamburg by night, and American planes bomb the city by day. By the end of the operation in November, 9,000 tons of explosives will have killed more than 30,000 people and destroyed 280,000 buildings.
1950 – Cape Canaveral Air Force Station begins operations with the launch of a Bumper rocket.
1959 – At the opening of the American National Exhibition in Moscow, U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev have a “Kitchen Debate”.
1969 – Apollo program: Apollo 11 splashes down safely in the Pacific Ocean.
1974 – Watergate scandal: The United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled that President Richard Nixon did not have the authority to withhold subpoenaed White House tapes and they order him to surrender the tapes to the Watergate special prosecutor.
2013 – A high-speed train derails in Spain rounding a curve with an 80 km/h (50 mph) speed limit at 190 km/h (120 mph), killing 78 passengers.
1802 – Alexandre Dumas, French novelist and playwright (d. 1870)
1897 – Amelia Earhart, American pilot and author (d. 1937)
1920 – Bella Abzug, American lawyer and politician (d. 1998)
1921 – Billy Taylor, American pianist and composer (d. 2010)
1935 – Mel Ramos, American painter, illustrator, and academic (d. 2018)
1115 – Matilda of Tuscany (b. 1046)
1862 – Martin Van Buren, American lawyer and politician, 8th President of the United States (b. 1782)
1980 – Peter Sellers, English actor and comedian (b. 1925)
1991 – Isaac Bashevis Singer, Polish-American novelist and short story writer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1902)
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