Local businesses continue suffering from the ongoing security measures put in place after OWS protesters took over Zuccotti Park. One business claims to have laid off a bunch of part time workers because business is down significantly as a result of the security barriers limiting the traffic to his establishment.
Marc Epstein, owner of the Milk Street Cafe at 40 Wall Street, just let 21 employees go.The security barriers are meant to thwart protesters from marching into the Wall Street hub area around the NYSE and Federal Hall, but they have also served to thwart tourists and local businesses from carrying out regular business. These measures are in addition to the barriers installed in the wake of 9/11 to protect the stock exchange from potential attack by car/truck bombs.
The reason? The barricades police have set up throughout Wall Street as a consequence of the ongoing demonstration.
In June, he opened the New York branch of the Boston shop, which has a 30 year history. Epstein says he leased the space on Wall Street because it was next to a pedestrian plaza – and his was the only restaurant along that plaza.
“The opening was perfect,” Epstein told CBSNewYork.com. “The food was delicious, the customers were happy, and the line was out the door.”
Customers kept coming back, Epstein said.
“Everything was going in the right direction. Sales continued to grow. We started to build our catering business. Costs were going down. I felt that by October or November we would break even.”
Then the Occupy Wall Street movement launched.
“I came one Monday morning and I found the exit by the 2 or 3 subway station closed. I saw all these barriers – barricades – all up and down my street,” Epstein said. “At first I thought nothing of it, but after a week… it’s been six or seven weeks now.”
Note too that the building where the business is located is owned by none other than Donald Trump, so expect Trump to squawk about the situation.
Local politicians continue weighing in over the protests, and Shelly Silver, the Assembly Speaker, has come out against the protests after spending time on the fence. He's been joined by other Democrats, including Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who represent the area of Lower Manhattan. They're demanding the city crack down against the nuisances, particularly those protesters who are defecating and urinating on local streets and the incessant noise coming from the drummer groups along the west side of the park.
While expressing sympathy for Occupy Wall Street protesters and their right to protest, the elected officials wrote to Bloomberg insisting he solve growing concerns.Meanwhile Mayor Mike Bloomberg and former Mayor Ed Koch sparred over the protesters and whether they were focused on the right target. While Bloomberg suggested that the real beef was with Congress and Washington, Koch pointed out the problem with someone stealing a bike going to jail while someone who stole millions got a fine.
“Some of the protesters, and others who have opportunistically joined the crowd for unrelated reasons, have created serious qualify-of-life concerns for residents of the immediate area,” the letter states.
The group complained about public urination, nonstop drumming - and erected barricades that make it difficult for local residents to get around.
“It is important that these quality-of-life concerns are addressed in an effective and thoughtful manner by the city so that they do not keep recurring,” the letter states.
Silver, at the Capitol in Albany, told reporters that exercising one’s First Amendment rights “should not include defecating or urinating on sidewalks.
“What we want is a recognition that other people have a constitutional right to enjoy their home, that businesses have a right to do business unimpeded by people who are exercising their First Amendment rights,” he said.
Both are serious problems, but the issue of fines is one that Congress has to address - that's not merely something that Wall Street can rectify on its own. It means giving teeth to the penalty structure in place for Wall Street and financial malfeasance.
At the same time, a new poll suggests that the makeup of those protesting isn't quite what people may think.
The poll by Fordham's Center for Electoral Politics and Democracy released last week found that the Occupy Wall Street movement is 68% white, 61% male and 28% unemployed. But most of the protestors are college graduates and 22% hold advanced degrees.A surprising percentage support Ron Paul, which suggests quite a significant libertarian streak among protesters, which isn't nearly what Panagopoulos suggests. It isn't surprising that there's a significant liberal presence, but there's a confluence of anti-government sentiment among the protesters that has all kinds of shades - from socialist to libertarian.
It also found that only 25% of the protestors identify with the Democratic Party, while 21% want Rep Ron Paul (R-Texas) to become the Republican Party nominee for president.
The project by Costas Panagopoulos, professor of political science at Fordham and students, surveyed 301 protestors camped out at Zuccotti Park from Oct. 11 to Oct. 14, with a response rate of 78%. Only one other such survey of Occupy Wall Street exists and it polled fewer protestors, Panagopoulos said.
“The group is very liberal and part of the Democratic base,” Panagopoulos said. “But a surprising number don’t plan to vote."
The OWS rabble rousers seem to detest the Tea Party movement, with 75% giving it two thumbs down.
But, like their conservative counterparts, the Zuccotti Park denizens don’t trust Washington to “do what is right” and 97% disapprove of how Congress is handling its job.
More protestors identify with the Socialist Party than the Republican Party, and more than a third identify with no party at all, the survey found.
The Daily News reported that a group claiming to be affiliated with the OWS protesters that circulated a supposed manifesto codifying various demands of the protesters is a bunch of bunk.