Fact checking: “Whose park? Our park!”

Judge Backs Camping Ban at Protest Site


The protesters, about 200 of whom have been staying in the park overnight, initially resisted with chants of “Whose park? Our park!”

What Occupy Wall Street Owes to Zoning


The geographic center of the protest is Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, a one-block collection of trees and benches that is owned by an office landlord, Brookfield Office Properties Inc. Private ownership actually makes the space more accessible than public parks, many of which close at night.

As discussed in a Journal article Saturday, the city’s zoning code requires that many privately owned parks be open to the public at all times – one of the factors that made Zuccotti Park a hospitable venue for the protesters’s all-hours encampment.

Termed a “privately owned public space” — or POPS, in zoning parlance — these plazas stand at the intersection of capitalist instinct and public interest.

The zoning code puts restrictions on the scale of towers that developers are allowed to build. In an attempt to add public space in Manhattan without buying new parkland, city government allowed developers to build bigger structures if they set aside a plaza that remains open to the public.

While many of these are tucked away in the backs of buildings or in lobbies, Zuccotti Park turns out to be one of the most accessible POPS in the city. Of course, there is an irony that the space in which Occupy Wall Street has found a continued home is owned by the city’s largest landlord for financial services firms — the very industry they are protesting.

The rules governing POPS make them pretty accessible by design. At least half of the 500-plus plazas in the city must be open 24 hours, although the real-estate industry’s main lobbying group wants to change the rules so that they can close at night. Some owners have received permission to close theirs at night if they can make a convincing case that there is a security concern associated with 24-hour access.

Landlords are allowed to post rules that restrict people from some activities (such as skateboarding), and if a visitor breaks one of those rules, the landlord can ask the person to leave. At that point, a refusal to leave can be considered trespassing and the owner can ask the police to arrest the person, according to Gabriel Taussig, an attorney in the city’s Law Department.

When the protest began inside Zuccotti Park one month ago, there were few rules applied to the protesters. After people set up a camp inside the plaza, however, Brookfield posted new rules that prohibited camping, tents and “lying down on the ground,” among other rules.

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