Bloomberg: Occupy Wall Street ‘Really Hurting Small Businesses, Families’
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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday said he is concerned over the growing number of complaints against the Occupy Wall Street protesters and warns there are limits to what he will tolerate.
“We are constantly monitoring the situation to preserve public safety and guarantee the rights of all people in the city,” Bloomberg said. “No one should think that we won’t take actions that we think are appropriate when we think they are appropriate.”
Bloomberg said nobody has been a stronger defender of the protesters’ First Amendment rights than he’s been but he stresses he’s concerned about the rights of the people who live and work in lower Manhattan.
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“This isn’t an occupation of Wall Street, it’s an occupation of a growing, vibrant residential neighborhood in lower Manhattan,” Bloomberg said. “It’s really hurting small businesses and families.”
The mayor made his comments in response to complaints from elected officials who represent lower Manhattan.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver joined Rep. Jerrold Nadler, State Sen. Daniel Squadron and Council Member Margaret Chin sent a letter to Bloomberg.
“First, we want to once again express our full support for the protesters’ First Amendment rights to speak and to assemble in Zuccotti Park. We sympathize with the movement’s message and we feel it is important that their voices be heard,” the officials wrote.
They then took issue with the behavior of “some of the protesters” who they say are not living up to the demonstration’s “Good Neighbor Policy” worked out with Community Board One.
Sources tell CBS 2′s Kathryn Brown the letter from the lawmakers are weighing heavily on the mayor.
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“Therefore, we are asking that the city enforce laws prohibiting the excessive noise from drumming, which has disturbed neighbors day and night, as well as those prohibiting public urination on our streets, buildings and sidewalks,” they wrote.
Sources told Brown this is a clear change in the mayor’s thinking, but added there’s no time frame or sense of what he will do about the protest.
“We are equally committed to protecting the rights of those who live in Lower Manhattan and who are entitled to go about their daily lives in peace,” Bloomberg said.
The letter came as the protest continues to experience — and cause — growing pains in the neighborhood. Recently fire officials cracked down on safety violations, clearing out generators and cans of gasoline as the temperature dropped. An area business owner also recently complained barricades put up on Wall Street as a response to the protest have crushed his business.
Enter, the Milk Street Cafe.
It opened in June and manager Mark Epstein says business was growing steadily — until crowd control barriers appeared seven weeks ago, choking off access, reports CBS 2′s Brown.
“As of yesterday we were down more than 30 percent than the weeks before the barriers went up,” Epstein said, referring to the café’s finances.
Epstein was forced to lay off 21 workers, including Shamil Cepeda.
“If their protest is gonna hurt businesses they’re kind of being hypocritical, but I just wish they would have thought about it more, especially considering this is a new business for us,” Cepeda said.
Protesters who spend their days and nights railing against the injustices of unemployment acknowledge the irony, but say they don’t feel responsible.
“We did not put those barricades in front of his store. We’re not trying to stop his business. In fact, we want him to stay in business because we know that it’s hard,” protester Angel Rodriguez said.
Meanwhile, about 100 military veterans joined the protests Wednesday marching in uniform from Vietnam Veterans Plaza to Zuccotti Park.
What do you make of the request by the officials? Sound off in our comments section.