Sarah Goodyear

The park opened to visitors again this morning, but significant barriers remain in place

Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan reopened on Tuesday morning. But with wind chill hovering around 14 degrees, few people took advantage of the opportunity to make their way past the metal fences that surround the contested plaza.

The barricades were torn down on New Year’s Eve by Occupy Wall Street protesters, although they didn’t stay down for long. Sixty-eight people were arrested that night, and the park was once again closed, as it was after OWS was ejected from Zuccotti on November 15.

There was speculation the park would be shut down indefinitely. But at 8 this morning, people were once again allowed in. A mufflered security guard stood sentry at a gap in the fence.

A handful of protesters once again filled the space. One, who gave his name only as Shane, cuddled a cat against his chest and cursed the cold. A tin soliciting donations balanced on the metal rail in front of him.

Others are using less physical tactics to reclaim Zuccotti Park. A group called #whOWNSpace is spearheading an email campaign to re-open the park fully.

The group is encouraging people to "Occupy the NYC Department of Buildings’ Inbox." Supporters are urged to write to the department’s commissioner, Robert D. LiMandri, and point out that as a privately owned public space, or POPS, Zuccotti is supposed to be easily accessible from the street.

Paula Z. Segal, a member of the National Lawyers Guild and a #whOWNSspace collaborator, says that some 100 people have written to the DOB about the barricades. A complaint about the matter is now officially registered on the DOB website. But it's been assigned priority D, and it's not clear when an inspection might happen.

A DOB spokesperson told me that the lack of a safety issue associated with the complaint meant it was less urgent than others made to the department.

Segal said that part of the point of the inbox occupation was to take action within the city’s bureaucracy. "We’re trying to use the existing system and the existing mechanisms," Segal says. "They’re not very durable, and they’re not very powerful, but they’re what we have." (Full disclosure: Aurash Khawarzad, a former colleague of mine, is also a #whOWNSpace collaborator.)

Segal says she hoped the attention that Zuccotti has brought to POPS would encourage more scrutiny of these hybrid places. Usually built by developers seeking variances in zoning, they are sometimes less accessible to the public than regulations require.

"After OWS was evicted, a lot of unconscionable things happened," Segal says. "The park remains barricaded. It’s such a precedent for how other owners of POPS could keep the public out."

Back at the park this morning, Shane says he plans to keep coming back to Zuccotti until he can't bear the winter weather any longer. He's hoping to find a place for his cat to stay so it isn’t exposed to the elements. "This is going to be a big year," he says. "It’s just a matter of making it through the winter."

All photos by Sarah Goodyear

About the Author

Sarah Goodyear
Sarah Goodyear

Sarah Goodyear is a Brooklyn-based contributing writer to CityLab. She's written about cities for a variety of publications, including Grist and Streetsblog.

Most Popular

  1. Postcards showing the Woodner when it used to be a luxury apartment-hotel in the '50s and '60s, from the collection of John DeFerrari

    The Neighborhood Inside a Building

    D.C.’s massive Woodner apartment building has lived many lives—from fancy hotel to one of the last bastions of affordable housing in a gentrifying neighborhood. Now, it’s on the brink of another change.

  2. Life

    Why a City Block Can Be One of the Loneliest Places on Earth

    Feelings of isolation are common in cities. Let’s take a look at how the built environment plays into that.

  3. Design

    The Military Declares War on Sprawl

    The Pentagon thinks better designed, more walkable bases can help curb obesity and improve troops’ fitness.

  4. Members of a tenants' organization in East Harlem gather outside the office of landlord developer Dawnay, Day Group, as lawyers attempt to serve the company with court papers on behalf of tenants, during a press conference in New York. The tenant's group, Movement for Justice in El Barrio, filed suit against Dawnay, Day Group, the London-based investment corporation "for harassing tenants by falsely and illegally charging fees in attempts to push immigrant families from their homes and gentrify the neighborhood," said Chaumtoli Huq, an attorney for the tenants.

    Toward Being a Better Gentrifier

    There’s a right way and a wrong way to be a neighbor during a time of rapid community change.

  5. Infrastructure

    Vienna Makes Peace With Its Trash

    The famously clean Austrian city boasts one of the world’s most innovative waste processing systems.