Prominent real estate figures were among those targeted by Occupy Wall Street protestors in today’s “Millionaires March.”
Protesters marched up Park Avenue and demonstrated outside the homes of real estate developer Howard Milstein and John Angelo, CEO of Angelo, Gordon & Co., along with other CEOs and wealthy executives, including News Corp. founder Rupert Murdoch, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and hedge-fund manager John Paulson.
The protestors, who have been camped out in Zuccotti Park in the Financial District for the last few weeks, were joined by affordable housing groups and tenant advocacy organizations as they marched, yelling “we are the 99 percent,” and “hey there, millionaire, pay your fair share.” Some wore anonymous masks to hide their identity.
Representatives from Community Voices Heard, a coalition of low-income New York City residents, were among the marchers.
“All these people have the money and we’re living in slums,” said Roxanne Reid, a member of Community Voices and a resident of the Castle Hill Houses in the Bronx. “People have got asbestos, they can’t afford their apartments, they’re living in bad conditions. Washington needs to take the tax from the rich and give it to the poor.”
How did Milstein end up on the hit-list?
“They singled him out because he’s one of the millionaires who hasn’t been paying [enough] taxes,” one protestor, a teacher who would not reveal her name for fear of losing her job, told The Real Deal.
When the parade reached Milstein’s home, at 888 Park Avenue, one marcher yelled out the group’s grievances, mentioning Milstein’s Niagara Falls property holdings, the fate of which has been unclear for some time.
“He has 88 acres of land at Niagara Falls which he refuses to develop,” she shouted. “He promised to develop it ten years ago. The bank gave him $267 million in [Troubled Asset Relief Program] funds which he has refused to pay back. It’s time for him to make good on his promises.”
Milstein declined to comment on the protest via a spokesperson.
Though there was a heavy police presence, the protests were generally calm and few additional security precautions were necessary. “The millionaires will be fine,” said one police officer, who declined to be named. “These are peaceful people.”
Along the route, which began at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue and ended at 93rd Street and Park Avenue, the procession halted outside the houses of the selected millionaires. But at times, marchers were unsure about whose homes they were targeting.
“I don’t know [whose home this is],” one man confessed, “but I’m going to give them hell anyway.”
The Occupy Wall Street movement has repeatedly emphasized that it has no specific leaders or spokespeople. But Samuel Himmelstein, an attorney who has attended several Occupy Wall Street rallies, explained the reasoning behind the march.
“When people don’t have the basics — housing, healthcare, food — and we have so many millionaires and billionaires in this country, there is something not morally right,” said Himmelstein, who was not able to attend this particular event. “People are now spending so much of their income on rent … The financial crisis has just heightened the disparity between the rich and the poor in this country.”
He added: “As many creative ways they can put the pressure on the better… I hope [the millionaires] are feeling uptight, nervous and threatened, because that means the movement is achieving something.”