Legal questions arise as Wall Street protesters occupy public park owned by Brookfield

Brookfield Office Properties is in an awkward situation as the landlord
of Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, which has been the headquarters of choice for
anti-Wall Street protesters over the past week, the Wall Street
Journal reported. Brookfield and the New York Police Department are negotiating over how to
handle the 100 or so demonstrators who have been camping out in the
park, which is named for Brookfield’s co-chairman, John Zuccotti. While
Brookfeld would rather remove them, the NYPD would prefer they be
allowed to stay, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Zuccotti Park is intended for the use and enjoyment of the general
public for passive recreation,” the company said in a statement. “We
are extremely concerned with the conditions that have been created by
those currently occupying the park and are actively working with the
City of New York to address these conditions and restore the park to
its intended purpose.”

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A Harvard professor told the Wall Street
Journal that, as a private owner of a public park, Brookfield’s legal
standing to push out protesters is not well defined, as compared to
city property like a sidewalk. The park is one of many in the city
created by developers to get zoning incentives to build taller buildings, according to the Wall Street
Journal. Tenants of Brookfield’s properties include Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase.

While several protesters did have run-ins with the police on Saturday
after an unauthorized march to Union Square, they have not yet run
into any problems in the park itself. However, Brookfield has begun
communicating new rules to the demonstrators, forbidding tarps,
sleeping bags and personal property on the ground. But the protesters
responded by refusing to accept printed copies of the rules from men
in suits handing them out, chanting, “Don’t take the papers.”

Any lawsuit that grows out of the park occupation could redefine the
rules for the rights of protesters in privately owned parks, experts said. [WSJ]

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