Occupy Wall Street supporters target REBNY over parks access

The real estate association took some heat on Twitter, Facebook

Supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement have now begun targeting the Real Estate Board of New York on social media and then in turn by phone, following news reports that REBNY seeks to submit a proposal to the city limiting the public access hours of privately owned public parks.

As has been widely reported, protesters affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement have for several weeks been camped out in Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, which is owned by Brookfield Properties but is open to the public around the clock. Brookfield has expressed some misgivings about the presence of the protesters, and last week the commercial property owner, manager and developer called off a planned clean-up operation of the park scheduled for sanitary purposes at the last moment, even as the protesters began taking the clean-up into their own hands and vowed to  resist any attempt at their removal.

In response to an opinion article in today’s New York Times
by Jerold Kayden, a professor of urban planning at Harvard University, on the legal gray area of such privately owned public spaces, and the news reports of REBNY’s plans, a Twitter user called @OccupyMyCat this morning posted, “Announcement! It’s time to Occupy REBNY, the Real Estate Board of New York!”
In a related post, the Twitter feed @OccupyWallStNYC posted “Some #OccupyAdvice 2 concerned citizens: Make sure #RealEstateBoard doesnt [sic] close parks on ‘reasonable’ use pretext,” and encouraged its followers to call REBNY’s main number to “tell them not 2 pressure city 2 close parks.”  That post was shared on Twitter at least 64 times.

Occupy Wall Street organizers were not immediately reachable for comment.

Another Twitter user encouraged followers to post on REBNY’s Facebook page. At least one comment on the association’s Facebook page by Meghan Hines stated, “Your public spaces were gifts from the city. Don’t forget that.” It was later deleted. Although Twitter users made direct reference to @REBNY’s twitter feed, it did not respond to those tweets in any way.

Steven Spinola, president of REBNY, said that the board received a handful of “polite” phone calls on the subject.

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He said that REBNY’s discussions about the proposal to bring the opening hours of privately owned public parks in line with those of city parks were in their early stages and “would probably take somewhere between six months and a year to actually carry out.”

He noted that Central Park and other parks have a 1 a.m. closing time for security reasons.

“So we kind of believe that there should be similar hours for privately owned public spaces and that they have the same concerns about security,” Spinola said, “and actually these places are in more residential neighborhoods, including Zuccotti Park, than the [middle of] Central Park is,” where residents could also be more bothered by noise.

Spinola said that REBNY’s discussions about a new policy were not intended as a direct response to the current protests in Lower Manhattan.

“This has nothing to do with what is taking place down at Zuccotti Park, other than the fact that it’s drawn attention to the fact that privately owned public spaces are treated differently than parks [owned by the city],” he said. “This has nothing to do with the people that are down there now; that’s going to be dealt with through other mechanisms.”

Spinola said the issue came up in conversations he has had with people who are involved with plazas and similar spaces.

Earlier this week, it was reported that new signs forbidding camping had gone up at several public spaces owned by Brookfield and Rudin Management in Midtown.

John Zuccotti, U.S. chairman of Brookfield and former president of REBNY, and for whom the Lower Manhattan park was named, declined to comment. Rudin could not immediately be reached for comment regarding the REBNY proposal, but a spokesperson provided the following statement regarding the signage: “There was signage in some of our locations. It has been enhanced in keeping with City Planning Commission regulations and following the recent recommendations from REBNY on this issue.”
The Department of City Planning could not immediately be reached for comment.

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