On November 15th, the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg and Brookfield Properties, “owner” of the public space of liberty square triggered an operation that evicted the occupiers from the place in order to “re-open” the square to the public. One month later, the square is still barricaded and controlled by private security forces.
A while ago, I read the entire text that organizes legally the privately owned public spaces (see previous article) only to find that, if there was ambiguities in the law -that we could have used for our cause- they were certainly in favor of the owners. For example the public space at 180 Maiden Lane in downtown Manhattan is open only from Monday to Friday from 8.30AM to 5:30PM. Needless to say that this “public space” is organized in fact for the only people who works for the corporations of the block. Similarly, the space in which many OWS working groups gather at 60 Wall Street, was recently restricted by additional rules that restrains considerably its use for the public: for example the right to move the table and chairs around…
The group whOWNSpace decided to legally react to such abuses by inviting anybody to file a request for the NY DOB (Department of Building) to inspect Liberty Square. The New York zoning legislation indeed requires that at least 50 percent of the #public plaza# frontage along each #street line# or sidewalk widening line shall be free of obstructions.
If you want to file such a request (it takes less than a minute), follow the instructions given by whOWNSpace (you can also see the maps of public spaces in Manhattan that they created):
“I have observed a violation of zoning rules at 1 LIBERTY PLAZA (Manhattan Block 62; lot 7501). Rails on all sides of privately owned public space plaza are blocking nearly 100% ACCESS FROM the STREET; the same rails also block access to the circulation paths in the plaza. Design of the plaza is governed by the section of the Zoning Code that governs design of all privately owned public spaces. The sidewalk frontage of a public plaza is required to have a minimum 50% of its area free of obstructions (NYC Zon. Res. Art. 3, Ch. 7, S. 70, 37-721). The rails currently obstruct more than 50% of the frontage on all sides. Mandatory circulation paths are required to connect each of the street frontages (37-723). The rails currently interfere with path connection to the street frontages.”