Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Brookfield Properties responds re: #OccupyWallStreet

(For my complete report on the protest, click here.)


The #OccupyWallStreet protest is in fact occupying Zuccotti Park, a private park owned by Brookfield Office Properties. I couldn't find an official statement from them on the protest, so I sent an e-mail to their Communications department. This is the e-mail I got in response:

Robert,
Thanks for your note. Here is our statement:

As the owner of Zuccotti Park, Brookfield Office Properties is committed to maintaining a clean and safe environment for the public to enjoy.

For more than two weeks, protestors have been squatting in the park. Brookfield recognizes people's right to peaceful protest; however, we also have an obligation to ensure that the park remains safe, clean, and accessible to everyone.

Basic rules intended to keep the park safe, open, clean, and welcoming to all visitors are clearly posted. These rules include bans on the erection of tents or other structures, as well as the placement of tarps, sleeping bags or other coverings on the property. Lying down on benches, sitting areas or walkways is likewise prohibited. Unfortunately, many of the individuals currently occupying the grounds are ignoring these basic yet necessary requirements, which interferes with the use of the park by others, including local residents, office workers, and visitors.

Sanitation is a growing concern. Normally, the park is cleaned and inspected every weeknight. This process includes power washing, litter removal, landscaping and other maintenance as required. Because many of the protestors refuse to cooperate by adhering to the rules, the park has not been cleaned since Friday, September 16, and as a result, sanitary conditions have reached unacceptable levels.

We continue to work with the City of New York to address these conditions and restore the park to its intended purpose.

Best regards,
Melissa



Melissa Coley
Vice President, Investor Relations & Communications


Brookfield Global Real Estate
Brookfield Office Properties
Three World Financial Center
200 Vesey Street, New York, NY 10281-1021
T 212.417.7215, F 212.417.7272
melissa.coley@brookfield.com
www.brookfieldofficeproperties.com

The undersigned is an associated person of a registered investment adviser. View important disclosures and information about our e-mail policies http://www.brookfield.com/supervisedemaildisclaimer.

In my experience, sanitation isn't necessarily an issue. Unlike 'angry' protests that trash their venues, this one is (barring a few exceptions) very 'nice'. The protesters themselves are keeping the park clean. There is a strong ethos to not litter or otherwise degrade the park, and I watched as members of the protest went around the park with trash bags cleaning up litter. This doesn't solve the problem of hosing down the pavement every once and a while, but generally, the protesters are doing their own maintenance.

In this, and many other ways, the protest reminds me of the Burning Man festival held in the Nevada desert every summer. That, too, has an enormous social norm of keeping the desert clean, to leave the area as if the massive event didn't happen.

While complying with all the rules is difficult, since the purpose is to 'occupy' the park, I'm sure the protesters would accommodate Brookfield on other maintenance issues. Udate: As it turns out, the protesters refused all attempts to work with Brookfield to do things like hose down the park.

Above is a picture of the rules of the park. I took this picture at night, which is why it's colored yellow from the sodium vapor street lamps. In case you have trouble reading it:

ZUCCOTTI PARK IS A PRIVATELY-OWNED SPACE THAT IS DESIGNED AND INTENDED FOR USE AND ENJOYMENT BY THE GENERAL PUBLIC FOR PASSIVE RECREATION.

FOR THE SAFETY AND ENJOYMENT OF EVERYONE THE FOLLOWING TYPES OF BEHAVIOR ARE PROHIBITED IN ZUCCOTTI PARK.

CAMPING AND/OR THE ERECTION OF TENTS OR OTHER STRUCTURES.

LYING DOWN ON THE GROUND, OR LYING DOWN ON BENCHES, SITTING AREAS OR WALKWAYS WHICH UNREASONABLY INTERFERES WITH THE USE OF BENCHES, SITTING AREAS OR WALKWAYS BY OTHERS.

THE PLACEMENT OF TARPS OR SLEEPING BAGS OR ANY OTHER COVERING ON THE PROPERTY.

STORAGE OR PLACEMENT OF PERSONAL PROPERTY ON THE GROUND, BENCHES, SITTING AREAS OR WALKWAYS WHICH UNREASONABLY INTERFERES WITH THE USE OF SUCH AREAS BY OTHERS.

THE USE OF BICYCLES, SKATEBOARDS AND ROLLER BLADES.

REMOVAL OF OBJECTS FROM TRASH RECEPTACLES.

The last line is ironic: the protesters are keeping the park clean precisely by breaking the rule about removal of objects from trash receptacles. The protesters are removing all trash when they get full, and replacing the full trash bag with an empty one, and placing the bag on the curb so that it can be picked up by the city.


This was in response to my e-mail request:
Hi! I was hoping you would be nice enough to have one of your people answer a quick question?

Why do you guys have a park? I would assume you have to pay taxes on it, but receive no financial benefit. Is there a rule that you have to set aside a certain amount of space for other buildings you own nearby?

Also, do you have an official statement on the protest? It seems you've been very nice, but on the other hand, it's hard to imagine that you'd be pleased with the protest if it lasts for months.

Thanks you for any response.

5 comments:

Dr. Memehash said...

I can't point you to a specific page, but my understanding is that the park was a trade for more air rights for the building opposite the park on Liberty. In return for dedicating the space to public use, developers can typically build higher or get other exceptions made for the building code (another example of this is the atrium at 590 Madison).

Robert Graham said...

Thanks! That's exactly the sort of thing I was looking for.

mik3cap said...

How the heck is "privately-owned public space" supposed to be defined, anyway? Is it private, or public?

vanderleun said...

Mik3-- It is pretty much as implied and expressed by Memehash. The developers establish private parks which they build and maintain in exchange for development rights such as air rights. There a numerous examples of this sort of thing all over Manhattan. The trade off is that the public has the right of unimpeded (within certain parameters having to do with public safety and vagrancy) access to these spaces and the developers get to develop properties in such a way as to clear a profit. This has been going on for quite some time in Manhattan and elsewhere and seems to be a mutually beneficial tradeoff. Some gripe that the developers get too much for too little but they are those that are always griping. In general in my experience of many years in Manhattan these private/public parks are a good deal.

If they didn't exist you might have shorter skyscrapers but you'd also have no street level retreats for the people.

As indicated above access is not, by default, entirely unhampered. Some parks in midtown and elsewhere are closed and gated after certain hours in order to keep riffraff from occupying them and driving work day citizens away.

As far as the park in question is concerned, it's clear that only a certain element of the population has had access to it for some weeks now.

It will probably end in tears.

Dr. Memehash said...

A followup with a specific nyc.gov page on "privately owned public spaces" : http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/pops/pops.shtml