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A Look Inside Zuccotti Park's Makeshift Village

By Ben Fractenberg | October 6, 2011 8:20pm | Updated on October 7, 2011 11:56am

DOWNTOWN — Protesters who have been occupying Zuccotti Park since Sept. 17 have created their own impromptu village, complete with everything from a library to a chiropractor and a barber.

Occupy Wall Street receives mail at the plaza, located near the World Trade Center, has a generator set up to serve a 24-7 "media center" and organizes teams to clean up the space on a regular basis.

At the kitchen station, protesters have set up a filtration system that cleans dishwater by filtering it through soil and gravel. The effluent is then used to water plants in the park.

Food, such as canned goods, are donated, and hot meals, such as pasta, rice and beans, are cooked at supporters' homes, where protesters can also shower.

There are status boards with the weather, the schedule for the day and coverage of the protests in the media, as well as a running count of cities that are occupied and the number of arrests that have been made.

And there is even a comfort station where protesters can get clothes and hand-warmers.

"The way that it works is that it's a leaderless movement. Everybody has to step up and the take the initiative and do things," said a protester who would only give her first name, Bre. "Everything that's being done is somebody's brainchild that they're really passionate about."

Needs for each of the stations are discussed at daily coordination meetings that are held in the mornings, and all of the goods and services are donated.

Even though the group, which is protesting Wall Street greed, has been careful to keep the space clean and orderly, they are still violating several rules that were posted in the plaza by owner Brookfield Properties.

The rules at the park — which is privately owned but operates as a public space that must be open 24 hours a day — include a ban on sleeping bags, tarps or sleeping on benches.

Brookfield can ask the protesters to leave, at which point police could get involved, but they have not done so yet.

Space could also start to become an issue, as the protests have grown substantially in just a few weeks.

On Wednesday some of the city's largest unions lent their support in organizing a rally and march that drew thousands of people.

A protester last week said the plaza was now housing about 200 people and that it would be difficult to sustain a much larger crowd.

Winter is also fast approaching. A committee is working on preparing for the inclement weather by getting people to donate coats and sleeping bags, but protesters have not discussed how they would handle extreme weather like a blizzard.

While the movement initially depended on the energy of young people in organizing the space, a more diverse crowd of people are being attracted to the plaza.

"You are beginning to see middle aged, middle class in addition to some of the younger students," said Miriam Siegman, 70, who lives in the city and has been traveling down to Zuccotti Park during the day.

"For me that's a very good sign, because it means that people who generally don't come out and who don't protest and make their voices heard are beginning to understand that this is a legitimate thing to do."