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Occupy Wall Street Wins Community Board Support

By Julie Shapiro | October 26, 2011 6:56am

LOWER MANHATTAN — Occupy Wall Street protesters won support from Downtown's community board — but were told to clean up their act.

Community Board 1 voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to support the demonstrators' right to protest, despite residents' complaints that the occupants of the makeshift camp in Zuccotti Park were noisy and dirty — with some accused of using the neighborhood as a "toilet."

The board urged protesters to work with city officials on quality-of-life concerns, including noise and sanitary issues.

But it agreed with CB1 member Michael Connolly, who said "This is an example of democracy and community-building at work."

The resolution calls on the protesters, who have been camping in the park since Sept. 17, to adhere to a Good Neighbor Policy that rejects drugs and violence, respects sanitary regulations and limits drumming to two hours a day.

However, Occupy Wall Street's decision-making body, called the General Assembly, voted Monday night to drum for four hours a day, from noon to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and those times are non-negotiable, several protesters said Tuesday night.

Some community board members wanted CB1's resolution to be stronger and asked the protesters to return a portion of Zuccotti Park to local residents and workers. But most board members opted not to make that additional request, so it was not included in the resolution.  

Joe Lerner, a board member and longtime Downtown resident, said he doesn't mind that there's no longer room for him to eat lunch in Zuccotti Park.

"I gladly give up my seat to the occupiers, because they have a just cause that should resonate with everyone here, no matter what," Lerner said, to wide applause.

The resolution ultimately passed 33 to 3, with 1 abstention, Chairwoman Julie Menin said.

The board voted after hearing from dozens of residents on both sides of the issue, from those who praised the resolution's defense of freedom of speech to those who slammed the board for not addressing the community's concerns more aggressively.

Linda Gerstman, 40, a Broad Street resident, said she felt the board was siding with the protesters.

"If the members of the community board want to continue to advocate for the protesters rather than the members of the community, they should resign and do so," she said.

But Susan Jennings, 47, a Financial District resident who brings her second-grade daughter to the protests each morning on her way to school at P.S. 234, said Occupy Wall Street is a valuable learning experience for all those who live in the neighborhood.

"I am so proud of this community for figuring out this resolution," she said.

Following the meeting, State Sen. Daniel Squadron, U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Borough President Scott Stringer and City Councilwoman Margaret Chin released a statement praising CB1's vote.

"We continue to believe that it is possible to simultaneously preserve the right to protest and the right of residents to peacefully enjoy their homes — both fundamental rights with which everyone should be concerned," the statement said.