MANHATTAN — The Wall Street bull got a break on Monday from the barricades that have kept it closed off to tourists since the Occupy Wall Street protests began on Sept. 17 — but only briefly.
Police removed the barricades for a short ceremony this afternoon belatedly celebrating the anniversary of the bull's arrival in the city back on Dec. 20, 1989. But after that, the barricades went back up, and they will likely stay up until this weekend, said Arthur Piccolo, chairman of the Bowling Green Association.
“The barricades did come down today,” Piccolo said. “People were filling the plaza as they have for 22 years.”
Piccolo said he has heard from several sources working with the city that the removal this coming weekend should be a permanent one.
“I have no reason not to believe people speaking for the city,” Piccolo said. “[And] if the barricades don’t come down, the controversy’s going to continue.”
The barricade-free festivities marked a small victory for Piccolo, who has been actively working to free the "Charging Bull" from its metal enclosure. Over the past four months, the barriers have kept visitors to a minimum, Piccolo said, and have created dangerous road conditions by pushing the tourists who do visit into the streets.
The barricades themselves prohibit access to the pedestrian plaza surrounding the bull, which stands in the center of Broadway near Wall Street. The NYPD has also positioned a police car directly in front of the statue, and Piccolo said it has remained there pretty much all the time since the protests began.
“The idea that the police department might do anything that might endanger people in the streets boggles my mind,” Piccolo said. “There’s security, and then there’s crazy security.”
The NYPD has reportedly been concerned that the Occupy Wall Street protesters could vandalize the sculpture, which was given to the city by Italian sculptor Arturo Di Modica 22 years ago.
In early November, a pair of clowns and a matador staged a play fight with the bull as part of an Occupy Wall Street prank. Just a few days later, the police cleared the Occupy Wall Street encampment at nearby Zuccotti Park back. Then, on New Year's Eve, a group of protesters again descended on the park, where dozens were arrested.
But Piccolo said there is no justificationn to block the site for such a prolonged period of time.
“We don’t barricade all the other great attractions in the city,” Piccolo said. “It’s just an unfriendly gesture.”
Piccolo had originally asked the NYPD to remove the barricades in time for the bull’s anniversary back on Dec. 20, 2011. The police declined that request, forcing Piccolo to move the celebration to Jan. 2.
Chilly temperatures and blustery winds kept the crowd to a minimum during the festivities on Monday afternoon, Piccolo said, but those who did come listened to remarks about the history of the bull and the significance of the bull’s placement downtown.
Bowling Green was where the first Italian, a young adventurer named Pietro Alberti, arrived in New York in the 1600s, Piccolo said.
“It’s an important spot,” Piccolo said, adding that the barricades are “destroying the appeal of one of the greatest attractions of this city.”