MANHATTAN — Mayor Michael Bloomberg slammed the Wall Street protesters Friday for “trying to destroy the jobs of working people” and scaring tourists away in his strongest words yet about the nearly three-week-long demonstration.
“What they're trying to do is to take the jobs away from people working in this city,” the mayor said during his weekly radio sit-down with WOR’s John Gambling, in response to caller complaints about the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, who’ve been camping out in Zuccotti Park near the World Trade Center since Sept. 17.
“They're trying to take away the tax base...none of this is good for tourism.”
While Bloomberg said that he was “sympathetic” to some protesters' frustrations over the economy, political gridlock in Washington and the high unemployment rate, he maintained that the targets of their scorn are misguided.
“If you want jobs, then you’ve got to assist companies and give them confidence to go and hire people,” he said earlier in the program, arguing that if high corporate salaries were to disappear, the city wouldn’t have the cash to pay municipal workers or fund public services like parks.
The protests have already cost the city $2 million in police overtime, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Thursday.
Bloomberg also had pointed words for the municipal unions that joined the protests in a massive march this past Wednesday, ending with a small group of protesters charging at police barricades and more than two-dozen arrests. Stunning video posted on YouTube shows NYPD supervisors beating back the demonstrators with batons.
“Their salaries come from the taxes paid by the people that they’re trying to vilify,” he said.
The bulk of Bloomberg’s comments came in response to a caller named Marcia, who said she lives in a building overlooking Zuccotti Park and who complained that the protesters’ drumming begins as early as 5:10 a.m. and lasts late into the night.
“I want to know about my rights to use that park,” she told the mayor. “This is our little sliver of greenery that we reclaimed after September 11th. It’s now unusable. There’s a general presence of incivility down there. But worst of all are the drums and the shouting,” she said.
Bloomberg said he understood, but reiterated that the group has the right to protest in the park. Though the plaza is privately owned by Brookfield Properties, which counts among its board members the mayor's girlfriend, Diana Taylor, it is required to be open 24 hours a day under an agreement with the city.
Bloomberg said officials are also weighing what would happen if the protesters were to leave the park, and whether they’d disband or try to set up somewhere else.
“From a practical point of view, I think we want to let some of this — play out isn’t quite the right word — but let them express themselves," he said.
But the mayor said that even if the protesters stay, police will remain vigilant. He added that the violence that erupted Wednesday was “unacceptable.”
“That is just something we are not going to tolerate," Bloomberg said. "Period. End of story."