By Ben Fractenberg and Amy Zimmer
HELL'S KITCHEN — The city backed down on promises to return property of ousted Occupy Wall Street protesters Tuesday — claiming it needed to go through the gear and make sure it was safe.
Instead of opening up the Department of Sanitation facility on West 57th St. at noon Tuesday for people to reclaim tents and other belongings, police locked the doors at 11:45 a.m.
"Nobody is getting in today," an officer said, explaining that police needed to "go through everything" for fear it might contain broken glass.
The officer assured the protesters their belongings were secure in the building and the doors would be guarded to make sure no one got inside. They said people would most likely be able to get their things on Wednesday morning.
The Sanitation Department did not immediately respond for comment.
"I'm really disappointed," said Chris Grosek, 30, after being turned away.
Grosek said he was picking up a table he loaned to Occupy Wall Street and other stuff he lent friends, who were staying at the Zuccotti Park site. Grosek was helping out in the park during the day, but sleeping in his East Village apartment at night.
Cody, 19, and Taryn, 21, unemployed Californians who flew out here six weeks ago to participate in the Occupy Wall Street movement (and declined to give their last names), had arrived early and were allowed to rummage through four piles of gear for half an hour.
They then got kicked out because police had to "get broken glass out" of the piles, Cody said.
They found some of their stuff, but were still missing a cell phone, guitar case, a pair of glasses and Kurt Vonnegut books, Taryn said.
They said it took them half an hour to track down the address for the Sanitation Department facility, first calling 311, then being directed to police, who told them to call sanitation.
After getting kicked out of the West Side facility, the duo said they were heading back to Zuccotti Park, where they had avoided arrest earlier in the day.
"We had no warning," Cody recounted. "They came in and started tear gassing people, beating them."
Police with bullhorns and bright lights distributed fliers telling protesters they had to leave the park because they posed a fire and health risk at 1 a.m. Tuesday. They were told to leave immediately and clear out all of their personal belongings.
An hour later dozens of cops could be seen in the park tearing down tarps and other structures in the encampment that has filled Zuccotti Park for nearly two months. A lot of debris was tossed into garbage trucks, and the sound of crunching could be heard.
There were reports that Occupy Wall Street's library, called The People's Library, had been destroyed, however the Mayor's office said via Twitter at about 3:45 p.m. "Property from #Zuccotti, incl #OWS library, safely stored @ 57th St Sanit Garage, can be picked up Weds".