Small business owners and residents in New York City's Lower Manhattan are understandably relieved by the interruption of the Occupy Wall Street protest in Zuccotti Park. The initial demonstration, described by early supporters in the most romantic terms, is now newsworthy for the wrong reasons.
The unsanitary conditions, interminable noise, vagrancy and increasing hostility have robbed neighbors of their park, now a squatters’ camp, and degraded the area in which people live and work. Even worse, it has robbed some people of their jobs directly, which is the very thing for which the protestors are blaming the “one percent.”
Two weeks ago the owners of the Milk Street Cafe announced that the protest had so disrupted their business that they had to lay off nearly two dozen employees. Other small businesses in the area have made similar complaints and their workers are most likely in similar jeopardy. It is a bitter irony, of course, that a public protest over high unemployment is driving the unemployment rate higher.
We applaud Mayor Bloomberg, therefore, for shutting down the Occupy Wall Street protest today and restoring the community to its people. Naturally, the demonstrators sought a court injunction that would allow them to reoccupy the park all over again, but we would urge Mayor Bloomberg to fight any such attempt in court. For the alternative is to watch even more jobs disappear from this section of the city.
Consider that many of the small businesses there are retail establishments. Many of them hope to generate more than half their annual revenue from the upcoming Christmas shopping season, only a few days away now. What would be the consequence if the Occupiers are permitted to retake the park?
The longer it persists, the fewer visitors will come. More businesses there will suffer, and some may not survive. Gone will be the jobs they provide and the revenue they produce for city. The neighborhood’s reputation as a place to buy a home or start a business will be badly damaged.
Enough is enough. Everyone agrees, including the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), that the demonstrators have a perfect right to protest. But that right is not so elastic that permits them to destroy a community in which thousands of people are financially and emotionally invested. As the mayor has said, they can return to the park every day if they wish to air their political grievances. But they must not be allowed to live there, in a neighborhood park, where they have already worn out their welcome.
Mike Durant is state director of the National Federation of Independent Business.