Mike Bloomberg agrees with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who hopes to replace him as mayor in 2013: Public spaces like Zuccotti Park should fall under the jurisdiction of the city’s Parks Department and not private owners.
Commenting on the ongoing debate around the rights of Occupy Wall Street protesters to demonstrate in plazas like Zuccotti Park — a public space that is privately-owned — Bloomberg today said he thought Quinn proposed a great idea last week.
Quinn, who has generally been cautious in her comments on OWS, said last week that there might be less confusion and tensions around the protests at Zuccotti if the city’s Parks Department uniform rules were in place.
Zuccotti is unique in that it is owned by a private company, Brookfield Properties, but is a public space that must be accessible and open as mandated by city zoning rules. That factor has been the source of a lot of conflict at the park, where the Occupy Wall Street movement began. Protesters and civil rights groups have continued to raise questions about what rights the city and the private owners have to restrict the public’s access, put up barricades around the park, and write and implement rules on how the park can be used. Police and OWS-ers have generally not gotten along.
Bloomberg has repeatedly said that the city and the New York Police Department have every right to regulate activity in the park when things get out of hand, and yesterday the Voice reported on the city’s latest defense of the famous eviction of protesters last November, which is part of a legal battle that is moving forward this week.
At a press conference this morning, responding to a reporter’s question about Quinn’s comments, Bloomberg said that as a general rule, it would be better if the city’s Parks Department had control.
“I think it’s a great idea,” he said.
Echoing Quinn’s stance, he also said that this is important to consider looking forward, but that there’s not much the city could do to retroactively change the oversight at Zuccotti. (The policy dates back to a zoning permit granted in 1968, which established Zuccotti Park as a “permanently open park” for “the public benefit,” but owned by Brookfield).
“I think going back is an enormous problem because of agreements made earlier and it would be a nightmare to go back, I’m told,” Bloomberg said. Quinn also commented last week that it would be a complex legal process to change the park’s ownership, in part because the project has already gone through the lengthy review process called the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure or ULURP.
“But I think Chris Quinn is right on that one, it’s a very good idea,” said Bloomberg, who came under fire recently this month for a large number of arrests at Zuccotti.
“It would make it a lot easier,” he said.