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Bloomberg: Protesters have 'occupied' quality of life downtown


Barricades Credit: Getty Images

Mayor Michael Bloomberg sympathized Wednesday with downtown residents and business owners whose lives have been turned upside-down since the Occupy Wall Street protesters took over Zuccotti Park.

"This isn't an occupation of Wall Street," Bloomberg told reporters Wednesday. "It's an occupation of a growing, vibrant residential neighborhood in Lower Manhattan, and it's really hurting small businesses and families."

Bloomberg said the city could take additional "actions" against the protesters, but didn't specify as to what they might be. Local politicians, including Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, have complained about barricades blocking downtown streets, noise and demonstrators relieving themselves in the street.

"We are constantly monitoring the situation to preserve public safety, and to guarantee the rights of all people in the city," he said, adding, "no one should think that we won't take actions that we think are appropriate when we think they are appropriate."

Downtown business owners said they were thrilled Wednesday that the city took down many of the barricades that have kept customers away and devastated their profits since the protests began in September.

Melissa Andreev, President of the FiDi Association and manager for La Maison du Chocolat on Wall Street, said shoppers have been avoiding the area because "they don't want to come anywhere near here."

"They've impacted nearly all of the businesses down here," Andreev said.

The Milk Café on Wall Street laid off 21 workers because of lost business, its owner told on Monday.

Vince Alessi, managing partner of Bobby Van's steakhouse on Broad Street, said he's seen lunch crowds dwindle 30-50%, though he said the barricades, not the protesters, were to blame.

"There have always been people protesting down here," he said. "These kids haven't done any damage in this area - the barricades did."

Barricades were spotted Wednesday night, but it wasn't clear if those were put back or never taken down.

Bill Dobbs, a spokesman for the protesters, said they support small businesses and are doing their best to be "good neighbors." He said that would be easier if they would be permitted to get portable toilets, which the city and the parks' owners have forbidden.

Dobbs dismissed Bloomberg's vague warning Wednesday.

"The mayor should be thinking about ways that he and the 1% can work for economic justice instead of threatening a peaceful protest," Dobbs said.

In other OWS news:

- Police arrested a 26-year-old Brooklyn man Wednesday for allegedly sexually assaulting an 18-year-old protester inside the park Tuesday, and he is reportedly being eyed for raping another girl last week.

- Dozens of war veterans joined protesters Wednesday and held a moment of silence for Scott Olsen, 24, an Iraq war vet who was injured in an Occupy Oakland protest last week.

- Hundreds of protesters in Oakland tried to shut down the city Wednesday, blocking streets and asking businesses to close.

Follow reporter Marc Beja on Twitter: @Marc_Beja

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