The “Occupy Wall Street” protests have been a thorn in the side of a number of lower-Manhattan businesses. But the U.S. congressman who represents the district where protestors have gathered has a blunt message for the area’s business owners: deal with it.
“All of us have to live with expressions of democratic demonstrations or whatever,” Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) told the Washington Times’s Kerry Picket when asked about complaints from the area’s residents and business proprietors. “I think businesses are being damaged a hell of a lot more by our stupid economic policies” than by the protests, Nadler said.
Some businesses in the area have been forced to shoulder significant costs as a direct result of the ongoing protests, now in their third week. Stacey Tzortzatos, who owns a panini shop near Zucotti Part, the epicenter of the protests, said she had to install a $200 lock on her bathroom door after the sink was destroyed, pipes broken, and the bathroom flooded.
The Huffington Post relayed this anecdote from another local worker:
A manager at the nearby Essex World Cafe — who asked to remain anonymous — shared similar complaints. Referring to three young men waiting at the end of the counter, he explained, “They want to use the toilet, the phones, we give them free water and free ice. They sit here and don’t buy anything, but they recharge their phone batteries with our plugs, and I tell them, ‘Hey, if you guys are going to come, I need to do some business here. We are suffering, too!’ And then they start with their own words, going against you.” The three young men eventually left the cafe, each carrying large containers the staff had filled with hot and cold water for them.
This manager also cited damages, including graffiti on his restroom walls. “For eight and a half years, there was nothing on those walls,” he said. “Now it says ‘Viva la Revolucion’ everywhere. Yes, ‘Viva la Revolucion,’ but don’t write it on my toilet. I let you use my facilities without being a customer and this is what I get?”
While some workers raise concerns about damage to their facilities, others say their businesses have actually come to a halt since the protests began. National Review’s Charles Cooke spoke with one food vendor who said he hadn’t been able to work for two weeks:
Others in the area have cited sanitation problems arising from the protests. “We are urging the city to get involved in sanitation issues,” Community Board 1 chair Julie Menin told a New York City public radio station. “The City really doesn’t seem to really have any kind of plan to deal with sanitation issues.”
Menin also said that the protests were inconveniencing the area’s residents. “The other big issue is access,” she explained. “The NYPD has put police barricades really all over the financial district. So we are getting a tremendous number of calls at the Community Board office dealing with access to residential buildings and businesses.”
But despite all of these ongoing issues, Nadler insists that in this instance national issues must trump the concerns of his constituents. “Any prolonged demonstration is always going to have some local friction,” he told Picket. “The main thing is what’s going on. This is a national issue not a neighborhood issue.”